Q&A with Joe McGuire
Learn more about AHAM from the association’s president and CEO.
How did you get started at AHAM?
I came to AHAM in 1999, with the initial task of moving the association to Washington, DC, from Chicago where it had been since it was formed by the merger of several other appliance related associations in 1967. It was the members’ desire to be closer to the nation’s capital, where much of the association’s work was being conducted. It made great sense, because today the federal government is an even greater influence on business decisions.
I had the benefit of experience in the public policy process and with the association member value proposition from the member perspective. I was able to bring this to AHAM to help implement its biggest decision since its formation. The transition was successful, as AHAM has grown in members and scope. Without a doubt, we have benefitted tremendously from the visionary leadership of our volunteer leaders.
How would you suggest members get more involved in AHAM?
Member involvement is all about value. People get involved when they see value in the organization. In our case, AHAM provides value in the form of services that no company can do as well individually. Members who are engaged, who participate, know that the extra investment of their time results in greater value to their company and their industry. Our challenge is to make sure that our reach within our member companies is deep enough for all functions to understand what we do and how they can help us be more effective.
This is true as far as advocacy before government, development of product standards, and generation of data that can help the industry make informed tactical and strategic decisions. Our committees, councils and task forces tackle cutting-edge issues in the industry like robotics and connectivity. These issues have the potential to directly affect new product development, safety and other aspects of appliance manufacturing. We encourage our members not only to actively participate, but also to get their colleagues, especially those who are early in their careers, involved in AHAM.
How has the industry changed since you started at AHAM?
I have been fortunate to observe, first-hand, the incredible growth and innovation of the home appliance industry over the past two decades. When I started at AHAM, we were in the process of migrating from fax to email. Now, we see appliances that are incorporating voice control and automation. I have seen so many innovations. Connected features are in the spotlight now, but there have been many other innovations that now are taken for granted: clothes washers without agitators, dishwashers with a third rack, fans with no moving parts, robotic vacuums.
The growth of the industry has been significant. Factory shipments of major appliances have gone from 62 million units in 1999 to nearly 80 million today.
With the advent of connectivity, innovations are going to happen at a faster pace. This will give companies more of a reason to rely on AHAM to keep up with the changes in standards and regulations that sometimes come with innovations.
Do you have a favorite memory at AHAM?
It has been an honor to work with so many industry leaders who believe so strongly in AHAM’s mission and the association’s ability to deliver. Each year, I have the privilege of helping present AHAM’s Home Appliance Industry Leadership Award, the Liston-Durden-Gordon Stauffer Distinguished Service Award, and the Emerging Leader Award to some of the most exceptional professionals in the industry. To see these dedicated volunteers earn the recognition of their peers is heartening and helps motivate future volunteers and leaders.
I’ve had the privilege of being present for the signing of significant legislation that impacts the industry, like the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It was inspiring to be part of the Home Sweet Home program in 2007, when AHAM members came together to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina rebuild their homes by giving them new appliances.
How has the organization changed since you have been involved?
When AHAM moved to Washington, it had been significantly downsized and some elements of its mission were eliminated as technology and the market changed. We focus on core strengths such as advocacy, standards and data and make sure all our initiatives are member driven. While AHAM is often looked at in Washington as an association that plays above its weight class, we have grown. Our staff size has doubled in since 1999 due to the burgeoning regulatory agenda. We took over the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association in 2004 and extended our reach to Canada, where we opened our AHAM Canada office in Ottawa in 2012. We have staff in Washington, DC, Ottawa and Sacramento.
In addition to our size and breadth, our staff has had to change over the years to provide more technical and policy analysis for our member companies. Our core strengths have not changed, but as I mentioned earlier they are tested in new areas such as connectivity, sustainability and standards harmonization.
What advice do you have for those just getting started in the industry?
The appliance industry is very competitive. It is a global industry. It serves consumers and each company and brand must work day and night to innovate to gain and maintain the trust of consumers. This requires great ideas, technology and people. But it also includes collective action where necessary and lawful, such as governmental action related to energy efficiency, environmental protection and product safety. Speaking with a singular voice is essential for an industry to influence policy makers, standards developers and other decision makers and influencers. I urge everyone in our industry to get to know us and to see how we can help create an environment for innovation, growth and consumer protection. Many of our members say they are shocked because they come in as competitors, but through AHAM, they are able to come to a consensus on issues that benefit the industry as a whole. All of the work our members do helps move the industry forward. That can also have significant benefits for their careers.
What is next for AHAM?
We are just at the beginning of our latest three-year strategic plan. Our members affirmed our core competencies. They are strengthening the areas where we excel—advocacy, standards, data. The industry is also looking to AHAM to play a larger role in connectivity, which will affect all of our divisions—major appliances, portable appliances, floor care and suppliers.
We have a lot of exciting initiatives in the works. As I mentioned earlier, our members are working to develop robotic vacuum performance standards. Our Connectivity Specialists group has begun meeting to see how the industry should adapt to the privacy and security issues that come with any connected device. We are also actively involved in the development of global air cleaner performance standards.
The challenge is being positioned and strong enough in what we do, but also having the foresight to see the issues that might face the industry in the future. Innovation is going to happen at a faster pace, and that can often bring new performance, safety and other issues to light. We are always trying to look ahead so we are ready to respond to issues before they affect the industry. We will continue that proactive approach.