For so many reasons, I’m very excited to be joining the National Coffee Association as President and Chief Executive Officer. First, the NCA is an iconic organization. The NCA’s long and proud history dates to 1911, and one look at the NCA’s current membership and distinguished Board of Directors makes clear the importance of our association.
Second, it’s an exciting time to be part of the coffee industry. New technologies and techniques, evolving consumer tastes, increasing health awareness in food and beverage choices, and a need to confront regulatory and legal challenges are but a part of the changing landscape.
Third, it isn’t only the world of coffee that is changing – the world of trade associations is changing too. Prior to joining the NCA, I spent twenty years representing the global motion picture industry at the Motion Picture Association of America, and then seven years representing public relations professionals as CEO of PRSA. The business of trade associations is evolving just as your business is evolving; trade associations must change by rethinking how we deliver value, how we communicate, and how we set our priorities. While change can be challenging, I see much opportunity to innovate and build upon a rock-solid NCA foundation.
Although today is my first day on the job, I’ve been preparing for months. In March I took a few days from other duties to join the NCA Convention in New Orleans. It was a professionally exhilarating experience, giving me an opportunity to attend the NCA Board meeting, general and breakout sessions on current industry issues, and other formal and informal venues to connect with members and guests. It was also personally satisfying to roll up my sleeves for the NCA Day of Service, giving back to the Convention host city by helping rebuild hurricane-devastated communities.
More recently I redirected a vacation I had scheduled. With the gracious support of Dub Hay, NCA’s Acting President and CEO prior to my arrival, and NCA Board Members Juan Esteban Orduz, President of the Colombian Coffee Federation and Craig Russell, Executive Vice President, Global Coffee at Starbucks, I traveled to origin in Colombia.
Traveling with NCA Chair Bruce Goldsmith, President of Baronet Coffee, I spent an incredible week in Bogotá, Pereira, Quindio, Nariño, Caldas and Risaralda, where we not only sampled some of Colombia’s finest coffees, but where we were welcomed warmly and given hands-on access to every imaginable aspect of coffee production.
The very last day, as we flew back from Nariño to Bogotá, our Avianca flight had barely touched down when the heavens opened. A furious hailstorm poured out, like the magical realism of a Gabriel García Márquez novel, marking a fitting finale for our trip. I invite you to see a few of the images from the first and second halves of our journey, which was made possible through arrangements made by the Colombian Coffee Federation, the Starbucks Coffee Company and Carcafé. Thank you to everyone who made our trip so rewarding and memorable.
What’s ahead? June promises to be busy. In recent months the NCA staff has been working relentlessly on projects and programs that fill the remainder of 2014’s calendar. Later in June we’ll be having a strategy session with the NCA Board of Directors and other industry thought leaders to talk about the NCA’s future. Equally important, I look forward to getting to know you as we look to the future, and I invite you to connect with me on Linkedin. And, of course, if you are in New York City near our offices in Lower Manhattan, please let me know – we just might find time for a cup of coffee.