RBA's new director of operations Bernadette Shanahan-Haas spent a few minutes this week talking with Modern Baking about her role and the RBA’s new direction.
The Retail Bakers of America (RBA) has spent the past year refocusing its mission and transitioning to an all-virtual office, which ends later this week with the closing of its home base in Slidell, La. As part of its rebranding, the association hired Bernadette Shanahan-Haas, a marketing and association management veteran, as director of operations. Shanahan-Haas spent a few minutes this week talking with Modern Baking about her new role and the RBA’s new direction.
Modern Baking: Tell me a little bit about your background prior to joining the RBA.
Bernadette Shanahan-Haas: I was born and raised in Chicago. Most of my career has been work with association management and nonprofits. I’m very familiar with how organizations work. I’m also the fundraising director at the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, Ill. But the RBA is the first organization I’ve worked for that’s national, which is a huge step for my career. No matter where they’re located, our members tend to have the same successes and trials. Being able to have them network with each other is really interesting. It doesn’t matter where they are on the map, they’re looking for the same awesome ideas and want to grow as much as the next guy. It’s not territorial. I like the networking and education aspects of the RBA a lot.
MB: As director of operations, what are you tasked with at the RBA?
Shanahan-Haas: Right now, we’re putting this new face forward. We want to take it to the next level. It’s been an awesome organization in the past, but they brought me on to grow the group and organization, get our memberships and partnerships up. We’re closing our office in Slidell, so we won’t have a “home base” anymore, but that’s just a sign of the times. We have staff in Minnesota, New Jersey, Louisiana and Chicago. That’s a great base of talent across the country. We’re able to work as hard as we can to get membership up and events going. We have IBIE coming up, which is the really big show. One of my tasks is to make sure we are well seen and representing, so marketing and membership management are going to be big parts of my job in the coming months.
MB: Aside from the regional roadshow events, what channels will you use to facilitate networking and grow membership?
Shanahan-Haas: I would love to see the RBA take technology and use it to its best ability. I am really excited to start doing things like webinars and different networking like coffee chats via Google Chat. These sorts of events allow folks to network and have face-to-face time via the internet and different technologies. Where they don’t necessarily have to fly to Seattle; instead, they can find educational pieces once a month or quarter that are web-based. We have this awesome opportunity now to set the trend for organizations. I don’t think associations need brick and mortar anymore. We’re in a really cool spot right now where we get to be trendsetters. We just want to make sure we do it the right way so we don’t put people off from it. It will be a matter of training our staff and members.
MB: The RBA has been through a lot of changes in the past year. Where do you hope the organization will be at this time next year?
Shanahan-Haas: All of the changes that have been made, the board has been careful to make them to better the organization. I don’t think change is a bad thing. I truly think every organization needs a little change now and then.
Our website should be launched in the next couple months. It’s not your traditional, static website. It’s a networking piece in itself. We will have Baker to Baker on there, where bakers talk to each other. We’ll have a full directory, all of our social media visible, a full calendar with great events and affiliate events across the country. We want it to become the hub and resource for bakers.
By this time next year, I would love to see our membership fantastically grow. I don’t want to put a number on it. I am only three weeks into the job! I also want to make sure we have a strong staff, strong events, things that are great for members but also revenue generators. We don’t want to be another association you have to join. We want to make sure we are the main resource for bakers across the country.
MB: In the past, the RBA has had really strong affiliate members in various regions throughout the country. There are still some of those folks, but how will you address some of the gaps, in the Pacific Northwest for example?
Shanahan-Haas: That was mentioned to me at the roadshow in Seattle. I think that needs to be a central task for board and staff—to find those affiliates and find where there are holes, and make sure the RBA is a great support for those affiliates. Some of them are so strong and great, CARBA, and the folks in Wisconsin are great examples. We need to get know those leaders and know they are a resource. Those affiliates are really important because we can’t be everywhere.
MB: Can you confirm the location of the next roadshow?
Shanahan-Haas: I cannot. Our next big focus is IBIE. One thing the committee has said though was that these roadshows are great. We want to make sure we have them scheduled for at least once a quarter or three times a year in 2014. I’m open to suggestions at this point.