Mason builds on first year at CEDA

Catering Insight catches up with CEDA director general, Adam Mason, to discuss how he feels as he approaches his first year anniversary of spearheading the distributor association.

What have you achieved in your first year at CEDA?
As I came from outside the industry, quickly increasing my knowledge of CEDA and the wider industry has been fundamentally important. While I have a long way to go, I feel comfortable that I have reached a good level of understanding in 10 months. This is in no small part down to the individuals and personalities in the industry who have given me both a warm welcome and their time.

So I am settled in, I know what we need to do, and we have the correct people in the correct roles to be able to really deliver.

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In my first weeks, reading and reviewing minutes of previous CEDA meetings and talking to members, partners and the industry at large highlighted a number of issues that were long-standing and until now without solution. One of these is a lack of engagement with young people in the foodservice equipment sector.

The launch and success of the Rising Star Award at our conference and the creation of the CEDA Academy are initiatives that have been well received by members and partners.

In the near future our goal is to grow them significantly and highlight, recognise and develop the abundance of talent that exists. I can’t stress how important this engagement is, and the benefits that it will bring to the individuals involved, their employers, the wider industry and CEDA itself are considerable.

Secondly, the education, learning and development services that CEDA provided were only reaching a small percentage of employees within member companies. With the launch of CEDA E-Learning we are now able to impact on the learning development of every single employee within every single member company, which is fantastic.

Finally, from a marketing perspective, the relaunch of the CEDA website and a more blended approach, which now includes a real focus on social and digital media channels, has returned very positive results.

So whilst we have a long way to go, we have put in place several fundamental pieces of the jigsaw that give us the foundation to move forward with real purpose.

Is there anything you have wanted to do but couldn’t?
Honestly, no. I am quite strategic and thoughtful in my approach generally, and so listening, researching, review and consultation have been prevalent in my time in-post.

Whilst generating new ideas and initiatives is key, they have to be right and relevant to members, and so each new launch will require that ‘stamp’ before delivery.

My CEDA board colleagues are not only giving of their time, but also open to ideas for new initiatives that will drive CEDA forward. This means nothing is off the agenda and always goes through the correct process and channels. [[page-break]]

What are your main aims in the coming year?
We are currently undertaking the most comprehensive review and survey in CEDA’s history. I am meeting with every member and dozens of non-members, partners, suppliers and industry colleagues. What we learn will inform a single document that will be launched at the 2016 AGM.

It will be a development plan that will guide CEDA over the next 5-plus years; a fluid document that changes and adapts to issues that the industry faces and puts the performance and quality of CEDA and CEDA members at the core of everything we do. It will make their businesses better, supporting employees and promoting our members as ‘the best of the best’.

This is a significant piece of work that will lead us on a path towards achieving an overarching ambition that every operator in a foodservice environment insists on using a CEDA member for their design, equipment supply, installation, project management and after-sales service needs.

What do you think will result from the strategic plan consultation?
The result will be all members having their say in the future of their trade association. Broadly speaking the review will focus on five main themes – the CEDA brand, marketing and communications, education and training, membership services and finances.

Whilst I have my own ideas and thoughts at this time, I won’t pre-empt the feedback and results that members provide.

The development plan’s content will be created by the members and then packaged and delivered by CEDA for the benefit of the entire membership. This is exactly how a trade association should operate in my opinion: taking decisions and actions following thorough consultation to ensure that every member’s opinion counts.

What impact do you think the Industry Academy will have? What has the response been like so far?
The response has been good. We have 15 Academy members so far and I anticipate this being in the 20s when the first meeting takes place in September. For a newly-launched concept I think it’s a very good response. I also believe that the impact it will have in the short, medium and long term will be substantial.

The idea came from a young managers’ group that existed in a previous industry I worked in, and that group has been running for nearly 50 years, creating a production line of business and industry leaders. When you put a group of like-minded, creatively independent and ambitious young people into a room and let them work together and understand each other, there is no limit to what can be achieved.

The aim is to take the individuals out of the ‘everyday work environment’ in which they operate and open their eyes and minds to the wider foodservice sector. They will share information and best-practice, leading to broadening horizons, overcoming challenges, positive networking and communicating. I’m excited about this and so are the Academy members that I have spoken to. [[page-break]]

How do you hope the various training programmes you are involved with will progress?
Making member companies better through the provision of learning and development should be central to what a trade association delivers, and it will be so for CEDA. The entire portfolio of education, training and learning services that we have launched, and that will be launched in the future, are all about one thing – raising standards.

Specifically, CEDA E-Learning currently affords members’ employees the opportunity to continually develop their generic business skills: sales, marketing, management and negotiation to name just a few, but the future holds no barriers to the content that we can produce and upload onto the platform. We can start to make the generic more specific and deliver an industry-relevant suite of learning modules that will raise standards even higher.

We currently provide: manufacturers’ equipment training, WRAS, Gas Safety, CEDA E-Learning, the City & Guilds Electrical qualification etc. and they all have a positive impact and help to professionalise individuals and companies. We have identified needs and delivered solutions and we will continue to do so as part of our ongoing consultation with members.

Are there any other initiatives you are looking to launch soon?
Following our recent Partners Forum, we have launched a Partners Task Group made up of Dave Riley from Hobart, Glenn Roberts from Gram UK, Caren Harvey from Commercial Catering Spares and Steve Hemsil from Manitowoc who will meet with CEDA board director Peter Galliford and myself to discuss ways to develop our Partners Package content and positive relationships.

There is nothing further that’s imminent, but we have several new initiatives in the development process at the moment.

These will be presented at regional meetings in November and launched soon after, once ratified. Whilst I can’t give specific details at this time, suffice to say, they will be brand new to the industry and will build on what we have delivered so far this year.

What issues do you feel are prevalent for distributors at the moment? How can CEDA assist with these?
There are a myriad of challenges and there always will be. Some are industry-specific and some are more general from the UK and global business environments.

Topics such as: BIM, apprenticeships, technical legislation and regulation and access to market information are all prevalent in discussions.

The CEDA Technical Steering Group keeps members at the forefront of all technical issues in the industry, and we have recently announced an exclusive BIM partnership to provide members with significant cost savings. We are also in the process of researching a market information update that will be available to CEDA members.

What CEDA provides is an opportunity for these key issues to be debated and discussed during our regional meeting forums, and where necessary, work is undertaken to provide further information and solutions. [[page-break]]

What should a modern trade association offer to its members?
Value. We need to add value to our members in everything that we do. Whether that’s education and training, sales and marketing, credibility, representation or networking – there has to be added value as an output.

All trade associations have faced a crisis of identity over the last 15 years because the old model is no longer relevant to modern business. It’s about taking an industry organisation from mirroring an ‘old boys club’ to being a dynamic, relevant and commercially-minded organisation that has a real and tangible impact on the members and industry that it serves.

CEDA has started the journey and we will complete it in the not too distant future.

What position do you think the catering equipment distribution industry is in currently?
Having endured a turgid few years during the financial crisis it was good to see solid growth returning to the majority of members last year. Our confidence surveys have delivered three successive quarters of largely, very positive results both from a current and future-gazing point of view.

Whilst government spending cuts may squeeze the public sector, there appears to be sufficient consumer confidence in the private sector to maintain cautious optimism.

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