One of the greatest things about the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) is that they have the unique ability to resist complacency. The people behind this conference are marketing geniuses. Their love of the fire service is sincere and they totally get us. I know there are many good conferences offered, I have/do attend most of the bigger ones. But in my opinion, few if any, have captured the fire service like FDIC.
The fast food wars have existed for decades. For me (Gen X), they started with “Happy Meals®”, moved to the size of their burger and the “Where’s the Beef” campaign, then chased the health conscious movement by offering fruit smoothies, salads, and wraps. Most recently McDonald’s began upgrading their coffee, offering internet access, and remodeling their buildings in an effort to attract customers that will stay longer and spend more. I’ll admit, as an adult, the new décor is more inviting than the red and yellow benches, but I just can’t get comfortable sipping my coffee and reading my ipad with kids screaming and laughing in the playland fifteen feet away.
FDIC has built a strong foundation and following by successfully managing the training needs and learning methods of multiple generations. The number of topics and classes offered over a three day period (five if you include the HOT classes) is second to none. But where FDIC really separates itself from the pack is in its ability to not only serve multiple demographics, but to serve them WELL!
FDIC offers classes for every position in the fire service including those in explorer programs. I have attended FDIC as a firefighter, a company officer, and a chief officer. Every time I was able to find an abundance of classes relative to my position or the position I was aspiring to be promoted to. The way they manage this conference is as though they took a passage right out of Brunacini’s “Mrs. Smith” stories. Everything from the registration process, securing a hotel, planning your classes, to checking in are all designed to be fast and easy with a focus on you – the CUSTOMER!
Now before you begin accusing me of drinking too much of the FDIC Kool-Aid® – rest assured I know there are aspects of the conference that could be improved. More importantly, FDIC knows there are aspects of the conference that could be improved. This is why they spend so much time and effort soliciting feedback. They provide evaluations for every course, have computers onsite for you to complete a conference survey, and solicit feedback through other electronic means.
Whether it be in the classroom or the HOT classes, to satisfy our thirst for the flavor of the day FDIC offers new and exciting programs that are cutting edge without sacrificing core skills such as fire behavior, advancing hose lines, and ventilation. The FDIC staff is focused and has been able to resist the pitfalls loosing sight of who they are or who their customer is, and this is where I feel McDonald’s and many others have gone wrong. McDonald’s business plan was designed for children and/or families with children, not health conscious professionals. They could have improved their public image and expanded their customer base by providing a healthier version of their existing product, for example, using meat with less fat. Instead they expanded their menu to include products that are not part of their identity and remodeled their facilities resulting in increased overhead and brand confusion. If I was the CEO of McDonald’s I would send my marketing staff to FDIC in hopes that they could learn a thing or two about how to serve multiple demographics while maintaining their identity.