When I was approached to become the next President of NARSA/IDEA, I was honored to be chosen by the board to continue to lead the organization through this transitionary period. I was excited to work with our new Executive Director, Mark Taylor and his team at MSN. I had worked directly with Mark for 10 years and knew I would be working with an extremely competent manager with integrity and years of experience in the business. I was thrilled to be taking the reins after our former president (now Chairman), Aaron Morrow. Witnessing Aaron guide the organization through one of the most pivotal times in its history was inspiring. His attention to detail and commitment to NARSA/IDEA confirmed to me that he was the ideal person to lead our organization through its most challenging days. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to build on this strong foundation and positive momentum. As a board, we implemented the EOS management system and created a concise plan for where we wanted to be. Aaron had led the board though most of the heavy lifting, and I was certain that I would have one of the smoothest starts to my presidency. 

Well, as the great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” And certainly the situation this year with COVID qualifies as the proverbial “punch in the mouth” for NARSA/IDEA.  As of this writing, our organization has had to cancel various events and even the AAPEX show has been canceled. These cancellations have had a major effect on our budget, and the board as well as our executive director have been working hard to adapt to the challenges presented by the global pandemic. The ensuing economic aftershocks have also had a negative effect on many of our members, particularly those that are heavily involved in servicing the oil and gas industry. To add to an already difficult situation, as I write this, we are in the midst of one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons in history.

In my career, I have seen quite a few major shocks. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008 and, in my case in particular, Hurricane Maria in 2017 all come to mind. These events had dramatic consequences and effects that lasted long after their actual occurrence. However, all reinforce the old adage that, “Nothing is constant in business except change.” I will add that change, while painful in the short term, often opens up opportunities that one may not have been aware of otherwise. An example that comes to minds in our industry was the major shift from copper brass radiators to plastic aluminum. At the time, many in our industry viewed this as an apocalyptic event that threatened the very existence of our industry. Others adapted to the new reality and found new ways to be successful in the industry.    

Never Waste a Good Crisis

COVID has forced upon us seismic shifts in the way the world goes about all aspects of life. If someone would have said to me that a major portion of the workforce would be working from home long-term and that kids would be going to school virtually by April, I would have dismissed this out of hand.  While none of this has gone off without a hitch, the fact is the world is adapting and quickly utilizing technology that was not nearly as common only 6 months ago. Our industry is not known as being on the cusp of technological change, but the current crisis has forced us to embrace technology. Many times, it has brought the realization that technology has come a long way and is sometimes superior to the old ways of doing things. The NARSA/IDEA board was forced to use video conferencing technology for our day-long board strategic planning sessions and realized that it works out really well. We saved significant time and funds on traveling and the engagement in the meetings proved to be excellent. We certainly would have never made that change had we not been forced to adapt by the pandemic.  

COVID has forced upon us seismic shifts in the way the world goes about all aspects of life.

Bobby Duran, NARSA/IDEA President
Another first for NARSA/IDEA as a result of our new reality was the Vision 20/20 Virtual Conference that took place in October. The board thought that it was important to put together an event for our members since we had to cancel our other events this year. The board worked hard to come up with top notch content that would appeal to our members. There were attendees logged in from more than a dozen countries around the world. While I miss the face-to-face conversations that are the best part of any NARSA/IDEA event, I believe the board and home office put on a quality program that was the next best thing. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors who made it possible. In addition, board members David Bienvenu and Kyle Rickermann worked really hard to produce some excellent technical content that you can’t find anywhere else. Finally, a special thanks to home office staff Mary Margaret Miller and Linda Skoglund. Without their help, this event would never have happened.

In the 1920s, the Kellogg’s and Post corporations dominated the cereal market in the United States. Prior to the start of the Great Depression, they had a similar market share. Once the Depression hit, Post did what most companies do and pared back expenses in order to attempt to survive the depression. Kellogg’s instead doubled its advertising and R&D budget. They heavily invested in the newest form of communication at the time (radio) and brought new products to the market that are still around today (Rice Krispies). By the end of the Depression, Kellogg’s market share had risen nearly 30%, and to this day, they are still the dominant player in the industry. I hope to follow the example of Kellogg’s. 

While it is true that I am taking the helm of NARSA/IDEA at a most precarious time, I also recognize that this crisis will enable us to evolve and provide more value to our members than we otherwise would have. The board led by Aaron Morrow has given us a strong foundation to get through this and come out a much stronger organization. We will invest in content and programming that provides value to our members. We will continue to invest in our fundamental mission of providing a forum for an exchange of ideas in the heat transfer and emissions industry. In all my years at NARSA, I realized that all I needed to pay for my membership dues was one idea, one opportunity and one connection.  Without NARSA/IDEA, I would not be here today. It is my sincere desire that in two years, our next President takes the reins of a stronger and more vibrant organization.

Bobby Duran
NARSA President 2020-2022
Cooling Systems Caribe / Aibonito, Puerto Rico

(This editorial originally appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of The Cooling Journal)