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December 17, 2008

Chasing China

Bowl Madness begins—this Saturday in Washington!  And can you believe it: DC not only gets its first college football bowl game ever, but it'll be the very first one of the post-season. It’s the EagleBank Bowl pitting Navy v. Wake Forest, at good ol’ RFK. Easy to get to, fun for everyone. Please see ad to right, and hope to see you there!


Security Industry Association CEO Richard Chace says his job is to “create relationships,” and nowadays those relations are moving east, to China. That means everything from forming a partnership with Reed Elsevier, to hosting trade shows in developing countries, to taking shots of Maotai with Chinese ministers (he says it smells like lighter fluid and tastes worse).


We visited “Chace,” as he is known by his staff and members, at his 635 Slaters Lane office in Alexandria. The former journalist and property manager has led SIA to create specially commissioned industry reports and memos of understanding with foreign associations. The result: members can more easily enter new markets in China, Russia, Brazil and soon, India—where the industry expects growth to be 6-10% in coming years. He says SIA spent $100K to gather the info and publish its China Security Market industry report, and though it sold the book for $1,500 to members last year and $10,000 to financial institutions, he will give it out for free to any of SIA’s 450 member companies as an incentive to stay on in ’09.


Chace says making such a big investment (25% of SIA’s $4.5 M budget) in foreign relationship building was a board initiative. Seven years ago after returning from a talk in Beijing on how to do business in the U.S., he pitched the idea of going more global to board members. They passed it as a strategic goal, and slowly he has offered them more and more “tactics” to implement it. The success of the China market research plan bolstered board willingness to expand to Brazil and Russia. Since Chace joined in ’97, SIA’s globalization has also helped boost trade show revenue from $600k to $3.5M annually.


Part of SIA’s strategy for retaining members is a new long-term customer service program where SIA checks off a series of “touch points” with each new member. Especially in these hard economic times, members want to see the real dollar value of their membership. Chace says “we’re not supposed to be making money off our members,” so he’s giving a percentage back on square-footage purchases by members at trade-shows, the free market research guide, deep discounts on continuing education, and free networking opportunities for members who agree to stay on for a year.

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