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Born and raised in New England, Kerry Stackpole earned his master of education degree from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today, he lives just outside of Washington, D.C. with his family, and serves as the new CEO/executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) association.
Stackpole took the helm of PMI in July of last year, after a very rigorous interview process that lasted three months, and included multiple telephone screening interviews, several face-to-face interviews with the PMI Search Committee, a videoconference, and an expansive discussion with several PMI member company CEOs.
“It was clear from the start,” says Stackpole, “that the Search Committee and the CEOs took their work and the responsibility of finding a new PMI chief staff executive very seriously. It was impressive and refreshing to share ideas and explore perspectives with such an incredibly talented group of people.”
There were three things that he says PMI does better than anyone else, all of which drew his attention to the opportunity.
“First, says Stackpole, “PMI has a robust regulatory and advocacy program. Our approach leverages a spirit of collaboration with all stakeholders — elected officials, regulatory agencies, standards bodies, and related organizations.”
The second thing he says, “is the commitment of PMI members to safe, responsible plumbing. Whether that’s donating plumbing fixtures to residents of Flint, Michigan to help assure safe drinking water, or supporting water efficiency through great design, PMI members are engaged.”
“And engagement,” he adds, “was a key thing that drew me here.” Seeing the industry’s deep commitment to its own association was invigorating to Stackpole. “PMI members represent more than 90 percent of the plumbing fixtures and fittings manufactured in North America. When an industry stands together like that, great things get done.”
With only a few months on the job, Stackpole is certainly ready to get things done. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions regarding his background, and his plans for 2018 in his new role of CEO/executive director for PMI.
Sharon J. Rehana (SJR): Who is Kerry Stackpole and what should people know about your professional accomplishments to-date?
Kerry Stackpole (KS): I started my association career helping manufacturing executives adapt new and emerging technologies impacting their businesses. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the challenge and privilege of serving business leaders as CEO of four trade associations representing manufacturers, technology companies, and firms in the financial and small business sectors. I’ve also had the honor and good fortune of leading advance teams for the White House during the second term of the Obama presidency.
My experience in the plumbing industry comes from my DIY nature. When it comes to home remodeling and repair, I’ve learned a lot from the consumer perspective, from craftsmen and plumbers who have shared their experience. More recently, I’ve learned a ton about the plumbing manufacturing industry from PMI members who have invited me into their factories, design studios, offices, and showrooms. It’s an amazing and critically important industry by any measure.
When it comes to accomplishments, being able to see the full scale and scope of an industry is enormously valuable in crafting strategies and programs. One of my favorites was the launch of Print Grows Trees, an educational campaign that uses facts to show that print on paper actually helps to grow trees and keep our forests from being sold for development. It was a team effort between association volunteers, industry leaders, and our staff team. While it started out as a regional initiative, the program sparked other industry education efforts and was adopted nationally for the printing industry’s Value of Print campaign.
SJR: You’ve officially been “on the job” for about 5 months now, can you discuss some of your observations of PMI and of the industry?
KS: On my first day on the job, I joined a group of PMI members making visits to legislators and regulators at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Those couple of days confirmed my first observation about the heavy regulation facing our industry. My second observation was how incredibly innovative our industry is every single day. While heavy regulation and innovation are rarely seen as collaborative concepts, PMI members excel at rising above to deliver thoughtful designs, innovative ideas, and technological breakthroughs across an array of fixtures and fittings. As an association, PMI and its members benefit from that same innovative approach the dedicated volunteer leaders bring into the organization. I was also fortunate to inherit a very talented professional staff who knows how to leverage the volunteers’ ideas and energy to move our agenda forward.
SJR: Can you discuss the challenges faced by plumbing manufacturers in the coming year, and how, in your role as CEO/executive director for PMI, you plan to address them?
KS: Plumbing manufacturers will face growing challenges in the legislative and regulatory environment as state legislatures seek to compensate for shifts in federal regulatory policy and enforcement. Water efficiency and conservation continue to weigh heavily on many jurisdictions. There are important conversations about water safety and aging infrastructure in communities across the U.S. and elsewhere. PMI’s role first and foremost is to look to the horizon and be the industry’s advocate — sharing ideas and seeking collaborative solutions for issues before they metastasize into something bigger.
