Often seeing the big picture can give one perspective on what lies beyond the obvious...

Guest. Participant. Associate. Member. Over the years, the role industry vendors have played in ASA has evolved in a manner which has resulted in great benefit to the organization and its wholesaler members.  

“I remember the ‘us vs. them’ attitude when it came to talking about manufacturers and ASA,” shares Frank Nisonger of Slakey Brothers and current president of ASA. “The thought of a supplier becoming a member of ASA was scoffed at and dismissed. How times have changed. There is no way to separate the success we have achieved in so many areas from the time and, yes, funds manufacturers have given to this association.”  

The evolution of vendor involvement has become more apparent year after year, with the number of vendors that serve on ASA’s volunteer boards and committees increasing and the significant roles they play in the association’s decision-making process. The ASA Education Foundation Board of Trustees has had a manufacturer serve as its president, since 2004 the ASA Executive Committee has included at least one vendor, and countless manufacturers chair or serve on a variety of committees that guide the priorities of the association {see sidebar}. “Vendors participate in everything that we do because many of them realize it’s the best way to protect the industry that they derive an income from,” notes Joe Poehling, ASA’s current chairman and a past president of the ASA Education Foundation Board of Trustees. “The significant role they play in ASA’s planning process helps the association define the strategic outcome that will happen if it is successful as an association.”   

A challenge recently faced by the association was to help both vendors and their wholesaler customers understand the breadth of programming that’s available thanks to both the dues and additional funds that vendors give to the association throughout the year.  Reports that allow companies to understand market trends and evaluate their performance to industry benchmarks; advocacy efforts to promote pro-industry, business-friendly legislation and fight restrictive regulatory efforts; educational programs that make a stronger industry through smart and profitable work fundamentals all are produced in large part due to the financial contributions of the manufacturers in ASA. Sponsorship dollars for a specific activity reach far beyond that single occasion and are often used to supplement the development of other programs. “Vendor resources help ASA accomplish more than if we rely on dues alone,” adds Nisonger. “In the old days, the manufacturer gave money through a trade show to sell product. Today they give money to build the future of the industry. A company becomes an ASA Supplier Partner not because they get a full dollar-for-dollar return in added sales, they do it because if the industry thrives and succeeds, they can make ten times they gave.”

Participation is Paramount

ASA has realized that initially, vendors become members of ASA because their customers are members and ask them to support it. Quite often once a manufacturer understands the level of impact ASA has on the industry, the company and individuals become committed partners in most activities and make a concerted effort to send representatives to ASA meetings, like NetworkASA, the Spring Forum and the Legislative Fly-In.   

“Using manufacturers as real sounding boards is invaluable to ASA, and other organizations would do well to mimic their efforts at inclusion,” begins Tibor Egervary, vice president of marketing and sales for Ward Manufacturing. “Active, engaged, enthusiastic members are not shy to share their concerns and successes in relation to the organizational and survival challenges we all face, let alone an association like ASA. Committees are a great opportunity to share a specific skill set that is common among participants. It’s a way to multiply the usefulness, effectiveness, and even innovation of a particular committee’s charge.”  

When asked why Ward’s dedication is so strong, Egervary responds, “ASA’s potential is huge in a way that few other associations can claim. From Ward’s point of view, there is no other organization whose main focus is content, real content that drives the knowledge, behavior, and performance of an industry and its most important players - the people who perform the actual work and make this industry hum day after day.”   

This sentiment is echoed by Kendrick Reaves, TITLE from Cash Acme, a leading supplier of valves to wholesale distributors. “The value with ASA for the manufacturer is dependent on being involved.  It is great to come to annual meeting, but the industry, its health, education, and marketing message can all be enhanced by getting involved.”   

As a long-time member of ASA’s Marketing Committee, Reaves has seen first-hand what happens when vendors come together for the betterment of the association. “I certainly feel that we have been impactful in generating value for the association in helping shape the message and the view of our channel of distribution. ASA is a powerful engine and conduit to mold the future of our wholesale distribution channel partners. When you are involved with these different aspects of the association, you know your input and views are making a difference.”  

In finding perspective from a manufacturer on why support shouldn’t be an either-or proposition - financial vs. volunteer time - perhaps none can speak to that decision better than Bruce Carnevale, senior vice president-sales and marketing for Bradford White, an industry leader in the manufacture of water heaters and a supporter of ASA from its earliest days.  “I think the difference between being a supporter and acommitted supporteris active involvement with the association, not just financial support. Beyond the relationships that are formed, we as a manufacturer get a much better perspective on the challenges that wholesalers face, and the opportunities that they see.  Active involvement also allows us to help shape the goals and objectives of ASA by sharing perspectives from the manufacturer’s point of view.”  

Carnevale sums up what should be the ultimate goal in this, for all of the industry’s vendors, “Active involvement in ASA has helped us be a better partner to our wholesaler customers, and a better company within this industry that provides for us all.”

The following vendors and manufacturers have individuals serving on ASA boards and committees in 2010. 

Activant Solutions
Alsons Corp.
American Standard
Anvil International
Basco Co.
Bradford White
Bradley Corporation
BrassCraft Mfg.
Cash Acme
Cerro Flow Products
Charlotte Pipe & Foundry
Conbraco Industries
Crane Energy Flow Solutions
Delta Faucet
The Distribution Point
Elkay Manufacturing Company
Equity Plumbing Group
Gerber Plumbing Fixtures
Hercules Chemical
Kohler Co.
Legend Valve
Merit Brass Co.
Midland Metal
The Mill-Rose Company
Milwaukee Valve
Moen, Inc.
Mueller Industries
The Phoenix Forge Group
Red-White Valve Corp.
Sioux Chief
United Pipe & Steel Corp.
Ward Manufacturing
Welding Outlets, Inc.
Zoeller Co.