The first line of the ASA long-term strategic plan reads: “Associations operate in ever-changing environments and are continually challenged to meet the needs of their members.” 

If ever there was truth to a statement like that, it has to be now as we struggle to battle an international pandemic.

What makes ASA such a great organization, and one that really creates value for its membership, is that ASA’s leadership and staff know when to prioritize planning and reevaluation, and when it is time to just focus on the immediate needs of its membership. 

ASA’s core purpose is: “To advance the success of the PHCP and PVF supply chain industry.” In February, more than 70 leaders met in Orlando to discuss how ASA is executing on its long-term plan. Essentially, these leaders looked at the range of needs that exist in our distributor base across a spectrum of size and sophistication, and compared that to ASA program offerings. What programs are working? What programs are not well-communicated or well-understood?

The ASA staff took notes while the leaders in the room explained which programs provide the most value. Many leaders commented on the widespread value of ASA University training programs across all distributors, and that networking events were creating value as well. Others felt some programs needed more communication on how they benefit members, such as our Advocacy programs; or they need to be made easier, such as our Benchmarking offerings. 

In the coming months, members can expect to see more changes and communications as a result of this leadership meeting.

But that doesn’t matter during a pandemic. To ASA’s credit, it put all those strategically important programming changes on hold and focused on meeting its members’ needs in the moment. First, ASA proactively cancelled its networking events for the Southwest Pacific Distributors, as well as the Women in Industry and Emerging Leaders divisions.

Then, it conducted surveys and roundtables on COVID-19 best practices for distributors and reps. ASA created its COVID-19 Resource Center on and led advocacy efforts with members to protect our industry’s designation as essential businesses. 

ASA moved to expand its online CONNECT program to allow more distributors and their employees to interact online via nine vital job-function categories, while ASA University offered a set of free courses related to meeting the COVID-19 challenges.

ASA continues to offer webinars on the economy and roundtable interviews with the members of the PHCP and PVF community, all meant to help our member companies in this time of extreme need.

It is during a crisis like this when we really understand how much we need the support and connections afforded by our membership in ASA to help us navigate and adapt. More importantly, as we emerge from the sheltering in place orders and return to operating our businesses, we will need ASA’s help and guidance to rebuild this supply chain. 

Now, more than ever, membership in ASA is relevant and valuable. 

Also more than ever, I look forward to seeing everyone at NETWORK2020 in Chicago — the industry’s biggest event — where we can finally shake hands and spend time face to face again.