The way I see it.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) has accomplished a lot in the last decade. But the association board, consisting of dedicated and serious individuals, thinks it can do more.

The board recently pushed the bar higher by deciding to seek a new CEO at the end of next year.

Kudos to the board for its ambition. The challenges facing the industry call for nothing less.

This is commendable, but at the same time, it raises some serious questions.

Since Rich Geerdes became CEO more than a decade ago, NAMA has taken care of business at an aggressive pace. The business climate in the industry became more challenging over the years, and NAMA set goals and delivered on them.

An admirable record

As one of its first moves under Geerdes, NAMA absorbed the National Coffee Service Association and developed an even better coffee service education program.

NAMA also addressed rising obesity with a pioneering nutrition tagging and education program. That wasn’t all.

It developed a strong executive development program in cooperation with Michigan State University.

It provided a host of business expert services to members under its Knowledge Source program.

More recently, NAMA hired a government relations expert with a unique background to address new regulatory challenges, the most significant being mandatory calorie disclosure.

This year, a new industry image campaign will begin.

Most important of all, the 2-shows-per-year format was consolidated into one outstanding show.

But the industry continues to face new challenges.

New Challenges to face

Vending companies face more regulatory threats, more competition for their services, and new technology that requires some degree of cooperation among industry members.

As more challenges emerge, the board decided a new structure is needed to make NAMA more efficient and effective. Rather than having the board set direction, it decided it needs an executive who will set new goals and oversee their execution.

This is a bold move. There is merit to it, but there is also risk.

The board believes a new CEO will be able to recognize the challenges the industry faces, set and prioritize goals, and execute programs in a manner understood by the membership.

Not a short order.

The board is looking for someone to address the challenges the industry faces more successfully than it has to date.

New Move Raises Questions

The new CEO will be entrusted with more responsibility. Should conflict arise between the new CEO and the board, future progress could be jeopardized.

Has the board considered this possibility?

And with all the initiatives NAMA has undertaken, a big one still remains: membership. NAMA has not communicated its value to the industry sufficiently. Only a minority of operators belong to NAMA. This is a subject for another day, but one that demands attention if NAMA is to fulfill its mission.

The NAMA board has recognized that leadership requires change. And change demands risk.

Will NAMA’s bold move prove successful?

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