EDITOR'S NOTE: The National Bulk Vendors Association's new president, Steve Schechner (pictured here), and outgoing chief, Bernie Schwarzli, weigh in on the association's achievements and goals. Schechner says membership development is essential to NBVA's future. Schwarzli reflects on three years of accomplishments and teamwork.
FLORENCE, AL -- With Steven Schechner of Capital Vending at its helm, the National Bulk Vendors Association enters into a new phase of its 62-year history. Elected president on March 16 during the NBVA convention, Schechner takes on the job of moving the association to the next level.
Assuming the presidency following a three-year stretch in the top spot by Bernie Schwarzli, Beaver Machine Corp., Schechner's leadership role may prove to be a defining one for the association. While Schwarzli was instrumental in guiding the NBVA through a critical transition period during a difficult economy, it's now up to Schechner to build on that solid base.
An NBVA member since 1996, Schechner has served the association in a variety of positions, starting as seminar chairman, which he held for three years, and then chairing the membership committee for two years. It was during his tenure as membership chairman that the association reached a milestone, surpassing 600 registered members.
In 2009, he was elected secretary, just as the association was entering a turbulent period -- the U.S. economy was tanking on a failing mortgage market and at the same time, in late 2008, NBVA parted company with its longtime director and counsel, Morrie Much of Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein P.C., and began a reorganization. And Randy Chilton of Coinstar resigned as NBVA president following Cointar's exit from the coin machine industry.
If defining and addressing the needs of the small and midsize operators are keys to the association's success, then the Alabama-based operator considers himself well qualified. Schechner's Alabama-based Capital Vending, a small operation itself, serves three southern states and boasts four divisions or machine categories. His equipment mix includes coin-op amusements, traditional bulk vending, ATMs and charity candy. Founded in 1988 with just 25 bulk machines, he grew the route quickly and within its first year it had topped 50 machines. He later purchased another route, which brought his machine assets to more than 400 units. "We expanded fairly quickly, but all I ever did was candy until 1998," Schechner said.
Indeed, 1998 would prove a watershed year for the young southern operator. That was the year he attended an NBVA convention and ran into a New Jersey operator. While Schechner was operating mostly candy, the New Jersey vendor specialized in, and thrived on, toys and stickers. Hitting it off at the trade show, the two decided to visit each other's routes and exchange critiques.
"It just came about by networking at the NBVA show," Schechner remembers. "That experience really worked for us. We learned much, we did it twice and within a year my vending route offered toys and stickers alonside candy. And we were doing them right. He had maybe 10 years in bulk vending capsules and stickers, and I had just as many years in candy."
Listing his priorities, Schechner underscored the need to increase membership. While the NBVA is now seeing former members beginning to return, his ultimate goal is to attract new members.
"In the next few years we want to become more proactive about membership," he explained. "We want to meet the members where they're at. We'd like our officers to mentor the members, and for each member to have the opportunity to learn and work within the NBVA in a way that will help them make more money for their business."
According to Schechner, increased networking and a greater emphasis on education will drive membership growth. This is the same kind of peer-to-peer sharing that helped him launch into new categories of bulk vending more than a decade ago.
"The association is entirely independent and solid now," he explained. "A lot of us had this dream 10 years ago. And now the organization is run with the passion and experience of longtime, committed members. We've come a long way and we're not done yet."