John Ball reflects on his two years as IPAF president
By Maria Hadlow02 February 2010
One of the things that John Ball is most proud of having achieved during his two year's as IPAF president is the hugely successful Summit and Awards event held last year in Dublin.
It was the first time the Summit had been held outside the UK and the first IAPAs (International Awards for Powered Access), which are jointly organised by Access International. Mr Ball admits that there was a little nervousness in some quarters. "Some people thought it was a bit of a gamble and feared that the UK members (who usually make up the majority of the attendees) would not be prepared to travel."
Their fears were unfounded, the Summit had the best ever attendance, delegates came from all around the world including China, Russia and Chile and some 400 IPAF members and their guests were there to witness the first IAPAs.
"We made a good start in Dublin last year," said Mr Ball, "we were pleased with the numbers of entries and the quality. I expect this year's event in London to be equally successful - it is our intention to take the Summit and the IAPAs to major cities round Europe."
After last year's event Mr Ball said that he received numerous emails from attendees saying how much they had enjoyed the event - even more telling, he said were the emails from those people who were disappointed that they hadn't attended.
Mr Ball hopes that the Summit will mature into an event which can be held over a few days increasing the networking opportunities which are an integral and vital part of the occasion. The seeds of this were sown last year with a very popular pre-Summit visit to Dublin's Guinness brewery and then the Awards adding excitement to the traditional post Summit dinner.
It is credit to the power of Mr Ball's drive and personality that he was able to overcome the qualms of some and move the event out of the UK for the first time. Those same traits have also been put to good use in promoting IPAF around the world. He has spoken all over the world including in China the Middle East and the USA about the benefits of IPAF membership and the role of the organisation in the access industry.
"A lot of people think IPAF is only about training," he said, "It's true that IPAF has an excellent licensed training programme, but that's just one element of the organisation. IPAF is about much more than that: it provides professional support for the industry at large - internationally."
Mr Ball is also very proud of the growth in international membership during his presidency. He paid tribute to the regional managers who, he said, have worked extremely hard to promote the benefits of membership to access professionals in their regions He was particular impressed with the progress made in Italy by Gerhardt Hillebrand who has increased the number of members and encouraged them to attend both the Summit and IAPAs and the Europlatform conference.
IPAF may have been perceived as a UK organisation but now half the members are outside the UK and increasing all the time. Mr Ball said that he would have liked to see IPAF's penetration into Eastern Europe and North America increase at a faster rate, "Despite everyone's best efforts the economic environment was against us," he said, "that growth will come in future years."
Mr Ball has been president of IPAF during two of the toughest years the industry has ever seen, "The financial system has caused a lot of trauma," he said, "there has been a massive cut in production, with a huge oversupply across the globe.
"It was a unique situation with nowhere to hide - in the past slumps occurred in one area so you could take your business somewhere else - this was a global problem.
"Manufacturers have taken control in a positive way, there have been job losses, but production has been reduced realistic levels and excess inventory has been absorbed."
Mr Ball's presidency ends at the Summit on 25 March, traditionally the president is succeeded by the deputy president, although it is not an afore-gone conclusion. Steve Shaughnessy, president of Skyjack and the current deputy president was too modest to express any expectations although he did say he hoped someone might nominate him.
Mr Ball said that the next president will be in the role during two opportunistic years, he expected the stability of 2010 would turn into growth and give the next president a chance to focus on growing participation in North America and Eastern Europe while maintaining the established areas of the UK and Western Europe.