With our international network of industry partners, members and volunteers, PMI is extraordinarily well-positioned and proactive on technical issues, codes and standards, and regulatory requirements. Legislators and regulators know they can trust PMI, because we play it straight. That said, every CEO I’ve ever met knows all too well that accomplishments are something to build on, not rest on. My role is to be certain PMI members, volunteer leaders and staff teams, have the benefit of foresight about what’s coming, and ready access to the right resources, for the right measure, at the right time, to proactively address them. No one like surprises.
SJR: Can you discuss the positions of strength for the industry, and how they might impact future goals?
KS: One of the many great things about plumbing manufacturers is their propensity to be “early adopters” of technology that delivers real value to consumers and commercial users of plumbing fixtures and fittings. PMI members are strong supporters of the EPA WaterSense program, which has saved consumers and communities over 2.1 trillion gallons of water since 2006 — 534 billion gallons of water in 2016 alone. The 2016 savings are enough to fill more than 800,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. That’s a lot of water savings.
Plumbing manufacturers are applying that same ingenuity to their factories and operations. Whether it’s productivity improvements for the factory floor, process simplification, additive manufacturing, elevating customer service response times, product testing, or stoking the fires of workforce development, the industry is engaged across the board. From the perspective of future goals, the rise in process and productivity improvements means continuous workforce and leadership development will be an essential part of sustaining competitive advantage. As race car driver Mario Andretti was fond of saying, “if you think you have everything under control, you’re not driving fast enough.”
SJR: Can you talk about some of the goals you have set up for yourself in your role as CEO/executive director for PMI? What’s the game plan?
KS: Coming aboard at PMI, my goals fall into two buckets. The first is to get acquainted with and explore the needs of our members. What are the things making them successful? What kinds of things are getting in their way? What things do they wish they knew? What strengths and weaknesses do they see in the way our industry operates? Having working knowledge of these things helps fill the second bucket — which is understanding the business of the association. How does PMI add value? Where are PMI’s efforts most effective? Where can we do better? What else could we do that we haven’t thought of doing? What should we stop doing?
The real goal is identifying the two or three strategic things we can do today — right now — that will fuel industry growth, better position our members’ products and services for success in the marketplace, and deliver meaningful insight about what’s to come.
SJR: You attended your first PMI conference; what were some of your takeaways?
KS: It was very gratifying to witness the outpouring of respect and gratitude for my predecessor Barbara Higgens at the President’s Dinner honoring her retirement from PMI on the first night. The deep-seated appreciation and shared admiration from the members for all that she accomplished during her tenure at PMI was very moving.
I was also struck by the learning mindset of the conference participants. I was impressed with their willingness to take a “deep dive” into technical and regulatory issues. I was delighted to observe conversations during which participants were teaching one another problem-solving strategies for complex technical challenges. I admired the participants open, free-wheeling exchange of ideas, and the willingness to hang tough in difficult conversations. The questions asked at keynotes and briefings were wonderfully candid and very profound. That really stuck out.
SJR: Do you have a short-term plan vs. a long-term plan, and can you discuss the differences?
KS: I do. Let’s start with the differences. Short term, it’s all about better understanding member needs and wants. Long term, it’s all about delivering more value — making our member’s more successful every day.
Our short-term plan is to be certain we fully understand members’ interests, needs, and wants on an ongoing basis. We’ll work to strengthen our collective understanding of the plumbing industry’s economic footprint and illuminate the value of our contributions to the economy in a meaningful way. Long term, it’s about continuing to strengthen our member value, building the PMI brand, and proactively addressing business, technical, regulatory, and legislative challenges. At day’s end, our goal is to assure PMI members thrive, have access to new pathways to success, and are better positioned to deliver the products and services consumers and commercial users need and want in an open and fair global marketplace.
To learn more about PMI, visit safeplumbing.org.