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Episode 26 – Industry Corner Podcast

IN THIS EPISODE: Highlights from the July 16th Senate confirmation hearings, Changes in USPS senior leadership, and upcoming industry events including a Board of Governor meeting on August 8th, 2019

Links to the resources mentioned in the podcast.

Information Exchange User Conference


Chris: 00:00 Hi, this is Chris Lien

Anita: 00:01 And I’m Anita Pursley. Welcome to Industry Corner, a podcast where we share postal industry news to help you stay informed.

Chris: 00:11 On today’s podcast we discuss highlights from the July 16th Senate confirmation hearings, changes in USPS senior leadership, and upcoming industry events – including a board of governor meeting on August 8th. So let’s get into it. Good morning, welcome to the podcast. Hi Anita!

Anita: 00:29 Hi Chris. How are you today?

Chris: 00:31 I am doing great, thank you. It’s a wonderful summer day here in Rochester. We’re so excited about our upcoming Information Exchange User Conference. We’ll talk more about that later on in the podcast. But it’s interesting Anita, we’re at the end of July and we’re coming into August and it seems this is always kind of a quiet time in the industry. I think a lot of people take vacation and stuff, but there are some things that are going on right now. Right?

Anita: 00:51 There are. In fact, I was thinking we might not have much to talk about, but that’s never the case.

Chris: 00:56 It’s true. It’s true. So let’s start with some highlights from the July 16th Senate confirmation hearings for the two Postal Regulatory Commission nominees.

Anita: 01:04 We recorded our podcast on the same morning, so we weren’t able to talk about that yet, but it was really interesting. I remember in a previous podcast, in a previous conversation, Chris, where you said that watching a Senate hearing is like watching golf and watching a House hearing is like rugby or something.

Chris: 01:22 Right, right, exactly.

Anita: 01:24 Well, this hearing was like a bipartisan love fest. It was really something and I was very surprised to see that a Republican introduced the Democrat, and a Democrat introduced the Republican.

Chris: 01:37 Very nice. Okay. So they were publicly polite, which I appreciate.

Anita: 01:41 That’s right. Well, it really does make sense when you understand that congressman Mark Meadows, he’s the Republican from North Carolina. He introduced Ashley Poling because they had worked together quite a bit. She’s been a Senate staffer for a long time. And Senator Carper, who’s been a longtime postal advocate, he in turn introduced Ann Fisher who is working at the commission currently as government affairs, but she’s contributed to postal legislation in the past. She worked for Senator Susan Collins, so they really have a good working relationship and I thought it was a really good show of force.

Chris: 02:15 Good. And both ladies have quite a bit of knowledge about the mailing industry, so they bring experience and knowledge and a good voice to the Postal Regulatory Commission. Right?

Anita: 02:23 Exactly, right. You know, in the PostCom bullet to not, I don’t know if you read Mike Plunkett’s President’s Corner. He kind of walked away thinking that mailers are going to end up paying more in the long run as a result of these two joining, and I don’t want to put words in Mike’s mouth, but Ann Fisher has publicly said that the price cap has brought predictability to us, but that the CPI cap is too restrictive. So we kind of know what she’s going to be thinking when it comes to the 10 year rate review.

Chris: 02:52 Right. Well, I will state, and I know that the industry feels this way too, predictability is one of the key cornerstones of that whole Postal Accountability Enhancement Act. The whole point really of that was to get predictability in pricing, because prior to the PAEA it was all over the board and we just can’t handle these wild swings. We need to know well in advance what’s happening. So I understand that the CPI can be restrictive, particularly where it’s continued to trend down as we talked about in a prior podcast, but predictability is so critical now more than ever because there are choices and we’re seeing that with a digital conversion of what was physical mail and going to digital. And again, some of that was highlighted in the 2018 Household Diary Study. So in my mind that has to be, continue to be a cornerstone is predictability and pricing.

Anita: 03:37 Right, right. Hey, I wanted to mention, I think I told you that I stopped by the Postal Regulatory Commission when I was in DC a couple weeks ago.

Chris: 03:44 Oh yes, that’s right.

Anita: 03:44 I wanted to say so long to Nancy and to Tony. You know, they’ve been good friends for a long time. And what I learned, and this is kind of interesting, is when I walked into Nancy’s office, Tony wasn’t in unfortunately, but Nancy’s office was like so clean and so void of any personal materials. Well she told me that, yeah once Ashley is confirmed by the Senate, I mean she’s like literally gone the next day.

Chris: 04:08 Like instantaneous, right?

Anita: 04:09 Instantaneous, right. So she’s prepared. So , both Tony and Nancy are in there hold over a year. So we expect new commissioners.

Chris: 04:17 Well good, glad to hear some progress on that particular front. So what other changes are going on when there’s a congressional schedule? Here we are again. You know, end of July, we’ve got some August recesses coming up.

Anita: 04:26 Right. So the House adjourned last Friday on July 26th and the Senate adjourns on August 2nd. So they won’t be back until September 9th. Of course, everybody’s back in their home territory and their home districts and doing work there, but it’s going to be kind of quiet on the Hill as it is every August.

