Founded in 1973, the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA; Rolling Meadows, IL) was dedicated to protect the needs and interests of moldmakers while uniting an industry. Today, the association is moving forward with that mission—focused on rebranding, reconnecting and building value for its members.
In the spring of 2010, the AMBA Board of Directors solicited the help of consulting firm Harbour Results to develop a strategic plan for the organization in an effort to grow and increase the level of service. The Board and the consulting firm searched for a new executive director within the industry as well as outside by interviewing a series of management companies.
After a six month search, the Board chose the management team of Troy Nix, executive director, and Kym Conis, managing director. Nix owns First Resource—a management company that also runs associations in the plastics, rubber and machining industries. Together with long-term AMBA employees Sue Daniels and Shannon Merrill, they hit the ground running, to rebrand and refocus the AMBA.
First Resource has experience in running other major associations, which directly benefits the AMBA. “We have had plenty of opportunities to look at best practices and trends in other associations to see what works and what doesn’t,” Nix says. “Although the industries are different and we have been on an exponential learning curve, we are taking what we have learned through our experiences and applying it to this industry.”
The AMBA management team took a close look at the AMBA’s membership and discovered that many of its members had been around since the company’s inception. The team believed that this loyalty to the AMBA was vital to the organization’s sustainment. The team determined that its immediate goal wasn’t to focus on growth, but instead to build value into the organization for the current membership.
So the AMBA began to “alter its brand” by giving it a new look and feel—a new direction. The association re-invented its quarterly newsletter both in appearance and content to expand its target audience and presence in the industry as a viable source of industry information. The AMBA also began to increase both its electronic communications and direct mail to its members—all of which indicate the association is moving forward in a positive manner.
Next, programs that would add value for its members became a primary focus—perhaps even providing a dollars and cents return on investment on membership dues. Current AMBA members receive special pricing, service and discounts with W.W. Grainger, YRC Transportation, First American Payment Systems and OfficeMax.
The AMBA also provides its members with direct access to legal assistance. “There is a minimum number of free hours to one of the top law firms in the country that delivers great advice to mold manufacturers,” Nix notes. “This firm is experienced in mold building initiatives, challenges and problems.”
Additionally, members have access to a commercial insurance program—again, at a discount. Nix explains that it took approximately three months to find a package that fit the association’s needs. “The board of directors selected a provider that understands our industry,” he says. “The first price is the best price so our members do not have to go through the process of quoting and requoting.”
Training was the next area of focus. “We reached out to a major training resource who we know has a proven track record with several of our members and put it through the gauntlet of the board decision process and came up with a major discount program,” Nix explains. “One of our board members took me aside after our most recent meeting and said that he has used the training so much that it has paid for his membership. That meant a lot to us.”
With the aforementioned benefits in place, AMBA was ready to take the next step. “Once we believed we had satisfied the needs of our current members, we were confident we had a platform on which to grow,” Nix affirms. “Physical connectivity is essential to the growth and sustainability of an association. We find the annual convention to be extremely important to the organization.”
The AMBA analyzed past conventions and determined that geography was one of the primary factors contributing to destabilized attendance. So, the association moved the convention to a more centralized location (Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids, MI, May 16-18). The association’s goal is to double its attendance from last year, which is a very aggressive, but attainable, goal. Nix explains, “We need to focus as an industry—and as an association—on the ability to provide connectivity between our members. We believe that this bond is the best value-added benefit of the association.”
The AMBA’s new Plant Tour Workshop Series has been another vehicle by which its members are able to connect. Moving around the U.S., the workshops provide attendees the opportunity to tour a first-class mold manufacturing operation, observe best manufacturing and business practices, exchange cross-talk with other leading mold building executives and expand business their network and resources. “The exchange of information is extremely beneficial to both the host company and the attendee—a critical component of each workshop,” Nix points out.
As for long-term goals, the AMBA is looking to be an information hub for the industry. The hope is that its members are able to reach out to the association on almost any issue related to the industry—whether it is operational, financial or technical. The AMBA has just embarked on a financial benchmarking campaign that will hopefully give true meaning to members who look at an income statement and balance sheet to understand what the norms are, and what best in class is, so they can benchmark their own organization.
The management team is excited for the AMBA’s future. “Obviously, we want to continue to grow,” Nix states. “We must continue to add value—new and creative value—to our members and we will continue to do so through a vast array of different programs, whether they are vendor-based or generalized programs like Grainger that are not specific to our industry, but important to our industry.” That—and continued connectivity—will save AMBA member companies time, money and resources.