CHICAGO -- Carla Balakgie officially started her job as president and chief executive of the National Automatic Merchandising Association in early December. She served for more than eight years as chief executive of the Electronic Transactions Association before joining the vending association, which announced her appointment in October. | READ MORE
Upon assuming NAMA's top post, Balakgie pointed to several similarities between the two organizations that will make for a smooth transition. These include the structure of ETA's and NAMA's memberships, with both associations representing supply chain industries that include product manufacting, delivery and sales distribution functions. The associations also face some of the same issues on the electronic payments front, positioning Balakgie well to advocate on the vending industry's behalf.
"My work at ETA on payments-related issues in particular is of tremendous value to NAMA given recent adverse pricing changes associated with small-ticket debit transactions," said Balakgie. "In fact, I've already been advocating on behalf of NAMA though existing relationships I have with payment networks like Visa and MasterCard and financial institutions such as Bank of America."
Balakgie said one of her first priorities is to meet with NAMA members to learn about all aspects of their operations.
"I'll be listening at all levels of the industry -- from CEOs, owners and managers through to route drivers -- to make sure that I have a complete understanding of day-to-day operations and the things that NAMA can do of greatest impact on their behalf," she said. "My role at NAMA will be to create a shared vision of the future for our organization, then to devise and execute a strategy that will transform that vision into reality. I want to work with our members to chart new pathways that allow them to anticipate the trends and growth opportunities before them, and to position their companies to prosper."
The NAMA chief executive's longer-range goal is to lead a "reinvigoration" of the association and the industry to assure continued growth for both vending and coffee service. "For vending, we need to ride the wave of growth associated with new retail technologies and emerging product channels," Balakgie said. "For coffee service, we must exploit all of the opportunities associated with coffee, tea and water, which is still a largely untapped market that is experiencing tremendous growth."
PHOTO: Carla Balakgie, newly appointed president and chief executive of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, offered a brief overview of the opportunities that she sees in store for the association in her inaugural appearance at NAMA Coffee, Tea and Water conference in Las Vegas in October. Balakgie reported that she had toured the exhibits at this spring's OneShow, at which she was impressed by the interest and excitement demonstrated by showgoers, and by the profusion of sophisticated equipment. A veteran of 27 years in association management, she emphasized that essential elements in a trade group's success are the "engagement and energy" of the membership. Her initial experience with NAMA's vending and OCS operator members has given her ample reason for optimism.