THINKING BIG: ASA's New Executive Vice President
It’s a telling point about an executive when you learn he created a five-year plan for another industry group and then helped it achieve all of those goals within one year. It’s also interesting to hear how, when assigned to do a 10-minute presentation on what he would do in the first 100 days on the job (as part of the interview process for his new position), he provided a day-by-day account of what he planned to do during each of those 100 days.
Michael Adelizzi, the new executive vice president at the American Supply Association, describes himself as a risk-taker. He believes in setting big, lofty goals.
“If I think bigger than anyone thinks possible, even if I fall 10% short of my goal, think how much I will have accomplished,” he says. “I’d rather think big and fall a little short than think small and achieve it.”
What drew him to ASA, he says, was its strength; the quality of its programs; its capable, committed staff; the vision and commitment of its executive board members; its leaders, who are enthused about continuing the growth they have enjoyed; and the partnership maintained between the board and the staff. He also points to the networking opportunities, councils and government affairs work ASA provides.
Some executives might feel intimidated taking over a position when their predecessor is still employed in a key role by the organization. Former ASA Executive Vice President Inge Calderon remains with the association as executive director of its Education Foundation.
“I kind of relish it,” Adelizzi says of working with Calderon. “It means I have a strong resource to bounce ideas off of. I can gain insight and history from her. It will help prevent reinventing the wheel. Having Inge Calderon still around will take a lot of pressure off of me. If she was not here, I would be torn in multiple directions.”
He notes that most groups could only dream of having the strength and education that ASA has and can provide. Plus, it has the resources and ability to do more.
Considering that the Education Foundation is already being well looked after, Adelizzi says his focus will be more on strategic planning, membership recruitment and retention, and government affairs.
“I plan to spend a lot of time reaching out to members,” he says. “My goal is to contact every one of our members.”
He plans to start by contacting “key” members but also wants to meet with companies that are not members but should be.
“We are looking at Supply House Times’ Premier 150 listing of wholesalers to see which ones are not ASA members. We want to know why not and then go after them,” Adelizzi says.
In meetings with current members, Adelizzi says he will invite them to talk about the competitive forces they face, what is impacting their business, what is a barrier to their business expansion and how ASA can help to remove that barrier. He also wants to ask about their outlook for the future.
“I hope to learn from these meetings and share this information with the board,” he explains. He says he has already learned that recruitment and retention of qualified employees is an issue in this industry.
Another of Adelizzi’s goals is to have a strategic evaluation meeting to determine what members need and to better target materials to non-members to entice them to join. This may involve bringing in a facilitator.
“ASA has a fairly well-thought-out strategic plan,” Adelizzi asserts. “They spent the time and resources to develop the plan, but it is not really guiding the organization. I can be a help with that.”
Adelizzi says he finds it frustrating to see some major players in the industry who are no longer participating in ASA.
“When even a small distributor is not part of our association, that is a weakness. The industry as a whole is weakened if not everyone is participating. It is unimaginable the things we could do if everyone became a participant in ASA.”
His ultimate goal is to get everyone in the industry engaged and moving in the same direction.
“There are some really high quality things going on here at ASA, but I don’t think we have done a good enough job of tooting our own horn,” he notes. He plans to do more communicating about what the association is doing and what it plans to do. “I won’t keep anything a secret,” he adds.
SIDEBAR: An Association BackgroundAfter working with the Associated Builders and Contractors at the state chapter level, Mike Adelizzi felt it was time to take a step up to something bigger. He applied for the position of membership director with the Mason Contractors Association of America, where he has remained for the last 16 years (prior to joining ASA). During that period he was promoted to executive director/CEO, succeeding George Miller, who had formed the organization and served as its executive director for more than 40 years. Miller remained with the association as a consultant until his death.
“It was a slow transition,” Adelizzi notes. Miller became ill for a lengthy period, so the board asked Adelizzi to fill in. At the time only about 400 of the 20,000 mason contractors in the industry belonged to the association. In its heyday, the Mason Contractors Association of America had about 1500 members, representing the majority of the construction industry.
It was founded as a union-only group but when the market started to change, it was opened to both union and non-union mason contractors. A large number of union members quit and non-union members did not join because they still viewed it as a union-only organization.
The staff consisted of two part-time secretaries. The small headquarters office had no computers. The association had no direction, but it had a small, dedicated and committed board that wanted to build it up. So Adelizzi was instructed to find a new larger facility for the association’s headquarters, hire more staff and invest in office equipment, particularly computers. The staff was increased to a full-time staff of nine including a marketing person, structural engineer and government affairs person. Previously viewed by some as ineffective, the revamped organization led by Adelizzi started to win major battles on legislative issues and was recognized for other achievements.
The culture of the board changed also. For nearly 50 years, board meetings brought members together to listen to regional and committee reports that were written and read off the paper. Meetings ran about three hours and focused on what had been done.
“We were always looking behind and not forward,” Adelizzi says. He changed that to a culture of strategic governance. Written reports were still required for board meetings, but they were not read at the meeting. Instead the board members were invited to discuss the future, identify challenges and new competitors and plan how the association can best protect its members. “We want to be an advocate rather than a reactionary,” he notes.
One problem that came to light in these discussions involved the competition for bids between high quality contracting firms that paid a good wage, offered generous benefits and provided training for its employees and substandard contractors that paid low wages, offered little or no benefits and cut corners to save money. When the architect, private company or school board that was seeking bids compared the quotes from the high quality contractor vs. the substandard, the difference in price was significant, Adelizzi says. The mason contractors addressed this problem by developing a certification program “with teeth,” he says.
“This is just being launched,” he notes. “It may take two years for contractors to become certified. They have to become eligible to sit for the exam.”
When the federal government was told about the proposed certification process its response was, when can we start specifying certified contractors on government projects?
Certification would be the determining factor between a good quality contractor getting the project vs. a less-than-stellar but lower priced contractor.
“Membership in the association is not a requirement,” Adelizzi asserts. “This was done for the good of the industry.”
Adelizzi notes that ASA is also involved with setting high standards for its industry.
Change for the Mason Contractors Association was accelerated by the development of a long-term strategic plan, done with the help of a facilitator.
“We looked at core values and vision,” Adelizzi says. “Where will we be in 10 to 15 years? You need to continue to look, revise and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
Benchmark at the end of the year. What goals were achieved? What has changed?”
Under Adelizzi, the same facilitator returned to the Mason Contractors Association every two years to lead the board through its strategic planning process.
“You can look out 30 years and put a stake in the sand. Sometimes that stake will move,” he says. “It’s an ongoing process. You have to be disciplined.”
In addition to his association experience, Adelizzi serves as the Republican chairman for Schaumburg Township, which may help him reach the ears of Republican Congressmen regarding issues affecting the PHCP industry.