In the words of the alleged Chinese curse, the Timber Trade Federation has been through “interesting times” of late. The departure of some prominent members, albeit for different reasons, and the decision to defer the launch of the “promotional premium”, devised by a cross-industry group including the TTF to fund timber marketing, have been setbacks. There has also been debate about the TTF’s Responsible Purchasing Policy, with some small- to medium-sized companies expressing concerns over the time and money they might have to spend implementing the scheme.

But John White clearly views interesting times as more of a challenge than a curse. The TTF’s new chief executive is now on an energetic tour of the country visiting members present, past and future. He says he’s relishing the prospects offered by his new job and is “ambitious” for the Federation and the industry.

Mr White’s background is in industry associations and he has definite views on their pitfalls as well as their potential. He sees their political lobbying as essential and says they can exert a “powerful influence on public policy”. He describes the TTF’s Forests Forever initiative as a “casebook” study of how an industry can sway public and political opinion and now feels the Federation can build on this success story by raising its profile with the DTI and Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. While praising the work of wood. for good, his early impression is that the industry needs to devote even more energy to promotion and says the TTF has a vital role to play here too.

One pitfall he believes associations must avoid is the tendency to “accumulate more and more roles”. They should focus, he maintains, on core activities that directly benefit the membership.

Mr White clearly also feels industry association members should be able to quiz their chief executive on his goals for the organisation and share theirs with him. One of his first moves was to invite TTF members to call him, or drop in for a chat. He’s undoubtedly going to be a busy man.