Prior to joining CANASA in February, J. David Ritter was president and CEO of the Canadian Jewellers Association. He is also the former publisher of SP&T News and has worked with previous owner CLB Media as executive vice-president. (SP&T News and other CLB Media assets were acquired by Annex Business Media in 2010.) SP&T recently conducted an email interview with Ritter to discuss his approach to association management and plans for CANASA in his new leadership role.
By Neil Sutton
SP&T News: What do you think should be the role of an industry association?
JDR: I believe the role of any association is to ensure its members are provided with the tools and support they need to run their businesses more effectively and profitably, and to act as an advocate for the entire industry when dealing with government and industry issues that could have an adverse effect on the livelihood of the membership.
SP&T: How familiar are you with the professional security industry?
JDR: My position as executive vice-president for CLB Media, provided me with the opportunity to interact and develop a working relationship with several key stakeholders through attending CANASA trade shows, board meetings and other industry events. Presently, I will rely on the CANASA staff, my board and the media to further educate me on the inner workings of the security industry in Canada.
SP&T: What are some of your immediate plans for the organization?
JDR: I have already reached out to several: police, fire, building and international associations and media companies to develop enhanced strategic relationships with them to provide our members with new educational offerings, benefits and cost-saving tools to assist them in their day-to-day operations.
All these contacts will help us develop a stronger alliance and share our best practices, allowing the association to run more efficiently, both from a time and cost perspective. Further, these collaborations may also provide opportunities for joint ventures and access to research material and surveys that help in the development of new educational programs for our members.
SP&T: Are there any long-range goals CANASA should be working towards?
JDR: Growing membership, value and CANASA’s brand awareness; using and embracing new technology and offering enhanced communication to members through social media, in-person meetings and events; ensuring we continue to have a strong value proposition that reflects the changing dynamics of our members and the Canadian security industry; look at other security disciplines, such as cyber-security; and reach out to consumers through the increased use of social media to educate them on the benefits of dealing with a respected CANASA member.
SP&T: What do you feel are the organization’s current strengths and weaknesses?
JDR: CANASA is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2017 and that in itself is a major strength, as many associations do not survive their first five years or have become irrelevant and can no longer provide any substantial benefits to their membership base. We have a knowledgeable staff, a dedicated and committed board, and volunteer industry stakeholders who provide us with the guidance and tools to be successful. If I were to cite a weakness, it would be the shrinking of the marketplace through acquisition, mergers and businesses closing their doors for good. We need to reach out to other industry associations that have some connection to the security industry and partner with them to sustain and grow our further participation and commitment to the Canadian security industry.
SP&T: Have you identified any areas for improvement?
JDR: There are always areas to improve any association. We must continue to reach out to our members and ask what we can do to provide them with new educational offerings, cost-saving benefits and government advocacy. We must try to anticipate issues that could cause our members and the industry adverse harm. We must continue to be fiscally responsible to ensure the faith and support of our members.
SP&T: Are there any initiatives or projects that you pursued at the CJA (or in previous roles) that would be a good fit for CANASA?
JDR: During my tenure at the Canadian Jewellers Association, we expanded our educational offerings to our members through the upgrading of several of our course modules that better reflected the current market trends and conditions. We partnered with the Retail Council of Canada to launch a new retail management course and we partnered with over 20 international jewellery associations to work towards the development of a website that would serve as a portal for all educational programs offered by various members’ jewellery organizations (The Jewelers Educational Foundation).
These kinds of initiatives could also be instituted by CANASA to upgrade our current Alarm Technician Course (ATC) program and to work with other security associations to form a working alliance with the goal of developing a portal to guide professionals and students to the best educational sources and course offerings.
We also developed new programs for our members with several new affinity partners that assisted our members, resulting in savings on shipping and travel costs. Also, we established a web-based financing program that our members could provide to their customers. I am currently in discussions with these and other affinity partners that will assist our CANASA members in their day-to-day operations. I am confident that these new programs will attract new members to CANASA.
SP&T: What advice have you received thus far from CANASA members and professionals working in the Canadian security community?
JDR: I have had the opportunity to meet with many of our members and potential new members over the past several weeks while attending CANASA council and official industry meetings.
The main theme of advice from members and other professionals working in the Canadian security industry was continuing to reach out to members across the country and engage them in conversations on how CANASA can help them with educating their staff with the current issues facing our industry. They also suggest the need for establishing strong relationships with municipal, provincial and federal governments and to continue to work with other associations such as police, fire and safety, to better serve our members.