President’s Report

As our Board of Directors and staff “rang in the New Year” at the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) in January, I had the honor of being announced as its new President and CEO. With more than 28 years’ experience leading associations, including my work with the Michigan Manufacturers Association (whose membership encompasses some manufacturing companies that are also AFSA members), I take on this role with the utmost pride and respect for the work that you – our valued members – do in saving lives and protecting property throughout North America and around the world. [See related article on page 10.]

While the start of a new year provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon AFSA’s achievements in 2018, it also offers a fresh start as we look ahead at more ways to engage and better serve our members in 2019. The passion for the merit-shop fire sprinkler industry, demonstrated by your Board, volunteers, and employees who share their time and talents, are coming together to build a strong future for North America’s largest fire sprinkler industry organization. 

Becoming More Efficient & Effective “Efficiency is doing the thing right; but effectiveness is doing the right thing,” said the late Peter F. Drucker, who was tagged as “the man who invented management” by Business Week magazine. Becoming more efficient and effective as an organization are the keystones to creating operational excellence at AFSA, which will provide the strength and support necessary to scale new heights. It is fundamental to have both levers working concurrently throughout the organization, amongst all departments – from our accounting team to our education team to our communications team to our technical team to our membership team – as well as our elected leaders and appointed volunteers. The challenges that our members face today and in the future demand this in order for AFSA to continue to deliver the benefits that you value while helping you position your business for the changes that lie ahead. 

During 2019, our Board, committees, task forces, and staff will delve further into our strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats. We’ll examine the socio-economic and political aspects impacting our membership, determining our priorities while ascertaining the best use of our resources. Being proactive and having a voice in legislation, regulations, and industry standards are also essential relative to how your business operates. AFSA will ramp up our efforts in the years ahead to lead in the areas of advocacy and public affairs. 

Evolving a longer-term strategic plan for AFSA and our charitable arm – the Center for Life Safety Education (CLSE) – will provide the pillars to allow us to focus on our priorities while allowing enough flexibility to react to unanticipated changes which are inevitable despite our best intentions. While leadership works diligently on providing direction, AFSA and staff puts its energies into delivering successful outcomes, it is imperative that every AFSA member has the opportunity to provide input. Please take advantage of completing member surveys when offered or contacting AFSA when you have a question or wish to share your thoughts on a given issue or topic. If you would like to get more involved in your association, let us know and we’ll find a place for you. Our efficiency and effectiveness are dependent upon all of us doing the “thing right” and “doing the right thing.”

Giving Back: AFSA Members Recognized for Contributions Speaking of doing the right thing… my first piece of official AFSA mail was a handwritten “thank you on behalf of the staff, national board, and Veterans” card, which arrived during the holidays from Tom Landwermeyer, Brigadier General, USA, Ret., who now serves as president and CEO of Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), based in Taunton, Massachusetts. As many of our long-term members know, AFSA is a key partner of this top-rated military and veterans’ charity,* which builds and donates specially-adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 Veterans, enabling them to rebuild their lives. 

Since its inception in 2004, HFOT has built over 270 specially-adapted homes, relying on AFSA and our local members to donate sprinkler systems as well as provide installation services to make these homes safer for Veterans and their families. AFSA members are encouraged to consider joining in this worthwhile endeavor in 2019; to learn more about how you, or your company, can help, contact AFSA Director of Communications & Social Media Nicole Duvall via email at or phone at 214-349-5965 ext. 126.

Ushering in a New Era It is indeed an honor to have the opportunity to work with you – our members – in ushering in a new era, one which clearly positions AFSA in the forefront of the fire sprinkler industry while promoting free enterprise and the concepts of the merit shop contractor as well as serving manufacturers, suppliers, designers, and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs). 

Our goal is to grow and enhance our industry while increasing awareness about the value of fire sprinklers amongst various stakeholders and the public. Thank you for renewing your membership in 2019 and being part of our journey as we continue to make the world a safer place and care for all that we have been granted in our lives. I look forward to working with you.

*Charity Watch “A” Rating, platinum-level GuideStar participant, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator 3-Star rating.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra N. McGuire, MBA, IOM, CAE is President & CEO of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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