NKBA 'Getting Back to Basics,' Leaders Assert

NKBA 'Getting Back to Basics,' Leaders Assert

New York - The National Kitchen & Bath Association is in the midst of a detailed "strategic planning process" that has resulted in a number of significant operational changes and has re-energized an organization that - in the minds of many industry observers - was seemingly foundering a year ago, according to NKBA leaders.

Top NKBA leaders, meeting as a group and then with Kitchen & Bath Design News here last month, painted a picture of an association in the midst of dramatic positive change as it undergoes a process of intensive evaluation and reshaping that consists largely of, in the words of new president Jeff Burton, "asking members what they want."

"We're getting back to the basics that the NKBA was built around," said Burton. "We're focusing on what the association does best and what our members want most - professionalism, education, networking and tools to help them grow their business.

"Morale is a positive word around the staff, and people are excited about the future now," Burton added. "People are focusing on growth, efficiency and advancement from within."
Among the major developments pointed to by NKBA leaders in recent months are the following:

  • The NKBA said it has paid in full the remaining mortgage balance on its headquarters office building here, several years ahead of schedule. The final mortgage payment, made in December, represents "a vindication of the financial health and stability" of the association, according to chief operating officer Cecelia Balazs.
    From a financial, staffing and morale perspective, the NKBA, "is as healthy as a horse," according to president-elect Stephanie Witt, CKD, CBD. "We probably have a more positive outlook now than at any time in the past decade," she said.
  • The NKBA announced a new educational program for 1999 that includes four new kitchen design schools, beginning in July. Other programs, including instruction in business management and bath design, were also announced, although NKBA leaders said the association will not introduce any new bathroom design or installation programs this year, due to a lack of demand from the industry.
  • NKBA leaders said they are "still exploring" alternative formats to the annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), which some industry members feel should be either co-located with other shows, or transformed into an every-other-year format.
    Burton termed opponents to the current K/BIS format as a "very vocal minority," and added that "every other year is not in the cards for K/BIS. If an exhibitor wants to exhibit every other year, we have a system that allows them to do that," he said.
    "A K/BIS every year is good because it forces manufacturers to come out with new products annually, and keeps all of us on the dime," Burton said. "If we go every other year, it will only create mediocrity."

  • A restructuring of the association's internal accounting system has been put in place, enabling the NKBA "to operate like a trade association instead of like a manufacturing company," and providing managers with a clearer sense of how funds are being allocated and spent, said Balazs.
  • A campaign consisting of direct mail, trade ads and a more "people-friendly booth" are among the initiatives that have been rolled out to increase membership, according to director of marketing and membership Larry Spangler. The Hackettstown, NJ-based NKBA currently has about 7,000 members - some 1,700 of them dealers and another 2,500 of them societies members. There are 45 chapters, three subchapters and one student chapter in North America, as well as affiliate organizations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
  • The association's current management structure - calling for both a chief executive officer and chief operating officer - will remain in place at least through 1999, with Balazs serving as COO, but also handling the responsibilities of CEO. The CEO's post will not be immediately filled, NKBA leaders said, terming that decision "a vote of confidence" for Balazs.