American Supply Association President Rick Fantham’s call to action during his current tenure is to “jump in.”
Fantham, Hajoca Corp’s president and CEO, saw exactly that during the group’s recent Winter Leadership Conference held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point, Calif.
More than 70 ASA volunteer leaders converged on the picturesque Southern California ocean side setting to develop strategic plans for the association in 2015 and beyond.
“One thing that absolutely blew me away was the engagement of the team right from the first moment at 7:30 a.m. to the end at 4:30 p.m.,” Fantham told Supply House Times at the meeting. “Everybody was on the field and totally engaged. There was a true sense of ownership and a sense of having their fingerprints on the future of ASA. There was great evidence of jumping in by the 70-plus people who were in the room.”
Strategic planning sessions occurred on the second day of the meeting. Attendees first were broken into small groups (absent of division affiliation) where specific association goals were discussed and then modified and/or enhanced. A leader from each small group later addressed the entire assembly with groups’ thoughts.
After lunch, attendees broke into their specific ASA divisions to discuss a variety of topics and issues germane to those particular arms.
“This ensures we have alignment at the strategic level and then are translating that into very specific actions at the tactical level,” Fantham said. “We spent the morning focused on strategy and validating it and tuning it up where needed and then taking those transformed plans and putting them into 180- and 360-day plans.”
Fantham noted the high level of attendance and engagement in the meetings bodes well for the future of ASA.
“If you look back on the last five years there are two things that have resulted in the demise of industry associations and hundreds have ceased to exist in the last five years,” he said. “The first is financial performance. ASA’s balance sheet has never been in better shape. The second is disconnect between members at the national and regional levels. At this meeting, everybody in the room felt that this is their association. This was a fabulous day for ASA. There is a lot of excitement in terms of moving forward.”
The meeting kicked off with ASA’s Executive Committee holding court. ASA’s Director of Meetings and Conventions Ruth Mitchell gave a variety updates on the association’s popular NetworkASA event, which starting with this October’s gala in Chicago will be known as Network 2015 to encourage more industry-wide attendance. “We want to make it an all-industry convention,” Mitchell told the group. “You don’t need to be an ASA member to attend. We want to make it open to everyone.”
Mitchell added this year’s convention will place an even greater emphasis on educational sessions. ASA, she said, would like to see distributor attendance spike to 120 firms in Chicago, up from 109 last year in Las Vegas. She also revealed Network 2016 will be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
ASA Executive Director Chris Murin talked about the association’s continued push to recruit new distributor members. He noted ASA once again experienced net membership growth in 2014 with distributors. He added numbers are up for all types of memberships within the association.
ASA Director of Governmental Affairs Dan Hilton updated the group on the upcoming Legislative Fly-In that will be held in Washington in April. He also noted buying groups will start to have a presence on Capitol Hill starting this fall when WIT will hold its fall owners meeting in D.C., and visit with their members of Congress while there.
New ASA Education Foundation President John Mills (WHCI Plumbing Supply) noted 2014 ASA University sales were up more than 10%, while the group came in under budget for Foundation endowment expenditures. Mills highlighted a number of new initiatives for ASAU, including the Masters of Distribution Management program, new manufacturer training content and upcoming multilingual courses.
Bradford White President and CEO Nick Giuffre gave an update from the Vendor Member Division that included the suggestion of reinstating a member of manufacturers rep best practices group AIM/Ron the VMD Committee.
“Reps are a very important part of what we do day in and day out,” he said. Giuffre also would like to see representation from the growing Women in Industry group and someone from the hydronics community. “We want to make sure all segments are represented,” he said. “We want to show vendors what ASA offers. We have to educate them on the resources that are available.”
The discussion then shifted to industry benchmarking/forecasting where Murin and Executive Committee member Scott Robertson (Robertson Heating Supply) both agreed greater participation from ASA members is needed in terms of submitting benchmarking data used in various association reports. “It’s valuable information to have. It shows how you stack up against the competition,” Robertson said.
The meeting concluded with the ASA Board of Directors meeting. President-elect Tim Milford (Milford Supply) gave the association’s financial report. ASA budgeted $125,000 in net income in 2014 and is forecast to be at $180,000 when final totals come in. “Our balance sheet is strong,” Milford said.
As Murin mentioned a day earlier, membership continues to grow. ASA had 306 distributor members in 2014 (up from 281 in 2011). Manufacturer and master distributor membership grew to 143 in 2014 from 108 in 2011 and reps have exploded to 119 ASA members in 2014 up from nine in 2013 based on reps earning ASA membership by joining an ASA regional affiliate. In 2015, seven new distributor members already have joined the association.
ASA also presented interesting findings on buying group membership. Leading the way was Embassy with 91% of its members being a part of ASA. Affiliated Distributors (59%) and WIT (55%) followed. However, 90% of ASA members are a part of a buying group.
Representatives from the various divisions and regions of ASA then gave reports with one common theme being the continued need to attract young workers into the industry.
“We started at the conceptual level and moved to the tactical level and that’s how you get different behavior,” Fantham said at the conclusion of the board meeting. “This is a dynamic organization and this meeting is a wonderful example of that.”
For exclusive video interviews with Fantham and WHCI Plumbing Supply’s Mills, visit www.supplyht.com/video.