Dear Industry Colleagues,

I am looking forward to the year ahead. Like so many things in life, my year of serving as ASA’s president always seemed so far away. Now it’s here. Fortunately, I am ready for it. I plan on building upon the strong foundation set by those who served before me, plus working on some new goals I believe are important to the success of ASA’s members and the future of our industry.

Without a doubt, it has been a challenging couple of years for our industry, our companies and our association. There hasn’t been a lot of good news to share, but I’m here to bring you some. The economyisgoing to recover. Our businesseswillthrive again. My question is - will we be ready for it?

ASA’s Strategic Plan will continue to be our guide in 2010. There are a few areas that I see as crucial to develop this year in order to help our members prepare to compete during the economic recovery.

First and foremost is government affairs. Regulations and programs being enacted by the government are driving up business costs and are making companies unable to compete with foreign products. We need to work to promote business-friendly legislation and defeat unfavorable regulations and programs NOW, before we experience their effects and wish we had. ASA members need to not only take action ourselves, but take it even further by informing and educating our employees, families and friends about the issues that affect our businesses and how their vote can make a difference to all of us.

While the economy is still in flux, now is the time for wholesalers and manufacturers to come together to work more collectively and profitably to survive. We all know pricing isn’t the answer. I will work to develop opportunities where we can bring together manufacturers, their professional representatives and wholesaler distributors to discuss issues that drive cost and hurt profitability on both sides. Loyalty to domestic manufacturers is something I believe in and would like to promote throughout the channel.

In the not-too-distant future, business will be at a level again that will require all of us to hire additional employees. A challenge that we’ve had at Slakey Brothers, and I know others have experienced as well, is finding people who know about our business and understand what we do - we are “The Invisible Industry.” I would like to see our industry be one that job-hunters seek out and realize is not just a job, but a desirable and worthwhile profession. Now that we have increased our activity in government affairs and other areas that impact the public, we need to capitalize on it to increase the visibility of our industry and the vital role our businesses play in local, state, regional and national economies.

One way of increasing visibility is ensuring the quality of the employees we do have. The ASA Education Foundation provides the tools we need to be successful; it’s up to us to use them. In a multi-product business like ours, employees need to know about many different items and understand how to help customers. Most don’t know much about distribution or the plumbing and PVF industry when they come in. Those we are lucky enough to find that do may need other education, like customer service or management training. It’s up to each ASA member to educate their employees.

ASA 2009 was about providing tools and resources our members needed immediately in order to survive and compete in an economically depressed market. Now that those programs are in place and are making a difference, it’s time to become proactive for what’s to come. ASA 2010 will be about preparing today for tomorrow. And so it begins… Your association is ready - get involved and make sure you are, too. 

Frank Nisonger

Slakey Brothers