Chris: 04:48 But Anita, I mean again, for our listeners, we’re still waiting for those three board of governors to get confirmed by the Senate. And I know the PMG, the Postmaster General, had stated at the last MTAC meeting that she felt that we were going to get them confirmed before the August recess. Do you think that’s even possible?

Anita: 05:04 Well, I read yesterday that Senator McConnell, the majority leader, has teed up votes on at least 19 nominations. Now if you look at the congressional executive calendar, there are so many, I have no idea who those 19 are going to be. So we just need to cross our fingers cause we’ve got everybody. I mean we’ve got the three governors and then we have the reappointment of Duncan, who is the chairman. And then we have the two postal regulatory commissioners. So we’ve got a lot at stake here and, and they’re all just ready to go. So hopefully on our next podcast, and certainly we’ll know during the user conference and we can share then what’s happening.

Chris: 05:42 Okay. All right. Well speaking of Board of Governors, they also have a meeting coming up, right? August 8th is their next scheduled meeting?

Anita: 05:48 Exactly, right. So the 8th is a closed meeting and then the 9th is the opening session, which is always webcast- which you know, everybody can listen in to the Governor’s meeting.

Chris: 05:57 How do they find out to tune-in? Is it Postal Pro? Does that list how to get onto that or what’s the best for our listeners?

Anita: 06:02 Okay. Chris, I’m so glad you asked that because I spent a good deal of time yesterday trying to find something on it because it had been mentioned on a PostCom call that there was a meeting on August 8th and I even reached out to some of my friends at headquarters. It was just in the Federal Register notice this morning.

Chris: 06:18 Okay.

Anita: 06:18 So the agenda is there and it’s obviously very vague for a reason. You know, the matters to be considered are strategic issues, financial matters, compensation and personnel, and then an executive session and that’s the closed door session on Thursday. But think about all the things they must be talking about. The 10 year business plan hasn’t come out yet.

Chris: 06:38 Yeah, that’s top of mind for me is had already, you know, at least again from an expectation, at least from the hearings that we saw, there’s a tone that the Postal Service is late in getting that 10 year plan out. We had anticipated that in July, Representative Meadows had stated that he thought he was going to get a view of it in April. So it just feels like that we’re overdue in getting that.

Anita: 06:59 Right. I do have some intelligence on that.

Chris: 07:02 Okay. All right.

Anita: 07:03 Well, somebody, I think a very reputable source, told me that the business plan has actually changed substantially since it was briefed to the staffers on the Hill. So that’s really got my curiosity peaked. And this person suspected that it might not be released until the end of the fiscal year, or maybe won’t be released before the end of the fiscal year. So we wouldn’t see it until, probably October, so –

Chris: 07:27 Right, wow.

Anita: 07:29 We’ll see. But you know, it’s probably being discussed at the meeting and I would think too that they might be getting a preview of a 2020 pricing because it’ll be the September meeting when the board votes on that and then we’ll know relatively soon after that.

Chris: 07:46 Anita, that could all come to a head. I mean if you think about it, right, so let’s assume what you’re saying is correct and we’re not going to get that plan until the end of the fiscal year for the Postal Service, which is the end of September. That same time frame is where they’re going to have at least an early look, or hopefully the final decision, on pricing for 2020 and then, oh, by the way, we may have three new governors that are seated, right, in what could be their first meeting with that.

Anita: 08:09 Right.

Chris: 08:09 That’s a lot going on.

Anita: 08:11 No kidding.

Chris: 08:12 And um, and really kind of leave some like sort of this cloud of uncertainty which we don’t need right now. Again, I mentioned predictability before. It’s the same kind of a thing

Anita: 08:21 One thing I think they’re going to be voting on the upcoming market test, the plus one, where you’d have detached address labels for saturation letters. So I think if they approve that, then I bet that news will come out relatively soon.

Chris: 08:36 Okay, alright good. Uh, speaking of the Postal Service, right, we had a couple of leadership changes? I think some removals of the acting, right? The A’s were kind of dropped and we’ve got some official positions?

Anita: 08:46 Right, exactly. These three appointments are Jeff Johnson, Pritha Mehra, and Mark McCrery. They have been acting since January, I believe. And so announcement came out that they are now officially in their positions, so we should definitely congratulate them.

Chris: 09:00 That’s great.

Anita: 09:00 Yes, exactly when we run into them. And of course Isaac Cronkhite, he was officially named Chief Human Resources Officer in June.

Chris: 09:07 Yeah. Big Step up for Isaac, that’s great. That’s good. All 4 of the individuals, you know, are people that we’ve worked with in MTAC and other venues and stuff. And so really thrilled to see them in those positions of leadership, particularly Mark McCrery too, whom we hadn’t been working directly with for quite a while. He was very involved with MTAC. Then he kind of went on detail and was doing some other things, but so glad that he’s back. He’s going to be at our Information Exchange next week.

Anita: 09:31 I know, I’m excited.

