What is the primary focus of the International Playground Contractors Association (NPCAI)? It seems that the organization has spent the past eight years moving away from a playground contractor specific agenda to an overall playground industry agenda.
In the Winter 2016 issue of the NPCAI newsletter, “The Playground Insider,” Chairman of the Board of Trustees Kenda Daria states:
“I have spoken with people who have been ‘sales reps’ for their entire career, but others who call themselves ‘distributors.’ Some of these people work directly for their manufacturers, and others own their company and select the brands that they sell. Many manufacturers also have a sales team, and some of them are referred to as ‘company sales.’ Most recently I have seen online distributors who compete directly with exclusive sales reps. There are also sales companies performing their own installation as their ‘strategy to win’ and others who subcontract these services in order to ‘win.’
“Truth be told, we are all trying to create the perfect business model for our territories. There is no one perfect way to conduct business, and our clients suffer when it becomes more about the company layout and less about the level of service and product delivery.”
The NPCAI seems to have shifted from concentrating on the needs of the playground builder and benefiting their members towards focusing on serving the entire playground industry. I personally don’t feel that an all-inclusive association is needed; the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and individual manufacturers do a great job of moving our industry forward.
The founders of the playground contractors association did not claim what business model was best, but they created this organization to carve out and define the playground construction aspect of the playground industry. They set forth a specific plan to promote proper playground skills and credentials. This plan worked towards the scenario that playground builders should be in charge of their own destiny and not controlled by other entities, which would allow construction companies to contract directly with playground purchasers and obtain their work by their own credentials, experience, marketing, pricing, and delivery of services.
I am also quoted in the Winter 2016 “The Playground Insider” as saying:
“I hope to see the NPCAI refocus on the playground builder. The most important thing facing a playground builder today is a solid credential for playground construction and being able to control his company’s destiny without interference from outside entities. Playground builders need a credential that separates them from those who do not have the correct training and experience.”
I think the NPCAI should either change its name to the Playground Industry Association or recommit to the first generation plan of this association to specifically work towards carving out and defining the playground construction industry. What are your thoughts? The next Board of Trustees meeting will be March 23. Email your comments to [email protected] to let your voice be heard.
Change is Inevitable - and Healthy.
As the playground industry has matured and evolved, the NPCAI has evolved with it to support the contractors in the industry. It is no longer simply about installing post and platforms as it was in the 1990's. Today's playgrounds have custom designed pieces, complex layouts, various surfacing materials and new rules and regulations imposed by both government and the industry. The park environment has become part of the playground with nature play being defined and promoted. Elements such as shade and fitness pieces are being incorporated into the play environment as part of the playground. Site amenities, signage, bathrooms, shade structures are all considered a part of the inclusive play environment and as important as knowing what an accessible path is.
The buying process is changing. Contractors are many times required to buy and sell the equipment as part of the contract. Understanding how to work with sales reps and manufacturers is required for this. Many times a contractor can purchase direct from manufacturers when needed.
Simply focusing on building a piece of modular equipment would be a major disservice to the members of the NPCAI. It would be sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it is still the 20th century. The world changes and I fully support the NPCAI recognizing this and changing with it. It helps my contracting business and many others that I have spoken to.
I don't think that the NPCAI has abandoned any contractors or members. If anything they have helped the contractor members connect with others and build their business up (if they so choose). All Unions and Organizations adjust over time. They don't have to be renamed to be relevant! Contrary to the belief of some..... we are still a contracting company running 4 crews and installing hundreds of projects a year. We also design, sell, inspect, and expand! I am very appreciative to the NPCAI and their founders for helping with that.