Rand Baldwin is a 32-year veteran of business management and has served as chief staff executive for not-for-profit associations for the last 22 years. Last year, he was named executive director of the Aluminum Anodizing Council while also serving as president of the Aluminum Extruders Council, a trade organization formed to promote the use of aluminum extrusion in various industries. He earned his master’s in economics from the University of Michigan and his undergraduate from Kalamazoo College. We caught up with him as was preparing for the annual Anodizing Conference & Exposition, Oct. 1-3 in Seattle, Wash.
PF: What are your marching orders from the board for leading the AAC? What’s at the top of your agenda?
RB: There is an enormous amount of potential to enhance the good that AAC has always done for this industry. We are limited only by the fact that there are still many good organizations that do not belong to the council. Top of our agenda is to expand and communicate our value proposition, making it clear to potential members why it is essential to be part of the AAC. By doing this, we will increase in numbers, and influence and add to the growing good being done for all.
PF: You help manage several aluminum organizations besides the AAC. How does that synergy work—having a hand in all those groups surrounding aluminum?
RB: My profession is association management, not metals. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to manage a number of metals/manufacturing associations such as the AAC. Among others, we also manage the Aluminum Extruders Council and the International Magnesium Association, and have a role with the Canadian Aluminum Association’s event involving INALCO. There is a natural synergy to this. All groups promote the advantages of using aluminum or light metals in various applications. All are focused on identifying and teaching best practices, and all are great associations.
PF: You have been a part of managing more than 20 different trade groups in your career. What makes a trade organization successful?
RB: Wow, when you put it that way, that’s a lot of groups and a lot of years. This experience has taught me that the one most essential ingredient for organizational success is focus. Know who you are, what you want to be and why. Of course, having a good workable plan does you no good without proper execution, clear communication, accountability and measurement, and maybe a dash of luck. But the focus—a clear and simple plan—is where it all starts.
PF: What led you into association management, and what other jobs did you have in your career?
RB: I got into association management almost by accident a little more than 20 years ago. For a decade, I was in consulting and sales, mostly plying advice to the financial community. But being in the right place at the right time was the key to moving into association management. Most of this job is about leadership and being able to marshal resources, mainly people, toward a goal.
PF: What’s the toughest part about being a trade association manager, and how do you deal with those issues?
RB: Dealing with things beyond your control. This could be a serious, existential outside threat, such as that faced by North American aluminum extruders from predatory trade practices, or something as simple as bad weather or bad news that can devastate your annual conference. A good example is the situation faced by the AAC in September 2001. The AAC was in the midst of its annual meeting when the planes struck the towers in New York. Our members all have stories of how they managed to find their way back home from Montreal even though flights were grounded.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
RB: It came from my predecessor, the late Donn Sanford: Always be prepared for the unexpected. Have a contingency plan or two. What will you do if a speaker doesn’t show up or your membership database crashes? Thinking through these possibilities in advance and having a backup plan is absolutely essential. And I would add to that my own word of advice: Tell the truth. No one is perfect.
Get to know Rand
Family: Wife Joyce and four children: Matt, Katie, Lucas and Sarah, three of whom are now in college.
Favorite hobby: Travel, especially by car. Just hop in and off we go, no itinerary or plan. It’s fun!
Favorite movie: “Crash,” “Shawshank Redemption” and, going way back, “The Graduate.”
Favorite book: The greatest story ever told, “The Bible.”
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: The ’70s: Eagles, Boz Scaggs, The Cars, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger.