Exclusive Q&A: Merlin Guilbeau on the Future of the NBFAA

NBFAA's Merlin Guilbeau talks about a possible name change, membership reciprocity and other top association concerns


Security is our roots; that's our heritage. We're not going to lose our focus on the security elements. But, again, security is just one aspect of what our members do. Albeit a big aspect, or a large portion of what our members do, there are still a lot of other things that we have to pay attention to in order to serve our members. So we will continue to support our security-specific members. As a matter of fact, I think that was said loud and clear just in the technology focus groups.

If you look at the technology focus groups that were established out of this strategic summit, you have intrusion detection , you have access control, you have video surveillance -- all elements that help deal with security.

SIW: One of the new technology focus groups is "Communications". What is reflected by that name?

That was an interesting element. That was one which we did not bring to the table initially, but which developed through discussion at the summit. And the group felt as though they didn't want to limit it to telecommunications, even though a large number of the members do install telecommunications equipment. They wanted a more broad aspect of communications that involved transporting data as well as voice, so not just telecommunications in that extent, but all communications that affect our industry, whether it's IP whether it's through Voice over IP or any of those things. They thought communications would be broad enough to lump all those things together -- such as intercom and nurse call.

SIW: How much of an effect was Voice over IP on forming this Communications technology group?

I don't know that voice over IP had that much of an effect. That issue right now, the way I see it, is really at a legislative stage, where we have to deal with the FCC, so it's more of an industry issue which would fall under our industry affairs committee and department. What we envision this group doing is finding out those kinds of things before they become an issue that affects the industry. It means being involved on the front-end in a proactive phase, rather than a reactive. Learning about new technologies is what we envision these groups doing.

SIW: Can you share with us an example that our industry has had to react to, something where if that industry group had been formed earlier, we would have been able to be proactive about?

I think to a certain extent, Voice over IP is an example -- it's just that we're beyond it really being part of a technology focus group. We're really having to deal with the issue. If for example, we had a technology focus group with subject matter experts in the communications area both on the manufacturing side and the installation side, then that forum could have discussions that talk about this new technology coming down the pipe and about what kind of impact it would have on our industry.

It has to happen before the technology is really out there and impacting us. That's one of the things we envision these focus groups doing. We also envision these groups as being a very good place for a manufacturer to come in and discuss how new technologies fit digitally and how integrators would accept or reject those technologies, much like you would with any type of focus group.

SIW: In the summit report, one of the other items of interest was the reciprocity of membership. What was the discussion like on this topic at the summit?

I think you could label the discussion "spirited." It certainly was done very professionally. There certainly weren't any yelling matches. Both sides of the issue were addressed and discussed. They talked about the pros and cons for both state chapters and a national organization of requiring members to be members from the local level all the way up to the national level.

Ultimately, the group came to the conclusion that it's a benefit for all organizations. I think the primary thing they walked away is that we're not separate associations. We are one association and we happen to operate separately and autonomously from each other at times, but ultimately we're here for the benefits of members and the industry.

The more we can stand together side by side, the better off the industry is. A lot of people lose sight that the things we do don't just benefit the 2,500-plus members that we have, but that they benefit the entire industry. It benefits everyone, not just the members.