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Joe Logan: Executive Director, International Casual Furniture Association

Building unity

Kristine Ellis -- Casual Living, September 1, 2008

After nearly a decade of service to the outdoor furniture industry, Joe Logan doesn’t even pause when asked to name peak milestones in his career. The launch of the International Casual Furniture Association (ICFA) earlier this year is front and center.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I am very excited about the potential of all the industry partners working together to move the industry forward,” Logan said.

Logan took on the role of executive director of the Summer Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association in 2000. Although he didn’t go into the job with a bias for merging the manufacturers’ and retailers’ associations, it wasn’t long before he came to believe an integrated organization would foster cooperation and help the SCFMA avoid making decisions in a vacuum.

“The more conversations I had with the board members and other individuals in the industry, the more it became apparent to me that was the direction we needed to go,” he said.

In creating the new organization, great care was taken to represent all facets of the outdoor furniture industry. The new board includes manufacturers, importers, suppliers, a designer and a sales rep along with a good geographic representation of specialty retailers, catalog and Internet retail.

Although serving a more diverse board makes his job a bit more challenging, Logan is pleased with the work of the new board so far.

“Everyone has different views about a particular problem or how an issue should be approached, but I have been very pleasantly surprised with the consensus building that has taken place,” Logan said. “Generally, after the issues are aired and discussed, the group really does rally around the best solutions for the industry as a whole, so it has been a very positive experience.”

Although Logan cannot vote on board issues, he doesn’t hold back in sharing his thoughts and opinions with ICFA board members. He believes the outdoor furniture industry is well positioned despite its current challenges and is confident in its strength.

“We are in a very exciting, growing part of the home furnishings industry,” he said. “It is a great place to be at this point in time.”

Given that the ICFA is building an organization from scratch, much of Logan’s work this year has been focused on getting ICFA’s infrastructure in place. Top priorities now include putting together the ICFA membership benefits package and recruiting new members.

“Our hope is to advance the industry through ICFA, but we also want to offer our members significant benefits that save them money and justify their membership,” Logan said.

As with the creation of new board, Logan’s goal with membership is to bring in new blood from all sides so that ICFA is truly representative of the industry as a whole. The ICFA launched a membership drive at the July premarket and will continue it through the Casual Market to the end of the year.

Other ICFA highlights this year at the Casual Market include showcasing new outdoor fabrics by integrating what has become the annual fashion show into the Apollo Awards ceremonies.

“We are a fashion industry and that deserves focus at the industry’s preeminent event,” Logan said. “Overall, I think it will be an exciting market.”

Logan worked in association management under the American Home Furnishings Alliance umbrella for about 10 years before becoming SCFMA executive director. Prior to that he worked in financial management for what would become Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and then Hanes Printables, which at the time was a division of Hanes Knitwear owned by Sara Lee Corporation.

At the time, Logan’s developing leadership skills were heavily influenced by Keith Alm, then president of Hanes Printables.

“Keith was a very dynamic and inspirational leader.” Logan said. “I took a lot from seeing him in action in that organization as he essentially built it from a product line into, when I left, about a $400 million company.”

Moving from the corporate world to association management strengthened Logan’s collaborative leadership skills.

“Things don’t move as quickly in the association world,” Logan said. “You have to do a lot more consensus-building and get folks to rally around an idea or solution to a problem, as well as vary your approach to problem solving.”

Thanks to his years with AHFA, Logan was familiar with the outdoor furniture industry and knew many of its manufacturers, but he credits the wisdom of Joe Ziolkowski, his predecessor at SCFMA, with helping him to fully understand his new responsibilities. Before taking over as executive director, Logan spent a year learning the ropes while working side-by-side with “Joe Z.”

“He was a great mentor and I still look to him from time to time for counsel and advice on various issues,” Logan said.

Logan’s avocations require the same collaborative skills he uses on the job. He has been involved in the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival for several years and served as chair of the organization in 2006-2007. He also is a past president of the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art.

In addition to his volunteer work with the arts community, Logan serves on the board of directors for Novant Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in North Carolina. New to the industry, his steep learning curve gave Logan a greater appreciation of what it takes to be a good board member.

“In my board orientation several years ago, the president of the local medical center told me that it would be two to two-and-a-half years before I would understand everything that was being discussed in a board meeting, and his prediction was pretty accurate,” Logan said. “It’s been a great place to be involved in. It’s another industry going through an incredible amount of change.”

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