By Stacy Ward
Editor in Chief
There are three arms to FEDA’s mission: to advocate on behalf of its members against legislation and regulation that may negatively affect dealers and distributors; to collect and share research and knowledge of interest to the industry; and to advance the interests of its members via education and marketing initiatives. Chaired by Board Director Ben Whitlock of Mobile Fixture & Equipment Co., FEDA’s Education Committee held its first meeting this past February to support the association’s efforts in carrying out the latter.
TriMark’s Vice President of Operations Keri Llewellyn, known for her strong interest in talent development and leadership growth, also is on the committee, along with Ace Mart Restaurant Supply’s Talent Acquisition Specialist Stephanie Bean, Globe Equipment Co.’s Vice President Brian Ringelheim, and Hatco Corp.’s Director of National Sales Mark Pumphret. The clear commonality among the group is their enthusiasm for purposeful change and progression throughout the industry. “As our world evolves, so must our industry and we must stay focused on growing tomorrow’s leaders,” says Whitlock, who has experienced firsthand the benefits of having a succession and talent development strategy as the president of Mobile Fixture.
“With the ever-changing industry we are in, FEDA saw the necessity in forming this committee,” he adds. “It will enable dealers and manufacturers to grow their individual brands through educating their employees by utilizing the technological tools we have at our disposal.”
As outlined in the association’s new governance plan, the purpose of FEDA committees, like the newly-created Education Committee, is to provide guidance and feedback for the FEDA staff as it works to implement new programs and initiatives. Technology and digital strategy is high on the list of FEDA’s training and education priorities in 2019 so members will see the theme resurface throughout the year, starting with the FEDA Annual Conference. In addition to a morning strategy discussion on the industry’s technology, afternoon breakout sessions will be devoted to various aspects of digital strategy. (See the conference articles beginning on page 26 for more details.) Improving the online buying experience, how to create a technology roadmap to enhance customer touchpoints—many of the topics covered at the conference will be expanded upon in course material offered on FEDA’s new learning management system, Elevate. CommPartners, the ColumbiaMd.-based, tech firm behind the platform, developed it in 2014 for nonprofits and associations. Two years later, tech research firm Talented Learning named it one of the top LMS providers for the association community because of its intuitiveness and flexible infrastructure.
During FEDA’s search for an e-learning tool, CommPartners emerged as the frontrunner based on its future-forward technology, peer-networking capabilities, web-conferencing capabilities, seamless interface, customization options and ease of use, says FEDA’s CEO Tracy Mulqueen.
Talk of Elevate, and FEDA’s new online education and training program, dominated much of the discussion at the recent Education Committee Meeting. Both are expected to be unveiled in late spring and will offer self-study courses, live webinars and other tools tailored to the specific needs of FEDA owners and managers as well as frontline E&S professionals representing various roles that support the day-to-day within a distributor or dealership.
“Being able to learn by way of technology will allow our industry as a whole to be better suited to recruit the next generation of workers into what has always been considered an old-world industry,” says Whitlock. “Taking the foundation of existing LMS software, podcasts, and other online portals, and modifying them to meet the needs of FEDA is a top priority, and an attainable goal.”
To better understand the need and respond accordingly, digital strategy consultant Denise Keating is assisting FEDA with a member survey that will assess FEDA distributors’ digital readiness and identify how they define themselves in the channel. Once completed, FEDA’s Technology Committee and Education Committee will review a synopsis of key findings and provide feedback to the FEDA Board and staff.
“I am excited about being a part of this,” says Whitlock. “We’ve got a great group of people and we’re all invested in helping FEDA move the organization forward.”