Finding a way to see who wants it the most

02/10/2012 09:19:00 AM
Tom Karst

Should the boards of a unified association decide its new leader based on lobbying prowess? 
Is it the track record of financial growth? Should the balance sheet or “business model” execution alone tell the tale? Number of employees? 

All of those questions are of little consequence. Both are familiar and trusted figures in the industry. 

These associations are “member driven” but are defined by their larger-than-life presidents.

Let’s assume — for the sake of argument — that both are equally qualified to lead a unified organization. How will the industry decide which lion will lead the pride?

Here is how I would approach the problem. Both men would be eligible to lead the organization, but the job would be awarded in reverse Dutch-auction style. 

Given the fact that retailers will wield significant power in the unified trade association, why not create a little competition between the contenders just like buyers set up with shippers?

Here is the scenario. Start the auction clock at $100,000 annual salary for a three-year contract and give Stenzel and Silbermann a buzzer. 

With every 10 seconds that passes, the salary for the chief executive officer and president would increase by $10,000. The first man to hit the buzzer would be given the job. Perhaps the buzzer would ring immediately or linger unrung until $600,000. 

In either case, the group would have itself one leader.

It is not exactly like King Solomon’s suggestion to cut a baby in half to settle a dispute between mothers, but it does introduce the concept of desire over dollars for the leader who hits the buzzer. Exactly how bad do you want the job?

Perhaps after the winner is identified, he could be given a bonus clause to reward the elimination of redundancies on the staff of the merged association, with the advice and consent of an executive committee. 

The 2009 tax document for United Fresh reveals the association had 29 employees. The PMA document for the same year reported 92 employees for that association. Could a combined organization do with less staff?

Another incentive could be created to reward relocation of the association to a more economical host city, where office space and the cost-of-living would be lower than Newark, Del., or Washington, D.C.


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