Chris: 09:32 Yeah. So am I, and just a great person and I know he’ll get a lot out of hearing directly from our customers what opportunities and challenges that they have with mail acceptance and entry and payment. Just his focus area, but really thrilled. He’s a great listener. And so just the right person to have at next week’s event.

Anita: 09:48 Right. And you know Eric Chavez, he was appointed VP at the end of February. I didn’t realize that. I had to go back and look because I was thinking that he might be the only one in that listing that was still acting, but he was named VP very soon, like three weeks after he was in an acting role. He’s got a great reputation and so I’m not surprised by that at all.

Chris: 10:10 Very respected. Good, good. Well that’s great. Okay, so really good people in the right spots it sounds like, and I talked about that a couple of times, so we’ve got some upcoming industry events. There’s an Areas Inspiring Mail meeting calendar that was recently posted, right?

Anita: 10:25 Mhmm, you can find those on PostalPro, and I didn’t realize this either, that you can sign up to get notices of all the AIM meetings. I’ve always just gone to PostalPro, but you can get your name added to the email distribution list. But August 1st is the Great Lakes area meeting in Chicago, and then August 6th Southern area is meeting in Dallas, the 8th the Pacific area meeting in Santa Clarita, California. The 13th which I’m going to be attending, that’s Eric Chavez, is Northeast area in New York City. And then in September the Western area in Denver. October 17th is Cap Metro Baltimore, which is the area which I co-chair. I represent marketing mail. And then in November the Eastern area on the 14th are meeting in Nashville. So it looks like all seven areas have their schedules on the PostalPro website, and I would encourage all of our listeners to look at the schedule and see if there’s any way they can participate. The agendas are typically headquarters, speakers, and some industry speakers and an MTAC update always. So I think it’s a good schedule.

Chris: 11:34 Sounds like a lot of good conversation. And the AIM meetings are really critical again both for the industry as well as the Postal Service to hear directly. Another venue that’s really important of course are Postal Customer Council meeting, and they happen throughout the year. But we do have the PCC Week coming up at the end of September. And I know a lot of PCCs are already preparing for that. Anita, you’re going to be in Jacksonville, right?

Anita: 11:56 Right, at the northeast Florida PCC event.

Chris: 11:59 Excellent.

Anita: 12:00 Yeah. And you’re going to be in the twin cities, your home base?

Chris: 12:04 Yeah, the hometown. Exactly, exactly. I’m going to see if I can extend that visit, maybe by a day, just to spend some time with my brothers who live in the area there. So, yeah, no, really, really thrilled about PCC Week. Always am, and BCC Software has traditionally, and will continue to do so, support the Postal Customer Councils and the AIM, uh, the Areas Inspiring Mail. It’s such an important venue for that conversation and information sharing, speaking of which is Information Exchange at BCC Software’s user conference, we’re very excited about hosting that again here in Rochester. It’s our 4th year. This year is particularly exciting for me because it means that we have an opportunity to begin to have serious conversations about roadmap development and expanding the solutions with our Satori Software customers with a broader solutions suite. And now, you know, seven decades of knowledge. It’s a great opportunity for us to talk to our customers. We’ve got record attendance this year, which I was expecting and I’m thrilled to see that. And as I mentioned earlier, Mark McCrery is going to help you and I kind of kick that off Anita. We’ve got a couple of different sessions that we’re going to do there. And again, it’s just a great way for the customers to have all the cards on the table. Candid conversation about the roadmap. What are we planning? What are we thinking about doing? And Anita, you know what’s interesting, at last year’s Information Exchange, one of the round table things that we did is you know, just to hear directly from customers, okay so who’s on the list of companies that we should be talking to about potential acquisitions or or partnerships, or you know, things like that sort of tuck-ins and add-ons and, and I won’t say that directly led to to the acquisition of Satori Software, but certainly I think for those people that attended Information Exchange last year, I don’t think that they were too surprised when the announcement came out because that’s still part of it is let’s have a conversation and let’s exchange information so that we can build a better solution and better support for our customers.

Anita: 13:51 I know I learned a lot last year and I’m looking forward to it. I like the table topics that we do as well. A round table discussion, with frank conversation about what’s on everybody’s mind, and your questions and – very effective.

Chris: 14:05 It’s definitely a marketing-led event. It’s not sales. There’s a time and a place for doing sales presentations and sales pitches and things like that. But that’s not what this is. This truly is voice of the customer, voice in the market thing. So again, very much in the same spirit of what the AIM meetings and the PCC events are about to. So, so looking forward to that. And again, any movement that hopefully happens this week on those, those Senate confirmation hearings. So important for us. Alright. Anything else Anita?

Anita: 14:31 No, I think that’s it.

Chris: 14:32 Okay. All right. Well I want to thank you for the great information and for sharing that with us.

Anita: 14:36 Of course.

Chris: 14:37 And I certainly want to thank our listeners and really appreciate your comments for the podcast. I know you let Anita and I know personally that you enjoy listening to this and we’re pleased to hear that. Thank you so much for your business. Thank you for your time. And please, as always, if you have any questions, visit bccsoftware.com or give us a phone call. As always, we’d like to know – how can we help? Thanks and have a great day.

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