First came Brexit, and then Trump! Just when we all thought there were no more surprises, comes the news that the fencing industry’s two long-established trade associations are to merge.
At an historic Extraordinary Meeting held last month, members of both the Fencing Contractor’s Association (FCA) and European Fencing Industry Association (EFIA) unanimously voted in support of a merger. For more than fifty years both associations have represented the fencing industry, each with its own strong identity and loyal member base. Despite sharing similar goals, the two associations considered themselves poles apart, and “never the twain would meet.”
Following the recent retirement of their respective previous leaders, the open-minded and progressive new management of each association were keen to reduce the distance between them. After a number of exploratory meetings between Adam Binns (FCA Chair) and Bernard Kilbride (EFIA Chair), it became apparent that the two associations had few differences and shared the same goals.
“We have both been spending time and resources developing similar benefits and services for our members, and attending the same meetings” said Bernard “it soon became clear that we could achieve much more for the industry working collaboratively together rather than separately”.
“We both want to do the very best for the industry, and united we can deliver real value.” echoed Adam.
The two Chair’s next brought the directors of each association together to further discussions around collaboration, which became quickly focussed on a merger as the economic and logistic benefits of managing and administering a single association rather than two became obvious to all.
Bernard continued “A merger will enable us to take the best from each association and combine it to deliver better value for money, and more effectively engage with our members and the external marketplace. FCA, for example, is longer-established, has greater member number and significant experience in developing industry standards through the various industry groups, and engaging with the construction industry and government, e.g. CSCS, Highways Sector Schemes.”
Adam continued “EFIA has more experience working with new technologies, social media, websites, E-commerce, marketing and communication, and has a wide range of useful technical and document resources for supporting and developing its members.”
Accordingly, at the recent EGM each association proposed the formation of a new entity – the Association of Fencing Industries (AFI) – a unified industry association, to be recognised as the single route to engage with the industry from those outside, and the “Go-to” resource for information and guidance for those within. It will provide the gateway and ladder for development of companies and individuals within the industry, and membership will be widely accepted as the UK fencing industry’s Quality Mark.
“Combining the resources and considerable expertise within each, marrying the established with the modern, will form a powerful and effective alliance.” confirmed Alison Payne EFIA General Secretary.
Adam Binns (FCA Chair) is proposed as the new AFI Chair, and Alison Payne (EFIA General Secretary) the new AFI Chief Executive. AFI’s new board of directors will be a combination of the FCA and EFIA’s former directors. Both former association will be equally represented in the direction and management of AFI.
The new association intends to broaden its member base to include all individuals and organisations working within and/or providing goods and services to the fencing industry. ”We will still maintain stringent entry criteria for established companies” confirmed Bernard “but we also want to open our doors to the smaller company, including installers, and provide a pathway for their development through the industry.”
“We also want to encourage associated suppliers to the industry” said Adam “for example, plant and equipment hire companies, ready mixed concrete, builders merchants, training providers. This association is for everyone involved with our industry.”
Alison reassured existing members “These grand ambitions will take time, and we need a bedding in period to fine tune the shape of the new association, its administration, management, benefits and services. So, during 2017 all membership fees will remain the same as the previous year, and members will have access to the same benefits and services.” Alison continued “And in some cases there will be immediate additional benefits, for example FCA members will also be able to benefit from free CHAS assessments, and members of both associations will only need to pay a single subscription.”
One of AFI’s goals is to be a collaborative member-focussed association, fully engaging with its members and encouraging them tell us what they think and want. To that end, AFI will be holding a series of regional ‘Roadshows’ during the spring of next year. Existing and prospective members will be invited to attend their nearest event and meet the new management team and have their say. Further details will be published when dates etc are finalised.