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President’s Report: Persistence

Persistence. The quality of possessing tenacity and the continuance of consistent effort. When reflecting upon the theme for this particular issue of Sprinkler Age magazine, technology in the workplace – “Is Your Jobsite Smart?,” I immediately thought of an American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) staff member who has embodied the term persistence and has worked as an association manager for nearly 30 years. Roger Gragg, AFSA’s director of marketing & information technology, has been a staff member working on behalf of merit shop contractors at our national headquarters in Dallas since August of 1988. Nearly. Thirty. Years! And it’s not just outstanding longevity in his job that makes Roger an extremely valuable member of the AFSA staff team and personification of persistence. Roger’s ability to consistently produce high-effort levels of creative and technological proficiency have allowed for the promotion of AFSA services to be delivered to contractor members in ways that are understandable, imaginative, and interactive.

All AFSA members have been receiving hard-copy mailings from the only fire sprinkler industry association dedicated to the development of educational and training programs benefitting merit shop contractors since the association began in 1981. For many years it was paper, ink, and postage that were the primary way for a group like AFSA to communicate with its supporters. By executing the vision of AFSA volunteer and staff leadership, Roger helped forge a new electronic communications path for members throughout the 1990s. And to this day, AFSA members find great value in the e-newsletters, general emails, online Sprinkler Age blog, and vast archive of resources available on the vibrant website: Roger’s ability to learn what was once a very foreign concept for everyone at the time, has now positioned him to not only be considered an expert in the field of association management information technology currently, but to persistently make decisions on behalf of AFSA members from the perspective of specifically addressing a merit shop contractor’s needs.

Drawing from nearly 30 years of experience working on behalf of fire sprinkler contractor members has allowed for AFSA’s Marketing and Information Technology (I.T.) Department to adapt to changing times while also being nimble enough to create new promotional programming year to year. The latest example of Roger making a direct impression on the way contractors capture valuable information from AFSA came two years ago when I asked him to identify how members can understand the virtues of our programming in a more impactful way. Flash forward to 2018 and the already impressive library of original videos created by Roger Gragg and AFSA’s Digital Media Producer & Brand Specialist Josh Fisher. By working in Roger’s department, Josh has brought a significantly enhanced level of persistent digital acumen to AFSA marketing deliverables and the fire sprinkler industry as a whole. Readers are encouraged to visit where all new AFSA videos are available on one page for convenient reference. Viewing these impressive 30 second to 2 minute or so long videos are guaranteed to educate and entertain industry professionals interested in learning about AFSA products/programs.

While marketing and promotional elements are cool and informative when conveying member benefits, it’s been stated for many years by AFSA leadership and from association volunteers in all disciplines that simply “communicating” information is not enough when trying to penetrate the consciousness of the average member. Fortunately, Roger took that challenge head on last year as the primary staff point of contact for the implementation of a dynamic membership database that allows for a true dialog to occur between fire sprinkler contractors and their association. By creating an “engagement score” for every single member company as well as any potential branch offices, AFSA’s new software platform identifies what industry programming at which engaged level in however many years has a fire sprinkler contractor utilized their available benefits and services to successfully grow their business. This inspirational mechanism of persistent tracking by Roger is allowing AFSA’s Membership & Chapter Development Committee to target under-participating contractors with the goal of effectively communicating the virtues of member benefits, peer-to-peer.

Nothing in our industry can take the place of good old-fashioned persistence. Basing the expectations of your company on pure talent is not always a guarantee for success. We’ve all heard the stories of “talented contractors” struggling in the long run time and again. Surrounding ourselves with intellect delivers no promise of achievement either. Unrecognized intelligence is found in every walk of life and throughout the business models of companies throughout history. Even education cannot assure positive outcomes in the contracting world. Education levels certainly vary and the school of hard knocks can be as valuable if not more so than any formal learning exercises, certifications or degrees. Persistence. It’s persistence and determination alone that are all powerful, particularly in the case of a humble association manager like Roger Gragg – on behalf of our Marketing & I.T. Department, who has devoted his professional career to supporting the merit shop fire sprinkler contractor. AFSA members can appreciate the wisdom of this staff member forged by many years of service to our industry and for his profound persistence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank Mortl III, CAE is president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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