Following is an excerpt from an interview with incoming NCA President & CEO John H. Downs, Jr., where he discusses the challenges the industry is facing, the first steps he will take in his new position and transitioning from working with a public company to a trade association. You can read the complete interview in the September/October 2014 issue of Candy & Snack TODAY.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What stood out about the industry and the Association during your initial meetings with the NCA search committee?
John H. Downs, Jr.: During the interview process, I was impressed with the level of passion and commitment everyone had to the NCA and the confectionery industry. Everyone was fully engaged in ensuring the Association’s success going forward. The members of the search committee devoted a lot of time and effort to the process of selecting a new leader. I also appreciated that the committee represented a variety of types and sizes of members — from small, family-owned companies to large, publicly traded corporations. There was excellent chemistry with the group as well. The amount of due diligence and the level of professionalism in the process were very impressive.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What does that future look like, both for you at the NCA and for the industry in general?
John H. Downs, Jr.: Of course my first order of business will be meeting with Bob Simpson and Peter Blommer to develop my first-year “to do” list and gain a sense of the expectations for me. I will be assessing and evaluating the NCA team and its capabilities. I will examine the organization’s structure, budgets and key functions, as well as asking questions and listening. I will be working hard to earn the trust and confidence of the NCA staff, Executive Board, Board of Trustees and members.
As an industry, our issues will get more complex; we can be sure of that. In the current public affairs and communication environment, a group of companies working through the NCA can accomplish so much more than any one company alone. I look forward to this shared journey to define and build a renewed sense of purpose and spirit to take the NCA to the next level of success. It is a great honor and privilege for me to lead NCA at this moment in its history.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What do you see as some of the major differences between working for a public company and a trade association?
John H. Downs, Jr.: The biggest difference is that in a public company you have the intense pressure of meeting or exceeding your sales and financial targets each quarter to build shareholder value for your investors. A trade association obviously does not have sales and financial targets to hit every quarter, but improving value for our members is equally important. The NCA’s shareholders are its members who pay annual dues, and they expect added value, results and a return on their investment in the organization.
Another big difference between a public company and a non-profit is financial resources. The NCA has finite resources, and so we have to be very effective and efficient in the allocation of resources to the right strategic priorities. Gaining alignment and focus against those strategic priorities will be critical to our success. We will have to do more and do it better with less.
Photo Caption: (left to right) New NCA President & CEO John H. Downs, Jr. meets with Alison Bodor, NCA Executive Vice-President and Larry Wilson, Vice-President of Customer Relations.