Making the Rounds
LaFleur Chats About Issues Facing Operators and How AMOA is Helping
Q: As you’ve traveled around the country to state meetings and other events, what are operators telling you are their biggest challenges?
A: The common theme has been that the industry remains viable and that there is opportunity, but that the biggest challenges continue to evolve around hot button issues like Operation Choke Point and other regulations and policies having a negative impact on business.
Bank account closures continue to be a big concern for operators. AMOA receives communication daily of yet another operator being affected by this sweeping action, usually by the big banks. With the typical operator being a small, family-owned business, the ramifications of this action can take an operator away from focusing on day-to-day operations for weeks. Earlier this spring, some banks were giving them 51 days to close their accounts, however, the most recent sweep is only allowing them 15 days.
How do you see AMOA helping?
Over the past several years, AMOA has been making quarterly visits to Washington, D.C. where we’ve met with legislators in both the House and the Senate on a variety of important issues such as coin content and advocating to make Section 179 (depreciation) permanent. With each visit, the relationships get stronger and because of that, you’ll now find us frequently meeting with senior staffers and occasionally the congressional member themselves.
When it became evident in early to mid-May that the account closure situation was reaching crisis level, we realized we needed to get back to D.C. as soon as possible rather than wait for our scheduled visit at the end of June.
AMOA’s D.C.-based lobbyist Dentons was instrumental in setting up meetings with key congressional offices to get this message across. With all that’s going on in Washington these days, this is not an easy task on short notice.
What was AMOA able to accomplish on this visit, and what are your plans moving forward?
AMOA’s Government Relations Chair Emily Dunn and EVP Lori Schneider did head to D.C. and delivered the message: Our members need relief! Their visit resulted in an invitation to take part in a round table discussion with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Virginia) and House Financial Services member Blaine Luetkemeyer (Missouri). AMOA took advantage of this opportunity to meet face-to-face with the congressmen two weeks later, and were well-represented at the meeting which took place in the House Judiciary library. Our members shared their stories of the horrific impact Operation Choke Point has had on their businesses.
Lori Schneider and Dentons’ Margeaux Plaisted were also at the meeting which provided a plethora of information helping to shape our legislative strategy moving forward. To keep our efforts moving, AMOA immediately turned around and constructed a grass roots initiative for its members to conduct during the August recess.
A Denton-led conference call was held in mid-July providing members with an update and talking points. Our website at amoa.com was updated to provide members with the white paper, links to find their representative(s) and a portal to report back details of their visit for AMOA followup when Congress returns to D.C. in September.
One thing’s for sure: operators are passionate and proactive when it comes to protecting their businesses, and I witnessed this at the state meetings I attended this summer.
Was there any one issue that stood out at the state meetings you attended?
As you know, each year AMOA orchestrates the State Council Meeting where state association leaders come together and share the challenges they face in their states, and once in a great while, they share a few victories. During my summer travels, I visited several states that have passed new favorable legislation recently and are seeing the first benefits of sales tax changes. The states who’ve had success have strong leadership and participation by its members.
In what other ways is AMOA is helping its members?
While legislative advocacy is one cornerstone of AMOA’s member programs and services, another is education. This Fall, the AMOA On the Road Program offers a solid lineup of topics to add value to member businesses. Topics include: cashless technology, social media and promotions, and generational differences in the workplace.
If you want to gain better understanding and knowledge in managing and hiring millennials, you’ll want to make sure you’re at AMOA’s On the Road Program in October!
In addition, Class XVIII of AMOA’s long-standing Management Development Program will begin and will be held on location with On the Road in Denver. Next spring, the program will return to the Notre Dame campus. Running both programs side-by-side in the Fall provides a higher level of engagement for all attendees, and Denver is conveniently accessible from most places across the country.
There’s no doubt, that the industry remains dynamic, and AMOA mirrors this through our programs and services.
Rick LaFleur brings a wealth of experience to his term as AMOA president from running the I.F. LaFleur and Sons multi-generational operating company in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Seeing the job as an opportunity to give back, the genuine and likable LaFleur has a tremendous amount of optimism for the industry as it embraces opportunities and navigates challenges ahead.
Rick sees collaboration within the industry as a key way to ensure success, whether that be with technology, products or growth in new directions.
“It’s fun to see the brilliance that’s out there and the solutions people come up with,” says Rick. “I like to think every problem has a right road to take. The key is finding it! Not every turn will be a perfect one, but if you make as many good turns as you can, you’ll be okay.”
LaFleur credits his father for a lot of what he learned about the industry and life, saying he was a goodhearted man who had the foresight to provide his two sons with the room to grow into success. He hopes to emulate that as he takes over the new role at AMOA…and if you’ve ever spent any time with Rick, you’ll know he’ll be successful at it.