January 22, 2011

"An Associate as an NAHB Senior Officer?"

Note: This post was edited on September 12th, 2011 to reflect the most recent updates and conversation. 

A great conversation, some would say debate, has been occurring within NAHB these past several months. In fact, during the 2011 International Builders Show (IBS), during the Area Caucuses, open discussions continued. The discussions were part of a straw poll for two items (from multiple items) that the NAHB Exploring the Alternatives for the Future's task force is working on in potential preparation for possible NAHB Spring Board resolutions for support. The first item is that area caucuses appoint committee members. By way of a brief overview, there are 15 areas within NAHB. My home area is Area 2 (New Jersey/New York). For the purpose of this blog post I will be concentrating on the second item; an associate as a senior officer (ASO). You might be surprised to know that there has never been an associate member as a senior officer at the national level. There is quite a movement from within NAHB to make this position a reality while others voice their objections (will get into that later in this discussion). 

Within your home local HBA, chances are very good that you have one associate, maybe more, as part of your senior officer team. In fact, you may very well have the same situation at your state HBA. After all, on average, your HBA is comprised of approximately 66% associate membership. So it would make sense that your senior officers should have some representation for the majority of membership. Actively engaged and politically aware associates are the lifeblood of any local HBA. An important question to ask is “what is NAHB?” NAHB is a federation of local HBAs that stands united in advocacy and building industry growth. 

The discussions regarding an associate as an NAHB senior officer have been lively and have offered quite a bit of optimism for adding an associate to the senior officer ranks. In an independent report by Andrew Lang, an association management expert contracted by NAHB to look at how NAHB's is organized,  a key observation was made about the majority of membership not being at the senior officer table and the report highly recommends the ASO.

You, as an associate member, may have conversations regarding the ASO position. If you do, I would like to give you a few of the objections that I have come across and how I recommend they be addressed.
If you have your own recommendations please let me know.

1. "This is a home builders association, not a product selling association."
It is a home builders association, without question. How does a home builder build a house? With products, as well as services and trades and these items are provided by associate members. Associates are part of the home builders' team and should be engaged in helping the builders protect the industry. "If 'it' affects a builder 'it' will affect an associate." That's not just a slogan; it is reality.

2. "What if an associate is representing other concerns (their own) other than home building?"
As an associate comes up the ranks, through local and state leadership they become much more aware of what the HBA is all about and it is about advocacy for home builders. They would not advance, or shouldn’t advance, if they supported initiatives detrimental to home building. Associates learn association business comes first and their business concerns come second meaning that if you take the oath of office your fiduciary responsibility is for the association you are swearing to protect. The nominating committee, at any level of NAHB, is primarily made up of builder members. If, and hopefully when, an ASO position is created the vetting process will be intense and the cream of the associate crop will rise. I'm quite positive that this objection is a "gut reaction" to the idea and when thought out thoroughly, realization that associate ulterior motives, that some worry would come into play, would diminish. Let's face it; there have been some builder member leaders with ulterior motives for being a leader and they did not have the sole vote. It is a group of votes with a majority rule.

3. “I have no use for associate members.”
This statement, believe it or not, was uttered by a few. Ask any executive officer (EO) if they have no use for associate members. The vast majority of EOs will explain that their local HBA would cease to exist without the extensive volunteerism and greatly appreciated financial support of the associate membership. It goes back to the question and answer from earlier; “what is NAHB?’ NAHB is a federation of local HBAs that stands united in advocacy and building industry growth.” So I have to sincerely question the thought that some have no use for associate members who are working to help the local HBAs. Those with that thought are driven by a singular vision which is their personal business concerns and are not realizing the fuel for the HBA.

4. "An Associate from a large company can 'buy' the senior officer position"
That's simply not true. Stringent qualifications such as serving your local as an officer, your state HBA as an officer, serving on NAHB board of Directors for a few years (meaning as an associate your local thought highly enough about you to place you in this position and the NAHB Nominating Committee vetting process will assure the board of directors that the best person for the job is elected. Large company? So what. Large heart and enormous passion for our Federation is what should be looked at, not the size of checkbook.

5. Associates have their own associations (Lumberman's, Mortgage as examples used), they would never let a builder be an officer within those associations"
Using The Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (LBMDA) as an example to this particular objection, you would find out, if you asked them their core mission, that the LMBDA takes on issues that affect them directly. However, if NAHB is fighting an issue, or multiple issues that affect builders it will affect the members of LMBDA. NAHB protects the builders business so the LMBDA members can stay in business. NAHB protects every members business regardless of the business discipline. 

6. "Having an associate as a senior officer would create a great divide and cause devastation"
WHAT? I'm sorry, but this statement is a bit dramatic, no? We have an associate sitting as a BUILD-PAC officer, right now, and the skies didn't rain fire and locusts did not devour the crops. In fact, that BUILD-PAC Associate Chairman led the associates on a fundraising campaign that out performed the other committees and councils within NAHB. I'm sorry for being sarcastic on this objection but this really was said and it has a 20th Century feel. I will go 180% and say that having an associate senior officer will deeply unify our Federation.

7. "Associates are paid to attend NAHB, Builders are not."
This is another "what?" objection. My first response is "if true, so what? Associates are the vast majority of financial support, whether through sponsorship or membership dues. Those employers should be thanked for giving their employees the dollars and volunteer time so the local HBAs can survive. However, since the majority of Associates, per an NAHB official survey, are small companies or self employed it would say that this objection is really no objection. 
(As a side note, there are builders who are members of record who are employed by the company they work for or may not even be builders but maintained their builder status or joined where the criteria is very weak and they allow any one to be a builder.) 

Those are the top 7 objections that have been publicly stated. It’s good to hear the “inside voices’ because true feelings are known. I would like to make sure that when the ASO discussion is delivered to a point in time when a vote takes place that all unnecessary fears and speculation are a thing of the past for the overall membership and in particular the NAHB Board of Directors. If we, as a federation, are to move strategically into the future we have to embrace the past and its lessons and work towards a complete membership effort to enhance the quality and productiveness of the home building industry.

“If ‘it’ affects builders, “it” will affect associates.” The time is now to have an associate senior officer.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
2011 NAHB Associate Member Committee Chair


Joe Dumstorf said...

The "straw poll" that I have conducted in our local (Home Builders Assoc of Louisville)has resulted in very favorable comment on having an Associate as a Senior Officer. In fact most have stated "Why at all should we not have one?". I have not yet heard a good reason to not, so why not? Mike you and others have been pushing for this for many years. I think you (we) are very close to accomplishing this. AND when it happens, we will all look back and say "why wasn't this done before."

NAHB Associates said...

Another potential "roadblock" that has been set up is:
"If we give the associates a seat as a senior officer then remodelers, professional womens council and sales & marketing council would want a seat as well."

There are two classifications of membership: builder and associate. Check your membership classification; your either one :)