26 August 2008

KBSA members - are they bothered?

A funny thing happened on the way to the KBSA’s quorum – there wasn’t one.

KBSA members were invited to attend its AGM on Thursday 10 July at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre on the outskirts of Swindon.

Given that this would have been the first opportunity that most members would have had to hear about the new initiatives being put forward by Graham Ball after an eight-month consultancy – to say nothing of learning more about the one sector of the building industry that did not suffer in the last building slump – you would have thought the rank-and-file would have been queuing up to get a good seat.

Did they heck!

Despite two recounts only 24 people qualified to vote on retailer issues could be found – and that included at least three kitchen manufacturers who can do so because they have their own retail showrooms as well as retail customers.

Because the meeting was one short of the all-important 25 retailers needed to vote on the official business of the KBSA, the formal AGM has to be rescheduled.The Association’s somewhat antiquated Rules & Regulations were held to blame for causing the situation. Produced 30 years ago when the then KSA was a much smaller organisation they have not been thoroughly updated in all that time.

But that was only part of the reason for the failure to hold a full AGM. There are currently 169 full retail members of the KBSA. By the time you add in branches, including InToto and John Lewis, there are 299 retail showrooms in the UK being run by members of the KBSA.

Membership apathy

Quite frankly, if the KBSA cannot muster 25 people between that lot to turn up for an important meeting, it has a bit of a problem. The real reason the AGM could not be held on 10 July had a lot more to do with membership apathy that outdated rules & regs.

There is not doubt the KBSA has suffered since it tried to run without a CEO following Graham Hayden’s departure. It would appear that there have been major communication problems at Worcester, with the office frequently being unmanned.

It is clear that both the outgoing chair Tony Nicholas and outgoing corporate chair Barbara Leach have done their utmost to hold the Association together while holding down positions of responsibility in their own companies. (Ironically neither could stand down on Thursday, as there was not a quorum of members to vote for their successors.)

Looking at the accounts, which with a £90k operating loss made for grim if not totally unexpected reading, learning about the Worcester communication problems and hearing the complaints being voiced by some of the retail members who could be bothered to turn up, and it is apparent that something needs to be done Something has been done: Graham Ball has been appointed at the Association’s CEO.

From the outside, this may look like a job nobody would want, but after spending the last eight months looking at the KBSA’s problems and developing a programme to deal with them, Graham Ball is in the ideal position to know if the job can be done.

Again, looking from the outside and reading what I have had to say here, you could be mistaken into thinking that this is an Association in crisis – it isn’t.

Bounced back

This is not the first time that it has failed to get a quorum at its AGM and its not the first time that the rank-and-file of the membership have been unhappy either. If there are people out there sharpening their pencils and preparing to write the KBSA’s obituary, I would suggest that they hang on. It has bounced back before and the only way from where it is now is upwards.

Given the chill wind starting to blow through from the housing sector, there has probably never been a better time for a KBB retailer to be part of a trade association like the KBSA.

But perhaps it is time to rethink how the Association goes about the running of its business. According to a recent survey it conducted, over 80% of its members have email and over 90% of the membership wanted the KBSA website to be developed further.

Contrast that with the 72% of the membership who say they do not attend regional meetings and the 82% who do not attend the AGM, and it looks like an online venue for the next AGM may be the best bet.

(First posted on the kbb News website 12 July 2008)

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