As of April 2023, Alan Thomas officially became CEO of the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP). Thomas succeeds Robert Chalker, who announced his retirement after a nearly 40-year distinguished career that included 13 years with AMPP.
“Alan is an accomplished executive with an admirable leadership track record of over 20 years in CEO roles in the association field and several business entities,” said Amir Eliezer, chair of the AMPP Board of Directors and member of the CEO selection committee. “Alan thoroughly understands our industry and AMPP’s mission and will continue a values-based leadership approach that will benefit our members.”
Before this appointment, Thomas was CEO for GRIDIRON, LLC, where he oversaw the acquisition and total integration of a lower middle market SaaS company that doubled the size of its business. In 2014, Thomas launched Array Coating Technology, LLC, a full-service industrial blasting, coating, powder coating, and metal finishing company focused on the subsea oil and gas sector, where he cultivated strategic partnerships with industry leaders and customers.
“I am thrilled to join and lead AMPP forward,” Thomas said. “I greatly regard the organization’s rich history and am happy to add that at one point in my career, I was a member of both the former NACE and SSPC associations. AMPP has significant potential to continue reshaping the future of the corrosion and coatings industries, and I look forward to working with the passionate and talented global membership to accelerate innovation in industry.”
In this exclusive podcast chat with Ben DuBose, AMPP’s News Editor, Thomas discusses his past career experience and the process leading to his appointment. Other topics include insight on Thomas’ initial priorities as CEO; key takeaways from the recent AMPP Annual Conference + Expo; background on his leadership style and personality; and more.
This is a partial Q&A transcript of that conversation, with the complete audio interview embedded beneath this article.
Q: For anyone out in the industry that doesn’t know you, other than perhaps the recent press release announcing you as CEO, can you walk us through your career prior to AMPP?
Thomas: The best way is probably through a broad summary. I’ve got around 15 years of association leadership experience. I’ve worked in one major international association and two smaller, regional associations — one regional and one national. I’ve done a startup association, and I’ve run an organization that is comparable in size to AMPP.
I’ve also spent about 15 years in the private sector, and I’ve had several entrepreneurial startups. I’ve worked a great deal within the private equity space, and I have some really good relationships and connections there. Most importantly, I think, for our membership and as a good frame of context… I also have a very deep-seated experience in the coatings and metal finishing industry. I was an owner and operator for several years of a coatings applicator company here in Houston.
Q: How important is that specific background? With the recent merger of NACE and SSPC into AMPP, there’s a real emphasis on coatings applicators and contractors. How much does that background really play into your unique level of expertise for this role?
Thomas: That’s right on. It does give me a unique perspective.
First and foremost, the role that I serve in — and our staff serves in — is in association management and as association management professionals. For that, we don’t need any degree of understanding [about] materials performance or protection… to do our jobs well. But what I will say [about my background] is that it gives me a greater level of understanding. Having that deep-seated understanding, I do believe it helps me to serve better.
When we talk about the experience that a contractor or coating applicator or someone in the corrosion prevention industry has… I have that experience as an owner. I understand the P&L [profit and loss] implications, the investment implications, and the contractual implications that things like our standards, training, education, and certification programs can have and how that impacts a contractor’s bottom line. So, I think that does give me a really good perspective into how to really serve them and to be understanding of all the business implications.
Q: Let’s discuss Alan Thomas, the leader. What are your defining characteristics when it comes to you as a leader, and how you’re going to approach this job over the coming years?
Thomas: That’s a great question. Maybe in some future discussions, we can talk about specific philosophies on leadership. I think they’re pretty varied across the board.
What I would like to drive the answer is this: The way I would like to be judged, as a leader, is based on the results that I deliver. A famous pseudo-mentor of mine is Peter Drucker. I love Peter Drucker’s writings, and I love his structure and teaching. I believe he really gets to the heart of what I believe leadership is.
Leadership is not attributes. Leadership is not characteristics. Leadership is not even a style really. Leadership is the ability to deliver results. That’s what my goal here at AMPP is. It’s to deliver the results that our board and membership not only want but also deserve.
Q: In your first few months on the job, what are some of your areas of target emphasis? You spoke about wanting your leadership style to be judged by the results that you deliver. Where are the boards wanting this organization to go?
Thomas: Right now, we’re following through on a lot of the groundwork that has already been put in place by the executive team and also the board. We’re really getting our systems aligned. We’re very much in the process of bringing that idea of unity and one brand. There’s a great deal of work going on behind the scenes to make that possible… between our systems and how they communicate. In turn, that’s going to make a better experience for our users and members.
Then, it’s just continuing to follow through with the existing goals, and increasing and enhancing the knowledge that we deliver to our stakeholders. One issue that is really important, and we’ve brought it to the top along with the Board of Directors, is workforce development. This is something I personally want to get more engaged with.
I did get a chance to meet with many of our members in Denver, and even more in the weeks since. As I’ve reached out to owners — asset owners and contractor company owners — the top risk that they’re facing in their businesses right now is an adequate, qualified, and plentiful workforce. That’s one of the things that we take serious. We really want to get some more momentum behind that.
Advocacy is another big one that we’re really working through right now. That’s not just here in the United States but globally. Back to that unity idea, there’s a lot of work that has to be done with our standards that are global. At governmental levels or multinational corporation levels, they still have NACE standards or SSPC standards written, or a combination of both. Getting those unified and really understanding what that means in those contexts is important. Those are some of the top issues that we’re really working toward.
For more information, contact: AMPP, www.ampp.org.