By Bob Nieman | Mar 08, 2012
David Cotter has worked for trade associations for nearly 30 years, holding various positions at five different associations. He was named executive director (now CEO) of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA) in 1993. During that time, he has been an active member of various related organizations, including serving on the marketing committee of the American Society of Association Executives and the business program committee for the Council of Manufacturing Associations of the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as serving as president of the Cleaning and Laundry Association Executives and as chairman of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ (NAW) Association Executives Council, which includes a three-year term as a NAW board member. He is currently serving his final year of service on that board.
Describe TCATA’s mission.
TCATA's mission is to increase professionalism through business operations and sales improvement education, provide forums where business challenges are discussed and solved, generate and apply business intelligence, and create a favorable business climate by seeking fair regulation and legislation.
How does the work that you and the TCATA staff do cross over into the self-service laundry industry?
It probably doesn’t cross over in a direct way, but since many TCATA members sell equipment and supplies to laundromat owners, TCATA’s work on behalf of distributors and manufacturers does, in a sense, “flow through” to them.
What are some of the best ways trade associations, such as TCATA, help their members, especially in the current economy?
First, one of TCATA’s core missions is to advocate on behalf of members on important legislative and regulatory issues that affect their businesses. Though sometimes hard to quantify, the work that TCATA does in protecting members from harmful legislation and regulation often results in direct savings to a member. In most of the large issues affecting many businesses of all types – such as product liability, Superfund or OSHA regulations – TCATA works with its partners, such as NAM or NAW, to channel the power of industry for maximum effectiveness. For industry issues specific to the drycleaning and laundry industry, the association works with partner organizations where it makes sense, and sometimes takes on these issues alone. In all cases, TCATA “picks its spots,” concentrating on those issues of most importance to the allied trades.
Second, TCATA’s work on important codes often has a direct effect on members. One example is recent work in conjunction with the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI) in which we were successful in getting key parts of the International Fire Code in alignment with provisions of the National Fire Protection Association’s code as it relates to the need for the installation of sprinkler systems in plants, saving significant dollars for cleaners. In turn, this helps those distributors and manufacturers selling to them.
Third, TCATA offers specific money-saving programs such as freight shipping and telephone discount programs, as well as offering advice on where members can obtain help with exporting their products.
Are you seeing positive signs that the economy is beginning to pick up?
I see some bright spots here and there, but overall things remain pretty flat. One of the major, ongoing challenges to all in the industry is the effect of continued and new burdensome regulations emanating from government which hampers the economic recovery.
What challenges are laundry manufacturers and distributors facing that coin laundry owners may not be aware of? And, as the voice of the allied trades, how can TCATA help the “end-customer” – the laundromat owner, in this case – understand these challenges? What can laundromat owners do, if anything, to ease some of these challenges?
Manufacturers and distributors, like all businesses, face continued challenges – by the ever-increasing amount of regulation from government, increased manufacturing costs, driven in part by demand from China, and tax increases. The combination of these challenges inevitably results in an increase in equipment costs.
In making equipment for laundromats, manufacturers produce the safest possible machines. Laundromat owners can work with the allied trades by ensuring that their equipment is maintained properly, including ensuring that safety controls are working properly. Additionally, laundromat owners should carefully analyze their business costs, evaluate efficiencies and then decide when upgrading to new equipment makes sense. They should do exactly what makes anyone else in our industry successful – stay flexible, listen to customers, be aware of conditions or technologies that can affect their business, and deliver a product or service that creates loyal customers.
Do you have a business philosophy that guides your decisions?
The business decisions I make as CEO of TCATA are guided by the core mission document that was developed about 10 years ago. That document, developed with the input of members from various sectors of the textile care industry, identifies the specific areas where TCATA delivers value to its members and where I concentrate my efforts.
As chairman of last year’s Clean Show, what were your impressions of the Las Vegas event?
The Las Vegas show was excellent, something reflected in both the written and verbal comments of exhibitors and attendees. A comment heard repeatedly from exhibitors is that attendees came ready to buy at that show. Others noted that the show reminded them of the “good old days” of prior Clean Shows. Perhaps cleaners and institutions had been holding off on purchases since the economic problems began in the fall of 2008, and finally felt comfortable in making capital expenditures – whatever the reason, it was a great show!
What exciting offerings are on tap for attendees of the 2013 Clean Show in New Orleans?
The Clean Show will continue to offer what it always has – the best place in the world for anyone to educate themselves about the industry. Education comes in several forms – in the classroom, on the show floor, and in networking with peers. The educational seminars, which have expanded in recent years to include seminars by international associations, will continue to offer valuable information. As always, attendees will have the opportunity to work with exhibitors in discussing challenges, solving problems and finding solutions together. The ability to see working equipment has always been valued by attendees.
What benefits do you feel a three-day show will offer attendees and exhibitors in 2013?
The decision to experiment with a three-day show was based on the wishes of the exhibitors, as backed up with verbal comments and written surveys. Many exhibitors expressed to the owners of the show that the final day is lightly attended, something confirmed by show data. By ending the show a day earlier, exhibitor personnel can travel home Sunday and be back in the office on Monday. There will be some cost savings for exhibitors by having one less night of hotels and related costs for booth personnel. Also, because the final day of the show will now end at 5 p.m. rather than 3 p.m., the show will actually be only four hours shorter than previous shows, not a full day.
Both attendees and exhibitors should keep in mind that moving to a three-day show is an experiment – if attendees and exhibitors decide after Clean ’13 that this is not the preferred format, the Clean Executive Committee is prepared to move back to the four day show.
For laundry owners still on the fence about attending Clean 2013, give them three (or more) great reasons to be in New Orleans next summer.
Education, education, education. The sponsoring associations want to create the largest classroom for laundromat owners and others in the industry to learn what they need to know to run their businesses profitably. The show allows a laundromat owner to communicate directly with suppliers and make informed buying decisions. A laundromat owner also has the opportunity to network with colleagues to solve common challenges.
As if any other reason is needed, it’s New Orleans! The city is an exciting place to be, and there is much more to do than visit the well-known French Quarter or sample the world famous cuisine. The beautiful Garden District, a swamp tour, a huge aquarium, the D-Day Museum and several casinos are all options for those visiting New Orleans. The city has hosted the BCS Championship, the Final Four and the Super Bowl. I urge laundromat owners to attend Clean 2013 – the “Super Bowl” of the textile care industry.
Of course, TCATA has its own industry conference coming up next month. Can you tell me more about this event and what’s in store for attendees?
The TCATA Annual Management and Educational Conference offers an invaluable opportunity for members to hear from some of the top speakers in the country, as well as network with the best and brightest in the textile care industry. This year’s conference, which is being held in mid-April in historical Williamsburg, Virginia, will feature three speakers. Dean Minuto of The Sales Brain will discuss how the latest findings in neuroscience can be used to identify the “buy button” in the human brain; Sheila Kloefkorn of KEO Marketing will discuss how to use social media for greater profitability; and, Hunter Lott will cover a number of human resource issues critical to all employers, ranging from keeping “A” players to wage and hour issues.