Reflections on a Busy Year
Q: Last year as you were taking office you said your goal was to increase member engagement. Were you satisfied with the progress you were able to help make?
A: Yes, and we’ve done a number of things to accomplish that. One is on-demand education. We’ve increased our amount of online educational opportunities and also have an online library for members because we know it’s not always cost-efficient for them to attend our meetings or the Expo.
Our membership is made up of operators both big and small and everyone’s time is precious. Our on-demand education provides access to webinars and education opportunities online whenever it’s convenient for them. We will continue to grow this opportunity over the next few years.
Another thing I think we’ve done well with is engaging better with members in a variety of ways such as social media, email, direct mail, or even just through phone calls. We are always evaluating our communication efforts so they are as effective as possible.
One encouraging thing I will mention is that we continue to see different members around the country get involved. Some of this is through applying for the board or even just attending an education program or the trade show, but overall our numbers for outreach and communication have been strong.
You have worked your way up through the association so it’s likely that much of what you experienced as president was somewhat expected. Was there anything that took you by surprise as you traveled this year?
Everywhere I visited I was so pleased and happy with the welcome I received on behalf of AMOA. Traveling the country gave me a lot of insight into the very specific needs and circumstances each state has. I made it a point to pass on what I learned not only to our leadership, but to our executive director Lori Schneider and her staff. It also confirmed that AMOA is right on target with the service and support we offer operators. Just like I said earlier, the message of “engagement in real life” has struck home and that’s why I believe AMOA is flourishing.
What did you enjoy most as AMOA president, and what will you miss about the position?
I will miss the people I met this year. Initially, it was a challenge to walk into a meeting where I knew very few people. But as I began engaging with attendees, I found these people to be very much like me. The work ethic of operators in our industry has been very motivating for me on a personal level.
The other thing that really impressed me and was a surprise was the hard work that the manufacturer representatives put in. I saw their work from a whole different perspective and so many of them travel extensively. They were always very kind to me, and I really did appreciate the opportunity to get to know them better. Between the operators I met in so many different states and the representatives, it’s the people I’ll miss the most. I’ll still see them, but just not like I did this past year.
What is your assessment of the state of the industry, in broad terms and specifically with regard to FEC operators and route operators?
I think our industry is very healthy right now. What has probably been most exciting for me this year is seeing so many of the new generation moving into leadership roles. We’ve got new operators also coming into the business, but I’m especially motivated by the new perspectives the younger generation is bringing to running a family business. I really enjoyed seeing that and think that’s a positive sign for our industry’s future.
We do still have a lot of consolidation happening. But I also met several new entrepreneurs, both route operators and FECs. As far as FECs and operators who are in FECs are concerned, it’s been exciting to see them diversify by creating a variety of experiences within a single footprint and different from the traditional bowling center, laser tag facility or pizza parlor.
Overall, it’s exciting on the business level to find these new opportunities because it’s not the same old day-to-day business that we’ve been so used to doing. We have to stretch, change and embrace it, and I really do enjoy that.
How do you see the industry changing?
I think the biggest factor is technology. It’s changing at lightning pace. I believe there’ll be new opportunities that will emerge as a result of technologies we’re not even aware of yet. This means it’s really important that we, as an association and our industry at large, pay attention and educate ourselves, and push into the mode of embracing new technology.
What unique challenges does the industry face, nationally and regionally? How has AMOA been responding?
I’ll just reiterate technology is moving so fast and AMOA is always keeping an eye on this. We work to continue to provide relevant education opportunities where members can come together to exchange valuable information – even just the networking creates opportunity. So that’s a really good thing.
We also spend a lot of time on legislation. It’s an ongoing threat to our businesses –– especially as small businesses –– not only at the national level, but especially at the regional level. We have maintained a strong presence in Washington, D.C., for quite some time and we are committed to continuing that. This would apply to the biggest issues, which have been bank account closures and cash in general. It seems like banks are attempting to dictate how we manage our money. Of course, we embrace card systems and cashless technologies, but cash is still legal tender and a large part of our business. We believe banks should not be dictating to us what our currency is.
Those two issues –– bank accounts and cash –– go hand in hand, and they’re getting a lot of attention and discussion on the U.S. Senate level. This is because I think it’s starting to affect more industries than just ours.
What specifically are you called to do as “Past President”?
Something I’ve come to appreciate so much are the mentors I had working my way up the association board. So, I will look to mentoring our upcoming leaders. I have a great deal of experience on the board, as well as a lot in the industry. There is also the historical knowledge and experience I have that I want to pass on, as well as being available to offer support for those next leaders.
What are you going to do with all those airline miles you racked up? Maybe take a vacation in a sunny spot?
I don’t have it planned yet, but I would love to go back to Italy and have a glass of wine.
This year has been a really good and fun experience for me. I’m excited for Greg Trent and I think he’s going to really embrace his new role as AMOA president. I’m going to try to help him as much as possible to be prepared. I will say our AMOA staff always had me very prepared as far as travel and what to expect next. Lori Schneider does a tremendous job; all of them do. I did not lack for someone to call if I needed even something as simple as an address. They are just amazing.
This month, AMOA president Emily Dunn reaches the end of her one-year term, moving on to her new role as past president. She’ll also spend less time on the road away from her Tom’s Amusement Co. in Georgia. She and her husband Tom Dunn ran the route until his untimely death in 2002, and she’s grown the business substantially over the years. It covers Georgia, eastern Tennessee and parts of western North Carolina, and while it’s evolved along the way, Emily has kept close to its original form as a traditional street operation. Today’s equipment is chiefly video games, pool tables and redemption machines and her company also supplies games to FECs as that market has exploded in more recent years. Among the goals of her presidency have been to focus on member outreach and growth, as well as education. This month, we checked in with her to get her thoughts on her year at the association’s helm.