Interview by Sigrid Tornquist
What are the three goals you are planning to address as you begin your term as IFAI chairman of the board?
- “The first and most immediate action item is to find a new president for IFAI. Steve Warner recently resigned after almost 35 years. What he accomplished at IFAI made it the international organization it is today, and we want to continue to build the breadth and effectiveness of the association. IFAI will be 100 years old next year, and we’re looking for someone to take us into the next 100 years.
- “Next, we want to grow revenue streams for the membership and the association, as the economic climate continues to bring challenges that affect us all. We need to continue to have an international presence, which right now is roughly 25 percent of our membership. Also, in the last few years we have seen a lot of technological advances in textiles, equipment and production practices. We need to continue to move forward with advances in these market segments, find ways to promote them in the industry, and continue to promote the market segments on which this association was built.
- “Staying relevant and invigorating the membership are two sides of the same coin. This association has proven time and time again that it can help build specialty fabrics businesses. As industry leaders retire, new leaders emerge, and the ways in which businesses operate continue to evolve, we need to find ways to evolve as well. We’re looking at new ways for members to participate and reap the benefits of being involved in the association.”
What leadership strategies do you plan to use as chair?
“The way I approach any leadership/management position is to take in information from those involved, present it to the decision makers, and try to facilitate a cohesive response. We’ve got a talented, effective board that I trust—together we can move the association and the industry forward. The collective is better than the individual.”
What strategies are specialty fabrics manufacturers and suppliers using to cope with the economy, and what does that mean to managers and employees?
“The area that employers have most control over is also the most challenging—maintaining an adequate number of employees for a fluctuating workload. I believe there are now 32 states that have some sort of partial unemployment program, which allows employees to receive partial unemployment insurance benefits while working reduced hours. Layoffs are rough on everyone but you have to do what is in the best interest of the business to ensure that there will continue to be a business for employees to return to.”
How has IFAI helped your company grow?
“We gain knowledge, and therefore credibility, from our involvement in IFAI. My brother Byron (TCT&A’s president) and I are both certified Master Fabric Craftsmen (MFC), and two other people on our staff hold certifications—that lends to our credibility and we highlight the designation on our website. We also attend the Expos where we develop peer and mentor relationships and learn about the latest industry innovations. When we say to customers: ‘We just got back from a show and can now offer you these new products we learned about there,’ they then know we’re staying current and are on the cutting edge.”