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Pundit’s Mailbag — Putting Leadership First: Consider The Example Of The Ohio Florist’s Association

David Sasuga, Founder of Fresh Origins, has been a frequent contributor to the Pundit, weighing in on important industry issues. We’ve featured his input in pieces such as the following:

Pundit’s Mailbag — As ‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer Investigation Widens, Potential Grows For Weaker Consumer Confidence In All Fresh Produce

‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer Raises Consumer Doubts About Organic Definition

Pundit’s Mailbag — Organic Industry’s ‘Situational’ Standard

Pundit’s Mailbag — As ‘Spiked’ Organic Fertilizer Investigation Widen, Potential Grows For Weaker Consumer Confidence In All Fresh Produce

Well, it turns out that in a prior life, David was in the floriculture business, and he sent us a note with an example of how an effort similar to what we were doing in produce has been done more successfully in the floral industry:

Thank you for the outstanding ‘rest of the story’ regarding the failed merger! I enjoyed your piece, The United/PMA Fiasco: THE SPIN IS JUST HALF THE STORY — Lessons Learned: Open Up To Industry Input And Focus On Big Things FirstI thought I might share an interesting parallel: 

The OFA — referring to Ohio Florist’s Association

Despite its name, it has become the preeminent trade association for the floriculture industry.  Floriculture is a fancy term for decorative plants, both indoor and outdoor.  They are quite successful even in light of a very depressed industry and put together a fantastic trade show/conference each July in Ohio. 

 I used to be in the floriculture business many years ago.

—David Sasuga
Fresh Origins
San Marcos, California

David then sent along an article from a newsletter known as Green Profit, published by our friends at Ball Publishing:

OFA + ANLA = New Organization

This past week at the OFA Short Course, the association’s board of directors voted to begin the process of organizing a new association with the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA). The two organizations announced back in January they were entering a joint venture, and, to put it in relationship terms, if the “dating” period went well, they would consider getting married. This week’s message could be considered a wedding announcement. And quite honestly, the industry was expecting wedding bells to ring since they started holding hands.

That’s where the wedding analogy ends. To be clear, OFA and ANLA are not merging. They are formally exploring the creation of a NEW trade association that will bring more value to both memberships and the industry as a whole, combining the best of the best that they do—business education and government relations. The boards hope to have this new association in place by July 2013, and by no later than January 2014. And keep this in mind: This new association will replace both ANLA and OFA.

Retirement and a New Chief
Remaining on the OFA and ANLA front … ANLA’s executive vice president Bob Dolibois will be retiring at the end of this year (we’ll miss you, Bob!). And as the OFA and ANLA joint venture progresses and becomes a new organization, OFA’s CEO Michael Geary will assume chief executive duties for both associations beginning January 1 of next year. They’ll continue to operate separately until the new association is created, and Michael seems nimble enough to keep the whole shebang going smoothly.

The “new chief” in my headline doesn’t refer to Michael’s new gig, but to Dr. Charlie Hall. The good doctor has been appointed OFA’s chief economist. Charlie knows the economics of this industry inside and out, and chief economist he’ll work with OFA to “provide vision, leadership, analysis and technical competence.” Welcome aboard, Charlie!

If you want to stay atop the developments, you can read all about it at (that URL about says it, huh?).

We thank David very much for sending this along. It shows a completely different approach to creating a new organization, one in which leadership is not an afterthought but, instead, a vital part of the process. The website offers many useful parallels and contrasts with what the produce industry just went through. We thought this section of the Q & A made a strong point:

Q: I heard ANLA and OFA are talking about a future merger. What will the dues and leadership structure be?

A: The devil is in the details. The most important detail was the question of whether working together made sense. Both organizations’ leaderships have answered ‘yes.’ When it’s the right thing to do, you figure out how to get it done. If the two organizations decide to move beyond their current ‘joint venture’ agreement into an even closer relationship, the details will take hard work, but it’s easier when you are committed to the outcome.

That last line —“it’s easier when you are committed to the outcome” — says a lot. In this case, one association focuses on product grown outside, while the other focuses on product grown under glass. They sell through the same stores for the most part. So the parties seem to have found a strategic reason for uniting, just as PMA or United could consider combining with a frozen food or juice association to increase its scale.

The problem in the produce industry is that the strategic purpose of this proposed merger is still not clear. The upside is still not well defined and, as a result, people are not committed to the outcome and thus allow the effort to collapse.

Many thanks to David Sasuga for sharing an alternative approach.

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