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issue: September 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Guest Editorial
The Spirit of Volunteerism

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by Edward V. McAssey III, chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)

We all remember the famous quote by the patriot and Revolutionary War hero Nathanial Hale “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

As I am beginning my 2-year term chairing the AHAM board of directors, I am thinking of another quote by Hale, maybe not so extreme when applied to the world of associations. This quote was spoken to a friend who was attempting to dissuade him from volunteering to General George Washington for a spying assignment. He said, “I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward, I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary for the public good, becomes honorable by being necessary.”
Pretty lofty stuff, but I think the spirit and importance of volunteerism was honored then as it should be now. While volunteerism is vitally important to our communities and country, it plays a significant role in our businesses as well. In the case of AHAM, the members find real value in the mission undertaken to deal with industry-wide concerns in which singular company efforts are less effective than collective action. I find it an honor and a responsibility to provide individual leadership in this collective enterprise.
At AHAM we talk about the membership value proposition. AHAM staff is not satisfied unless the members fully understand and sense the value being provided in exchange for dues. It’s a very straightforward arrangement and requires several things to be successful. Yes, it requires a professional and focused staff, which we certainly have at AHAM. But it begins with the volunteer oversight I just referenced. In order for the staff to “get it” the members need to “get it” too.
In AHAM, our yearly operating plans are reviewed by our divisional boards, after member councils and task forces establish and rank priorities with the help of the staff. This process includes an honest look at required resources and chances for success. The resource requirements not only include member dues but in many cases “in kind” support from the member companies. One of AHAM’s strengths is its ability to provide data-driven input to public policy and standards deliberations. This information must emanate from the member companies. And in some cases, our member leaders themselves can deliver the industry’s message to policy makers more effectively than our professional staff.
The operating plans are yearly game plans for implementing our long-term strategic plan. For example, AHAM’s strategic mission is to enhance the home appliance industry value through leadership, public education and advocacy. In the area of leadership, AHAM’s board demands that the association provide technical leadership and be the center for successful industry advocacy. These tools, if you will, are used together to serve the member and public needs. Two current examples come to mind. California is pursuing legislation to limit the sale of ozone-emitting air cleaners in the state. Through our efforts the legislature and the state Air Resources Board are willing to consider basing this public policy effort on existing voluntary standards and certification programs so as not to reinvent the wheel and add needless costs to a public goal. AHAM’s credibility in such an issue includes the expertise of our staff but also our credibility as a recognized ANSI standards development organization (SDO) and administrator of third party rating certification programs.
In May, the AHAM board approved proceeding with development of the first ever AHAM-CSA performance rating standard, in this case for portable air-conditioners. While this product category begins to take hold in North America, CSA, which develops energy test methods for the Canadian government, wants to have the proper test procedures in place. At the same time, AHAM members that produce the product have asked for an appropriate test procedure and for AHAM to develop it. The result will be a rating standard that addresses manufacturer and public needs. AHAM will also develop a rating certification program for manufacturers to generate energy ratings with third-party verification.
The latter example also shows how an association needs to innovate to maintain its value proposition. While the divisional boards oversee the mission elements and the necessary resource requirements, the board focuses on making sure AHAM continues to evolve with its members so that it fully represents our needs. The merger of the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association with AHAM in 2004 is a great example. This year the Major Appliance Division clarified its product scope to include cooking ventilation products and stand-alone ice makers. Member companies that manufacture these products desire association services to include them. Our Portable Appliance Division added electrically powered room fresheners in response to non-members seeking the AHAM value proposition.
Another important element of keeping the association relevant and energized is to always have a fresh supply of volunteer leaders. I would say “new blood” but that might conjure up thoughts of how soon young Nathan Hale’s life ended after he volunteered to spy on the British. AHAM makes a point of regularly looking for new and diverse leadership in its divisions and councils. There is no better way to ensure your investment is working for your company than to roll up your sleeves and help lead the charge.

About the Author

Edward V. McAssey, III, is chief operating officer for Lasko Products, Inc. (West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.), a century-old company making portable electric fans, heaters and humidifiers. If you would like to contact McAssey, please e-mail editor@appliance.com


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