This past September ISSFA announced the appointment of Robert Oxley as executive vice president and managing director of the six year-old fabricator organization. A cabinetmaker by trade, Oxley gave his first trade association speech while still a teenager at a chapter meeting of the American Institute of Kitchen Dealers in Philadelphia. In his talk, Oxley described how he and his 20 year-old brother were able to turn a shop that had been losing money for three generations into a profitable and dynamic enterprise.
Sitting in the audience that night was the executive director of the association, who asked Oxley if he would be willing to tell his story at other chapters around the country. "As long as you continue to pay me," came the reply.
That was the beginning of a long relationship with the association, which eventually changed its name to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). Oxley joined the staff as a paid professional, and eventually assumed every senior staff position, except executive director. During his ten-year stint with NKBA, Oxley saw membership rise from about 700 to 4,000, and its members go from cabinetmakers to profitable and prestigious kitchen and bath designers.
SurfaceFabrication interviewed Oxley and ISSFA president Brad Reamer at the association's regional meeting held in Pittsburgh.
SolidSurface: What is your first objective as managing director?
Oxley: We have to focus on member development and member participation. The purpose of an association in its simplest form is a gathering of people who are helping themselves through the power of the group. That group can do more than the individual.
ISSFA is going from the founder's syndrome, where people with great enthusiasm, great vision and dedication have passionately worked to get the association to its current prominence. Now they have kind of fizzled out and the work has slowed down, which is normal in all associations. Our objective is to move it into the second phase, where we go to the members to find out their needs and wants, and work on finding solutions to problems.
SolidSurface: How will that be accomplished?
Oxley: Where you will see that first is in communications. We will start talking to the members. We will send out the financials -- which somehow never have gotten out before -- because the members say they want to see them. We will teach people how to vote. Some people say the association is a clique. It is not a clique on the board. It's more like nobody else ever ran for a position. We will educate members on the mechanics of leadership within the association and, through better communication, make it easier for them to get involved.
What we have to do is get out to the grassroots members and conduct business surveys. Other than the engineered stone questionnaire a couple of years ago, I don't think our staff has ever surveyed a member. We will be going to the members to ask them what they want, and we will be listening. It doesn't do any good to ask questions if you provide all your own answers. We have to go out to the members, get a new vision, give it to the board, ask them to prioritize it and then let's move forward.
SolidSurface: What is your vision of ISSFA's mission?
Reamer: To give the consumer or the specifier a reason to choose an ISSFA fabricator over a non-member fabricator. This is about marketing and branding the ISSFA fabricator. There is a lot that goes into it. We have to build the chapters, and we have to provide education. We need a measurable difference that we can market.