NKBA ‘Getting Back to Basics,’ Leaders Assert

by WOHe

NKBA ‘Getting Back to Basics,’ Leaders
Assert

New York – The National Kitchen & Bath
Association is in the midst of a detailed “strategic planning
process” that has resulted in a number of significant operational
changes and has re-energized an organization that – in the minds of
many industry observers – was seemingly foundering a year ago,
according to NKBA leaders.

Top NKBA leaders, meeting as a group and then with Kitchen
& Bath Design News
here last month, painted a picture of
an association in the midst of dramatic positive change as it
undergoes a process of intensive evaluation and reshaping that
consists largely of, in the words of new president Jeff Burton,
“asking members what they want.”

“We’re getting back to the basics that the NKBA was built around,”
said Burton. “We’re focusing on what the association does best and
what our members want most – professionalism, education, networking
and tools to help them grow their business.

“Morale is a positive word around the staff, and people are excited
about the future now,” Burton added. “People are focusing on
growth, efficiency and advancement from within.”
Among the major developments pointed to by NKBA leaders in recent
months are the following:

  • The NKBA said it has paid in full the remaining mortgage
    balance on its headquarters office building here, several years
    ahead of schedule. The final mortgage payment, made in December,
    represents “a vindication of the financial health and stability” of
    the association, according to chief operating officer Cecelia
    Balazs.
    From a financial, staffing and morale perspective, the NKBA, “is as
    healthy as a horse,” according to president-elect Stephanie Witt,
    CKD, CBD. “We probably have a more positive outlook now than at any
    time in the past decade,” she said.
  • The NKBA announced a new educational program for 1999 that
    includes four new kitchen design schools, beginning in July. Other
    programs, including instruction in business management and bath
    design, were also announced, although NKBA leaders said the
    association will not introduce any new bathroom design or
    installation programs this year, due to a lack of demand from the
    industry.
  • NKBA leaders said they are “still exploring” alternative
    formats to the annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), which
    some industry members feel should be either co-located with other
    shows, or transformed into an every-other-year format.
    Burton termed opponents to the current K/BIS format as a “very
    vocal minority,” and added that “every other year is not in the
    cards for K/BIS. If an exhibitor wants to exhibit every other year,
    we have a system that allows them to do that,” he said.
    “A K/BIS every year is good because it forces manufacturers to come
    out with new products annually, and keeps all of us on the dime,”
    Burton said. “If we go every other year, it will only create
    mediocrity.”

At the same time, he noted, talks with representatives of the
biennial NEX plumbing trade show about some form of alliance have
been “quite positive,” and
the NKBA is “talking to other trade associations, too.”

  • A restructuring of the association’s internal accounting system
    has been put in place, enabling the NKBA “to operate like a trade
    association instead of like a manufacturing company,” and providing
    managers with a clearer sense of how funds are being allocated and
    spent, said Balazs.
  • A campaign consisting of direct mail, trade ads and a more
    “people-friendly booth” are among the initiatives that have been
    rolled out to increase membership, according to director of
    marketing and membership Larry Spangler. The Hackettstown, NJ-based
    NKBA currently has about 7,000 members – some 1,700 of them dealers
    and another 2,500 of them societies members. There are 45 chapters,
    three subchapters and one student chapter in North America, as well
    as affiliate organizations in Australia, New Zealand and South
    Africa.
  • The association’s current management structure – calling for
    both a chief executive officer and chief operating officer – will
    remain in place at least through 1999, with Balazs serving as COO,
    but also handling the responsibilities of CEO. The CEO’s post will
    not be immediately filled, NKBA leaders said, terming that decision
    “a vote of confidence” for Balazs.

NKBA leaders will have a “brainstorming retreat” to discuss
on-going issues sometime this spring, Balazs said. “There’s a sense
of teamwork and an attitude of, ‘Let’s go forward’,” she
added. 

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