(Pictured L to R) Joseph Truncale, NAPL president & CEO, Steve Johnson, NAQP president & CEO, and Keith Kemp of Orlando, Fla.-based Xerographic Digital Printing and
vice chairman of the NAPL Board of Directors. In September, Kemp will become the first
NAQP member to become NAPL’s board chair.
ple. Get to know their approach, and get to know their operating system and values.’”
To facilitate that process, the group employed an outside
consultant, Harrison Coerver, president of Harrison Coerver &
Associates and past board member of the Association Forum,
who specializes in mergers. His role was to be an objective third
party responsible for leading preliminary meetings and laying
the groundwork for discussions.
Coerver was optimistic about the groups’ compatibility following preliminary surveys and a formal sit-down meeting with
representatives from both sides. “Both parties were very open
to exploring all possibilities, and that makes all the difference
in the world when it comes to mergers,” Coerver says. “When parties come to the table already focused on non-negotiable points
or aren’t really open to looking into all options, they’ll almost
certainly hit roadblocks.”
Many topics were given due diligence, including each group’s
mission, membership profile, membership categories, governance, finances, programs and services. Issues identified from
the early survey were resolved, and some were identified for
future discussion or next steps.
CREATING ITS OWN TEMPLATE
NAQP’s central concern was losing its unique identity and culture. Though not uncommon, according to Coerver, the concept
took particular significance for NAQP’s membership. NAQP filled
a unique niche of small business owners, and many members
perceived NAPL as serving only larger businesses. NAQP’s typical member was a sole proprietor not accustomed to relinquishing control to others. “These are people who are used to being
involved with every facet of their business — from what customers they should give credit to, what time the delivery driver
is going home, and how much paper is costing,” Kemp says.
The networking aspect also was important to NAQP members, who often relied heavily on relationships and events with
As it turned out, NAQP and NAPL agreed to retain the NAQP
brand. Truncale says he didn’t think it was an option to eliminate the NAQP brand because NAQP’s members could have
joined NAPL, but for some reason didn’t — probably because
they felt they didn’t identify with NAPL’s membership somehow.
Yet keeping a name doesn’t alone guarantee a continuation
of culture. Recognizing potential concerns, NAQP was very careful to communicate openly with its general membership about
its discussions with NAPL.
In spring 2005 — shortly after the first formal meeting involving Coerver — NAQP sent a letter to all members. “We wanted
to be very open with them and say ‘This is what’s going on …
this doesn’t specifically mean we’re going to merge with NAPL,
but we are in meetings with them to discuss a variety of options,’”
Throughout the process, Johnson or the current chair updated
members and addressed concerns. Board members called upon
members for input.
Feedback that summer from the general membership was
very positive. As anticipated, the input centered on how the
merger would affect NAQP’s culture and values.
To that end, the final agreement had several important parts.
Johnson would remain to oversee NAQP (though he would become
an NAPL employee). According to Kemp, NAQP members were
confident in Johnson and believed he would protect the unique
culture of their group; in fact, many cite Johnson as a key factor in the merger’s success. Gardner added that neither Johnson
nor Truncale were “guys with big egos” who could have derailed
the process. “Their biggest concern was what was best for members,” he adds.
Also key was the integration of NAQP members onto the
NAPL board. For at least the first five years after the merger, there
are to be five NAQP members on the 33-member board and one
on the executive planning committee. An NAQP board of governors also was created, though largely an advisory group charged
with addressing how the merger is going and how its membership segment is being served.
Events and programs that cater to the unique culture were
kept intact, such as the popular annual Owners’ Conference.
And as an extra reassurance to NAQP members, the merger was
given a two-year trial period.
In fall 2005, NAQP hosted an open forum at its annual convention so members could ask Johnson and Truncale questions. At
the conclusion, Johnson and Truncale asked attendees if they’d
like them to pursue a trial period of a merger. The response was
an overwhelming “yes.”
The two groups then drew up alliance and management
agreements. They started to share member products and serv-