Looking Forward to the Future We Shape
“It is good to see ourselves as others see us. Try as we may, we are never able to know ourselves fully as we are, especially the evil side of us. This we can do only if we are not angry with our critics but will take in good heart whatever they might have to say.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I decided to begin this column with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi and to end it with another as representative of the motivations behind NASBP’s unprecedented decision to retain a well-regarded national communications firm, GMMB Inc., to undertake qualitative and quantitative research about the perceptions of the surety product. This research, in part through dozens of interviews with individuals representing key stakeholders and influencers, such as project owners, public officials, design professionals, general contractors, specialty trade contractors, surety executives and others, is the first step in defining a broad public relations strategy to convey the value of the surety bond product and the critical role played by the professional bond producer.
The Executive Committee’s decision to conduct this research was not a hasty decision, but rather one that evolved gradually from a sustained internal industry dialogue that has been taking place for a number of years in various forums: between officers of NASBP and their counterparts at SFAA; within NASBP committees; through the task forces appointed last year by Past President Lynne Cook; individually among NASBP activists; and even elsewhere. At this seminal moment in NASBP history, in its 75th year of existence as an organization devoted to the welfare of bond producers and surety bonding, gaining a better picture of how we and our product are perceived is the responsible decision to make to assure our future.
This process in no way lessens or diminishes our ongoing efforts at outreach, advocacy, and education. Our efforts, such as our federal and grassroots lobbying, our partnering with the US SBA on bonding education to small businesses, our new strategic alliance with the Insurance Institutes, among many other efforts, to convey the value and importance of surety bonding will continue as we gather the research. However, the information gleaned from the research and the counsel received from the communications and public relations consultant shall better inform these efforts and shall, in all likelihood, complement their effectiveness and improve our effectiveness as an organization. President Howard Cowan conveyed at the recent regional meetings that the research phase has begun. The NASBP Board of Directors will receive an interim report of its progress at the upcoming Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas, and plans are in the works to provide a more detailed roll out of the findings at the Annual Meeting next April.
The internal industry dialogue made clear that complacency cannot be part of the strategy for a prosperous future. Rather, self-determination, coupled with an accurate perception of the landscape surrounding surety, will be a powerful engine to propel our industry toward increased relevancy and growth. In short, when we see ourselves through the eyes of others, we are empowered to be our own change agent. I believe Gandhi would agree with that sentiment.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi