After an 18-month search for a new president to succeed NEMRA's Hank Bergson, Ken Hooper was named incoming president in November. He will take over the reins of the 39-year old association on Jan. 5, 2009. Hooper comes to NEMRA after 16 years with Ferraz Shawmut, Newburyport, Mass., a manufacturer of fuses and other electrical products. Hooper comes to the position with a family background in industry's trade associations. Prior to joining Ferraz Shawmut, he worked with Pass & Seymour/Legrand and General Electric. During his time with Ferraz Shawmut, Hooper served on the executive committee of the NEMRA Manufacturers Group (NMG). In 2007, he was the recipient of NEMRA's Manufacturer of the Year Award. Hooper, whose father Arthur served for many years as the president of the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), follows Bergson and Thomas Preston as NEMRA president. Dick Noel was NEMRA's founding president.
In an interview with Electrical Wholesaling, Hooper fielded questions about his work background and plans for NEMRA.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR IMMEDIATE GOALS FOR NEMRA?
A: In addition to meeting more of the membership and acclimating myself to the operational side of NEMRA, preparing for the association's Annual Conference is a short-term priority. Our goal is to ensure that we have a lively and productive annual meeting for the membership. Additionally, I have a goal to work closely with the board to understand the strategic direction they have established for NEMRA. From there, we can assess how we are doing and begin to build the programs and services that the membership is seeking.
Q: WHAT INTERESTED YOU ABOUT THE NEMRA JOB?
A: First and foremost, I enthusiastically believe in the independent representative sales model. Over the past 30 years, with three different companies, I have observed how, when properly directed, the independent representative can cost-effectively grow a manufacturer's revenue and market share. My interest is in further developing this already successful selling process.
Q: DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM HOW HANK RAN NEMRA?
A: Having been associated with NEMRA since the early '80s, I have been a keen observer of Hank Bergson and his leadership style. What has impressed me most over these years is the passion he brings to the position. NEMRA has had a strong and passionate advocate at the helm over these part 23 years. Fortunately, the board has established a good transition plan for Hank and me to collaborate as I begin my new role.
Q: WHAT IS FERRAZ SHAWMUT'S REP NETWORK LIKE? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN USING REPS?
A: We have a network of 45 rep firms serving the North American market. We have one territory where we utilize Ferraz Shawmut factory salespeople. We use this territory to develop our future sales management leaders. I am not sure exactly when we employed our first manufacturer representative, but it has been for the majority of our almost 125-year history. I have been working with manufacturers' reps since 1982 when I was with GE.
Q: DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY CHANGES WITH NEMRA'S COMPUTER PROGRAM?
A: Yes, most definitely. I see nice potential in expanding the functionality and the services we can offer in the technology area. I have had some initial conversations with the NEMRA IT team, and I came away excited about some of the new services we can bring to our membership. Driving productivity through better use of technology is critical to our members. This is true for small firms as well as our larger firms. I envision NEMRA playing a large value-added role in the technology area.
Q: DID THE FACT THAT YOUR FATHER SPENT MUCH OF HIS CAREER WITH NAED HAVE ANY IMPACT ON YOUR DECISION?
A: Obviously, electrical trade association work is not foreign to me. My father had a long and illustrious career leading NAED. Many of the member programs he helped to establish are still adding value to our industry today. With this historical model in mind, I have similar aspirations when it comes to guiding NEMRA over this next decade.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NEMRA MANUFACTURERS GROUP?
A: At this year's Annual Conference we will complete a three-year educational program on “Eliminating Wasteful Activities in the Representative and Manufacturer Sales and Marketing Channel.” NEMRA and the NMG, along with project management from Tom O'Connor of the Farmington Consulting Group, have worked diligently to identify the wasteful activities we encounter on a daily basis. With this data in hand we then identified industry best practices and published a list of 31 things reps and manufacturers could do to eliminate or reduce wasteful practices. At this year's conference we will highlight some of the actions implemented with documented savings in terms of time and money.
Who is Ken Hooper?
At work. Ken Hooper started his career with GE in its marketing training program and then held various assignments in GE's Distribution Equipment Division, which is now part of the GE Consumer & Industrial segment, and GE's Wiring Devices business, Warwick, R.I. That business no longer exists. Following GE, he joined Pass & Seymour, where he was the company's vice president of sales. He left Pass & Seymour to join Gould Shawmut, which was acquired by Groupe Carbone Lorraine in 1999 and then merged with Ferraz to form Ferraz Shawmut. He is currently vice president of sales and marketing, with both U.S. and global responsibilities.
Hooper has a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and an M.A. from New York University, with a concentration in international relations.
At home. Hooper's wife, Dana, also started her career in the GE Marketing training program. They met when one of her rotating assignments brought her to Plainville, Conn., where he was working for GE. The Hoopers have been married for 27 years and have two children, Schuyler, a sophomore in college, and Carolyn, a junior in high school.
Hobbies. “For daily exercise, I enjoy lap swimming. Other interests are golf, reading (economics, politics, history), watching my daughter play three sports, and of course, avidly following all of the great Boston sports teams.”
What is the best book you have read recently? I enjoy history and particularly early American history. Recent reads have included Richard Ketchum's Saratoga as well as David McCullough's John Adams.