Bigger and Better: Lessons one Association Learned from Moving Into a New Headquarters

The Automotive Lift Institute recently moved into a new headquarters more than four times larger than its former space. Here are a few lessons it learned from the process.

The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) recently moved into a new headquarters that is four times larger than its previous office. At 8,500 feet, this new space located in Cortland, New York, contains offices and conference rooms for staff, a classroom for participants in its certification programs, and an expansive LiftLab, a place where those participants can get hands-on training on 12 different automotive lifts.

The move is a direct result of the changing nature of the industry and of ALI itself. With the reality of a global economy taking more and more manufacturing outside of the United States, ALI has increasingly positioned itself as a leader in automotive lift safety through its printed materials, online training courses, and certification programs. ALI’s staff has also grown.

But ALI President R.W. (Bob) O’Gorman said that ALI had grown so much it was partnering with organizations nationwide to provide the practical experience and classroom space needed for participants in its various certification programs. ALI’s new headquarters and LiftLab essentially bring all of that safety training in-house.

“Through the generous support of the ALI member companies that produce North America’s certified vehicle lifts, we are able to facilitate opportunities for candidate lift inspectors, product safety engineers, and others to come to a single location to examine two-post, multi-post, scissors, inground, mobile column, and low-rise lifts,” O’Gorman said in a press release. “This will enable lift inspector candidates to more expediently meet the requirements of the ALI Lift Inspector Certification Program, which will help address increasing customer demand. At the same time, we can improve the technical skills and knowledge of the experts charged with testing and certifying future vehicle lifts.”

There is not much in this world that has not already been accomplished or attempted by another.

Here are a few lessons ALI learned in the process of planning and moving to a larger, more innovative space:

Planning is key. ALI had about two years from the conception of its new headquarters to actual move-in. During that time, O’Gorman said its strategic plan, which he called both dynamic and detailed, was vital to the success of the move and working with staff and various ALI committees to pull it off. “My role and the role of my team was to bridge concepts and ideas in a manner that allowed us to find the best of the best and to then share the work of others in a manner that allowed continued input and modification until we all could just feel the task at hand was top-notch and worthy of our efforts at a national, or more appropriately, international view,” he said.

Don’t rework the wheel. O’Gorman suggests drawing form the success and best practices of others and modifying those for the needs of your own industry and association. “There is not much in this world that has not already been accomplished or attempted by another,” O’Gorman said. “Development of the LiftLab and the classroom included visits to member company facilities, local colleges, and actual laboratories.” And if travel isn’t in the budget, O’Gorman suggested asking for that information through smartphone videos or photos.

Get buy-in. To succeed, O’Gorman said that staff buy-in is a must since a headquarters move will likely require staff to put in more work and long hours. This was highlighted for O’Gorman as the LiftLab was being outfitted. “In total, more than $515K dollars of equipment was donated,” he said. “In the vast majority of the cases, agreed-upon installation fell short in manpower. Our team made the best of it by using the situation as a learning tool so that everyone understood just how hard the job of installing an automotive lift really was—that meant jeans and steel toe shoes and hours of time away from our regular responsibilities.”

Has your organization recently moved headquarters? What were some of your lessons learned? Please leave your comments below.

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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