By Mike Adelizzi, ASA Executive Vice President
During the height of America’s economic collapse, we all searched for clarity about what was happening. The stock market was plummeting, orders were drying up, unemployment was moving north and America’s confidence was eroding rapidly. We wondered how ASA and our members would ever survive the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Well, it’s been roughly four years and we’re all still here - leaner, smarter and hungrier…but where are we going?
ASA has spent the past few years developing our strategic governance, annually engaging over 70 volunteer leaders in streamlining our strategic plan and focusing on the direction we want to take the industry all with an eye toward ASA remaining relevant well into the future. With this being said, no organization can move forward and achieve any degree of success without having its base secure. So, like any good organization, we have streamlined our operation by refocusing our resources away from non-traditional association roles and back to what is important to our core programming.
First, we removed dependency on trade shows such as ISH. We have also restructured staff; allowing us to cut some non-essential positions while giving previously overlooked staff members the chance to help lead ASA. Also, through a lot of hard work on the part of our dedicated volunteers and staff, we have transitioned our headquarters from downtown Chicago to the city’s western suburbs. This integral move will further cut our expenses and improve our ability to expand our programming to the membership.
More importantly, we have been successful in changing the hearts and minds of industry wholesalers and manufacturers to better understand the great things that we are doing for them. 2011 also was an extraordinary year as member participation exceeded our highest expectations in every aspect of the association. This includes phenomenal attendance at events such as NetworkASA 2011 and our Young Executives Annual Spring Forum, which helped the association earn a strong profit last year. As they say, however, that is all in the past. What have you done for me lately?
Bolder New Look & Effort in 2012As we look to 2012 and beyond, it is shaping up to be the best year yet. ASA is projecting a second strong financial year in a row. In addition, because of the hard work that was committed to restructuring, ASA’s Executive Committee has frozen dues for 2012. This has been done even while our service level has expanded yet again.
Buoyed by a new bold vision and direction, the ASA Executive Committee has commissioned the development of a new brand that better reflects the vibrant new ASA that has emerged over the past few years. Over the next few months, the industry will experience a fresher and bolder look that better reflects our re-emergence as a leading association. It’s not just a new look, but a whole new brand that will be rolled out in 2012.
ASA UniversityOver the past decade, the ASA Education Foundation has developed the most comprehensive and unmatched library of industry training programs available anywhere. This past year, the ASAEF Trustees and staff have worked hard to deliver all of our knowledge through online training delivered right to the desks of your employees. However, they expressed concern that just delivering education doesn’t mean that our members’ employees will be the best trained and most professional in the industry. It would take a more proactive approach…so through our recently launched ASA University, our members can identify educational needs of their employees and deliver a comprehensive curriculum targeted by key employee function.
The recently introduced ASA University unfolded with the launch of the College of Sales and Sales Management and the College of Leadership and Executive Management at NetworkASA 2011. Following in 2012 will be the launch of the College of Warehouse Management, College of Purchasing and Inventory Management and College of Business. Within each college you will find the most complete curriculum and training anywhere. And, after successfully testing our ability to work with individual members to customize their educational programs, the ASAEF will formally launch an aggressive effort to work with our members to start training programs in their operations. Few associations will be able to match the quality and depth of our educational programs…all under ASA University.
BenchmarkingOur benchmarking efforts will also radically expand in 2012 in an effort to expand our existing suite of quality benchmarking tools from our Monthly Sales Reports, our Operational Performance Report, our quarterly commodity reports and our reintroduced monthly Materials Market Digest. The ASA Executive Committee has approved the development of an ASA Industry Forecasting program to provide members with a glimpse into the future. This will be done through an integrated and multifaceted approach to determining what is going to happen to our markets in the year ahead.
Supporting Industry GrowthIncreasing the number of our industry’s customers recognizing that ASA members enable them to prosper is a long-range goal that our strategic planning sessions have identified as vital to the long-term health of our industry and association. Over the next year, you will see ASA begin a promotional and educational campaign of providing information to the customers of our members. Through the wealth of our product education, economic forecasting and benchmarking data, we will begin developing close-working partnerships with industry customers by providing them access to this important information. It is through these developing relationships that we will be able to better leverage our members’ ability to connect with their customers and beat their competition.
Never before has our association thought so boldly about where we want ASA to lead. If we accomplish only a fraction of what we have set out to do this coming year, it will still be a remarkable 2012 for the American Supply Association.
AdvocacyAnyone that has only slightly paid attention to the news understands all too well the impact that an out-of-control Congress is having on our industry and customers. Gridlock and politics are running rampant in Washington, D.C. The notion of ASA sitting on the sidelines waiting for the dust to settle is no longer an option.
This past year, thanks to the support of a few good members and chapters, ASA was able to get into the game full-time in Washington to represent your interests. And within just a few short months, ASA has weighed in on the debate over tax reform, out of control government spending and overregulation. Your interests have been expressed to Congress through your full-time Washington staff member Dan Hilton. In addition, we have been effective in gaining the attention of some very influential representatives who are beginning to understand the impact that they are having on your business.
In 2012, we look to expand our Legislative Fly-In with an enhanced program to better educate members of Congress about the issues of greatest importance to our membership. In 2013, the ASA Executive Committee is seeking to have a mega-effort at lobbying our representatives by conducting NetworkASA in Washington, D.C., in October. With a new Congress and new administration being elected, it will be highly important for our industry to meet with our newly elected representatives to ensure our industry issues are heard. NetworkASA 2013 in Washington, D.C., will be that perfect vehicle.