Many of you have moved at some point in your life, and I am sure you enjoyed it very much. That is to say you enjoyed it as much as taking a full swing with your hammer, aiming for a nail, and coming straight down flattening your thumb like a pancake. It is always such a time consuming, stressful ordeal packing everything up, coordinating movers, renting trucks, inviting family and friends to help, and then being totally abandoned by them once the last box passes the threshold of your new home. I can’t even imagine the addition of alpacas for relocating a ranch or farm!

Throughout my childhood, my family moved many times, having moved to 5 different communities in about 5 years. As you can imagine, this was quite challenging at time. At the same time, all that moving made me really understand what is important in life. “Stuff” seemed not so important because when you are forced to pack all your “stuff” up every year or two, you begin to reevaluate how important that “stuff” is and you start to purge things from your life that aren’t needed. I could not be more diametrically opposed to one of those hoarders you see on TV. I am also a stellar Jenga® player because of my extensive experience of packing a U-Haul truck and fitting things into every void to ensure nothing falls over and crushes Grandma. However, I do seem to remember losing all of our trashcans on one move because they blew out of the trailer on the interstate, which I’m sure was a surprise for people driving behind the truck and trailer!

Moving an office is no less stressful. In the past couple of months we have been preparing to relocate the Nashville office from their current 5,400 square foot office to an office building where we have leased individual, all-inclusive offices for the four Nashville team members. As you can imagine, moving from 5,400 square feet to the total equivalent space of 1/10th that amount of space takes a lot of work and some serious downsizing. The Nashville staff has been working for months to downsize items and relocate files, product stock, Alpacas Magazine back issues, historical documents, and other items to the Lincoln Office. Then the Lincoln Office has in turn been working to find space for these items. This is more of a challenge than you know considering that the space here in Lincoln is only 3,800 square feet total and a good deal of that space is already consumed by the current staff and items that were required to run the Registry. Essentially we are downsizing from a total of about 10,000 square feet to less than half that. The store rooms are getting pretty cramped in Lincoln, but this move is all part of the original merger plan and means a savings of over $40,000 per year in rent, maintenance, utilities, and other areas. Nashville’s move will be completed the week of June 23rd, but it should not affect service to our members.

These changes must be completed even as the regular work of the Registry, show system, EPD program, membership services, affiliate support, and national marketing continue. Here’s an update on some of the other activities that have been going on:

EPD Program

As shearing season comes to a close it is time to submit your samples to Yocom-McColl in order to be included in this year’s EPD calculation. They must receive your samples by August 1st. For more information, read the latest AlpacaGram on this topic.

Communication

Hopefully by now you have seen a dramatic increase in communication from AOA. This member communication and involvement are incredibly important to me and the AOA Board of Directors. Please take advantage of AlpacaGrams, AlpacaLink newsletters, Facebook, Twitterthis blog, and our new Online Community where we are presenting a variety of topics for your consideration. Your responses are being constantly reviewed by myself and the AOA Board Members. As always, you can also contact us online or by calling the office at 402-437-8484.

2015 Nationals

2015 National ShowPlanning for the 2015 AOA National Show & Auction are off to a great start. Andrea and I have been working diligently to complete tasks much earlier than they have been in the past. The RFPs for the onsite contracted staff positions are already available online and we hope to have decisions on those positions and the judges for the event by August. We are motivated by the information we learned from our surveying of participants, volunteers, and onsite staff this year in order to make next year even more spectacular. I’m really excited for the show next year. You will see quite a few changes addressing concerns you shared with us. Some of these include a more central show location, increased communication before the show and onsite, less expensive hotels, less expensive meal options in the host community, unique food experiences at the show, a more energetic and organized auction, a Gala Dinner held in a more comfortable environment, and hopefully return of entertainment at that dinner. I hope you will all plan to attend. It is going to be a spectacular event!

National Marketing

I’m really pleased with the things we have been working on regarding marketing. Our new strategy involves an expanded focus on agriculture, the family farm, and the incorporation of alpaca fiber products into the advertising we do. You heard me right. We are working diligently to ensure incorporation of alpaca products into all the advertising we do. Our first major advertising was in a special USA Today publication celebrating 100 years of the USDA which was distributed to more than 200,000 farms, ranches, and lawmakers throughout the United States.

Next we developed an ad for National Alpaca Farm Days which is happening in September. This ad was utilized in the recently printed Alpaca Owners Guide (AOG) which we are distributing to more than 1,000 leads who expressed an interest in alpacas over the past year. This will get information about Farm Days in their hands as well as provide exposure for the AOG participant farms and advertisers. A version of this ad with product and both huacaya and suri representation is available to those who have opted to participate in National Alpaca Farm Days along with downloadable signs, posters, fact sheets, special alpaca name tags, press releases, radio commercials, an online video commercial, and many other materials. For more information about how to participate, visit www.AlpacaFarmDays.com.

We have also been working on an overall marketing strategy that will continue to be defined as time goes on and will represent a focus on marketing the industry as family friendly, agricultural based, and will represent both alpacas and alpaca fiber and products. Stay tuned for more exciting information.

Software Transition

In addition to everything above, we have been working on a new website and online software since January and hope to have it released before membership renewal at the end of the year. As you can imagine this is not an easy process as we are trying to take the Registry’s Alpaca Information Management System and combine it with all of AOBA’s sites, while at the same time making both useful and usable. This has presented many challenges, but we are confident that we will ultimately be able to provide you a system that you will all find useful and valuable.

These changes and activities, along with many other things we have been working to change, reduce, update, and execute in a better way, are part of the ‘Do more with Less’ attitude that is part of who I am thanks to all those moves I made with my family as a kid. I have carried this attitude throughout both my personal and professional life, and it has led to both challenges and extraordinary opportunity. This attitude has become a management strategy and is extraordinarily important for AOA and the industry at this time. I have repeatedly said “Nothing is off the table. Tell me your ideas no matter how crazy you think they might be.”  This openness has perpetuated to the staff and as a result we have some really great ideas coming out of it. Reducing expenses where we can, making smart changes to the services we offer and the functions we provide, and utilizing the savings achieved to make improvements in the areas most important to the industry are the core of what the AOA Headquarters Office is committed to and with your continued help and support the whole industry will be part of the success that will be achieved. As always, have an awesome day!

Darby

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