What Makes An Association Tick?

For TBFAA, people make all the difference


What makes an association tick? It’s the active participants of the organization and a deep sense of commitment to the industry.

The Tennessee Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (TBFAA) obviously has a program that works. The group was honored in 2007 with a Leadership Award from the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA)—Charter Chapter of the Year. What also sets it apart is diversity, representing both small and large firms, multi-generational companies and suppliers who co-exist under an umbrella of cooperation.
Established in 1980, TBFAA was one of the first associations to push for and attain a stringent state licensing law, taking a proactive stance to encourage professionalism and reputable business practices. The Alarm Contractors Licensing Law was passed in 1990.

Without the people of the organization these accomplishments wouldn’t exist. Many of the members are long-time participants and include second and third generations who take pride in the business. They don’t shun competition but welcome it, saying it makes them stronger.

Joel Hill calls himself the “dinosaur” of the organization, having logged 25 years of service to the industry. He’s served as president, treasurer, regional vice president and others.

“TBFAA is an extremely strong and active industry association,” said Hill, vice president, Access Control Systems (ACS), Nashville.

“TBFAA worked hard to pass the licensing law and the group has also been extremely active in false alarm initiatives, working with law enforcement before problems arose,” he said. “Being on the TBFAA board is quite desirable—you’re well-respected by your peers.”

Butch Work is another long-term TBFAA member. He’s currently retired but previously owned Southern Alarm Supply in Nashville. He is one of four Lifetime Members. The Butch Work/TBFAA Benevolence Fund is named after him.

Work was there in the beginning when the organization grew from 15 members to over 100 companies in a few years. He said in order for an association to be successful it’s important to have as many large and small firms involved, keep dues reasonable so smaller companies can afford to join and offer tangible value in the way of training and education. “TBFAA has had many notable contributions and accomplishments over the years,” he said. “But getting our state licensing law passed and setting up the benevolence fund to help the less fortunate were notable highlights.”

Today, keeping up with pending legislation remains a fervent cause of TBFAA, according to Will Fleenor, current president and vice president of Fleenor Security Systems, Johnson City, Tenn.
“One of our main concerns as an association is keeping close watch over new legislation,” Fleenor said. “When I first joined the board I had no idea what went on behind the scenes regarding legislation. It is amazing to see the different bills and ordinances state and local lawmakers introduce that have a bearing on our industry. In order to help us stay on top of these issues we have a lobbyist to help assist us when we need legislation passed or tabled. The TBFAA has also been fortunate to be able to partner with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP). Together we were able to help introduce, and get passed, new legislation to help reduce the number of false alarm dispatches (Enhanced Call Verification law). Another one of our association’s primary concerns is to keep the channels of communication open between our industry and law enforcement and we have done a stellar job with this in Tennessee. We also provide NBFAA training courses in different regions of the state throughout the year so our members do not have to travel to keep their training current. There’s always work to be done and it takes an organization on its toes,” he said.

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