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AIHce2017 > AIHceEXPDigest > Posts > Attendee Spotlight: AIHA CEO Larry Sloan
Attendee Spotlight: AIHA CEO Larry Sloan

If this is going to be your first time attending AIHce, you’re going to be in our great company. Our CEO Larry Sloan will also be attending for the first time! We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about him in his own words, and get his perspective on his first AIHce as the CEO of AIHA.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background?

I started out my career as an applications engineer at Air Products & Chemicals in Allentown, PA. It was a rewarding employment experience which afforded me opportunities to work in the field assisting customers with their process challenges, designing wastewater treatment plants, and working in chemicals purchasing. After five years, I moved to Chicago to pursue my business degree. Following this, I went right back into the chemicals sector working for Nalco Chemical (now owned by Ecolab), where again I had a variety of experiences working in their manufacturing facility, managing the distribution and return of their returnable chemical totes, and ultimately in field sales. I grew disenchanted with the politics of a big chemical company, so made a move to join my father’s business (relocating to the DC area) as a manufacturer’s representative selling some 20 different lines of water and wastewater treatment systems to industrial and municipal clients. After almost seven years, I learned about the nonprofit sector through a good friend of mine from engineering school who had just been promoted to CEO of a trade association. I recall meeting her for dinner one night and asking her “what’s a trade association?” 

Flash forward a year, and I started my association career. At the Adhesive and Sealant Council as a director of membership and marketing, I was exposed to virtually every facet of association management. When the then CEO announced his retirement, he positioned me nicely to take over in 2005. I worked as CEO here for 5 years, then was fortunate to land the top job at SOCMA, a trade association representing mostly small and medium sized intermediate chemical companies that make the “special sauce” that goes into everything from fracking compounds to consumer products and pharmaceuticals. During my time at SOCMA, I enhanced my advocacy background. 

When the AIHA opportunity presented itself to me last summer, I decided after seven years at SOCMA to apply. The search committee told me they liked my technical background, experience with EHS issues throughout my career, and of course my prior association management experience.

You've been the CEO of AIHA for about 7 months. Tell us about your experience so far.

I took this job because I feel I can make a positive difference to the organization and the profession. There are significant political headwinds at play right now, which threaten to undermine the critical work OSHA and NIOSH do for our country’s workers. The tide will turn and I am confident we’ll see a friendlier Washington supporting the work of our members, the “unsung heroes.” ~AIHA CEO Larry Sloan

Naturally, it’s been a steep learning curve, but I can honestly say to myself now that I feel I have a good handle on my responsibilities. One of the most interesting aspects of running AIHA is that we are really a conglomerate, made up of the core professional society of IH practitioners, 3 for-profit LLCs, 2 foundations, an allied group called the Product Stewardship Society, and a broad network of 65+ local sections. On top of all this, there is an international component.

I am incredibly impressed by my staff, led by a first-rate senior leadership team. The board has been incredibly supportive and always willing to provide a “back story” to every issue. There is an executive development committee that kicked into gear quickly to help me set my all-important annual performance goals. From these, I led my team to develop departmental goals, which then trickled down to everyone’s individual goals. With the stress transitional year behind us, I feel staff understands my leadership style and knows that I very much value a collaborative, risk-friendly environment where it’s ok to try new things and fail.

What are you looking forward to the most about your first AIHce event in Seattle?

Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to connecting with as many people as possible. I have a very busy schedule, filled with meetings, networking events, and meal functions each day, but I love this about association work. Maybe I’ll get a chance to sit in on an educational session or two – as a technical professional, I actually understand at least some of what the speakers will be presenting!

What excites you the most about the future of our industry?

The IH profession needs to ramp up how it communicates with “professionals not like us.” In other words, we have a compelling story to tell, but it needs to be told in a manner that C-suite executives, EHS management, HR/recruiters, and other stakeholders can relate to. I am particularly excited about our grassroots outreach initiatives, such as #IAmIH and Safety Matters. Through these programs we intend to generate awareness and student interest in pursuing careers in IH. Our mission is well aligned with the altruistic elements that Millennials say they value in their work, so we are well positioned.

What's the most important piece of advice you would give to a student entering the field? 

When I was studying chemical engineering, it was a very theoretical education. There were NO classes in communications, and I graduated with a morbid fear of public speaking. It is imperative for anyone entering the workforce today (whether they are technical or not) to be able to master the art of communications – both verbal and written. My advice is to take classes in this field. In addition, as we communicate the Value of the Profession, we must argue our case which includes an understanding of the fundamental concept of return-on-investment (ROI). This requires taking a handful of core business classes. Students well versed in communications and rudimentary business training will have a leg up on their peers.

We look forward to seeing our CEO around the convention center and Seattle in June. If you have a chance to speak with him between his busy schedule, we hear he’s a big fan of baking! Ask him what he loves the most about the art of combining different flavors and his famous apple cake.


AIHce 2017 EXP, held in Seattle, Washington June 4-7, is the EXPerience of the year for IH and OEHS professionals across the country. You’ll be exposed to the latest trends, needs, and research impacting worker health with experiential education sessions, networking opportunities with like-minded professionals, and the tools you need to solve your workplace challenges. This highly-rated event also offers a robust virtual experience for those that want to reap the benefits of conference without the travel. To learn more, visit AIHce2017.org.

Berrak Sarikaya is a brand amplifier based out of Seattle, WA. Follow her on Twitter.

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