NBFAA’s Didden Rides Off Into the Sunset

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.—Walter Lippmann, author and political advisor.

In interviewing the leaders of our industry’s most prominent associations for this month’s cover story (see Strength Through Association), it became apparent that their success will be indebted to the legacy of their esteemed predecessors. I am speaking of people like Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Immediate Past-President Ralph Sevinor, former Security Industry Association (SIA) Executive Director Ron Spiller and, in particular, National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) Immediate-Past President Bart Didden.

With a self-described style of “variably abrasive,” Didden was a no-nonsense leader who did things his way—subscribing to the theory that the ends justify the means. When he spoke, often cocking his mustache in Chaplinesque fashion, you could never be quite sure what was going to come out his mouth. But it always came from the heart, and his heart was always in the right place – the betterment of the electronic security industry.

For me, besides the fact that the similarity of his name congers up the hero of TV’s “Gunsmoke,” I will always remember Didden for his dedication, candor and accessibility. I recently spoke with him about his two-year reign as NBFAA president, which just concluded this past July.

What was the experience like for you?
Bart Didden: The two years were personally fulfilling and rewarding. I grew as a person and as a leader. With all of my industry work, I feel and hope that I gave back as much as I got. The experience has made me more sensitive to the needs of others and to work harder to find the win-win. I also developed a primary question when there is a decision to be made; I say, ‘Who wins and who loses by the proposed action?’ Clearly, the majority has to win of the group that is affected.

Do you believe you made an impact?
BD: Most people take some issue with my style, which is characterized by the saying, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ I believe in the NBFAA and the members, and I believe in the right to conduct business in a reasonable regulatory environment. I will use every last breath to protect the rights of the low-voltage contractor that operates with a discipline in security.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel the general membership recognizes the potential erosion of our marketplace and they don’t stay in tune. False alarms were the most frustrating thing for me. I cannot understand the complacency of members at the local level. They don’t get that their business revolves around the total service offerings of their company and the willingness of the municipality to work together.

What were the greatest accomplishments and disappointments of your presidency?
BD: The things I feel best about are the distance learning program in place with SIA; our reorganization work to the CARE [Coordinated Alarm Reduction Effort] program; the Heroes Scholarship fund; the Membership Fulfillment Kit; and the increase in volunteers willing to participate in our committee structure.

The things I wish turned out better were the NBFAA regional meetings in conjunction with the state chapters; the inability of the AIREF [Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation] board to meet my call to sponsor a study on issues affecting our industry; and the one industry initiative. Although the last one did not come to fruition, it did spark discussion and brought it out into the open, which is always healthy for any group of associations.

What would you like to see develop in your wake?
BD: I would like to see increased recognition by all the associations of each other’s concerns, and how they can be more helpful and supportive to one another. We are already seeing some of this because the one association movement opened up more communication. It helped make everyone realize that some cooperation is necessary even to maintain your own separate association.

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