February 27, 2011

“5 Things I Think I Think”

Thoughts are always personal and opinionated but they can be extremely helpful, when spoken or written, in seeing if viewpoints are isolated or like minded. Isolated usually means that you have a unique belief which opens eyes, gets conversation flowing or you can easily be dismissed as a nut. Like minded builds consensus towards those beliefs and an action will take place.

I have been a part of an NAHB task force called “Exploring the Alternatives for the Future” which is the next version of a task force known as “Positioning NAHB for the Future.” “Positioning” was sunsetted during Summer Executive Board 2010 but its findings, and those of an independent report for an association management company, were the starting points for “Exploring.” Just as the task force titles indicate NAHB is looking towards its future with the knowledge that change may not always be good but it’s necessary. This is where you start the conversations that are either

  1. Isolated
  2. Like minded

Now remember, isolated can go both ways in terms of how your thoughts are viewed. So at the risk of being labeled a nut these are my thoughts on the future of NAHB.

  1. The need to stream line: because of the size of NAHB it’s difficult to move. The 21st century is a world of gazelles and NAHB, while it would like to be known as the 800 pound gorilla, has the maneuverability of said gorilla. Not because NAHB isn’t good at what they do, on the contrary, I am so pleased that we have some of the sharpest minds any industry could hope to have.  It is the size of the board of directors that is the concern. When the majority of the board is made up of life directors (10 years of service) and senior life directors (20 years of service) key decisions get mired in 20th century thoughts. In June I will be the average NAHB member; 51 years old, white and male. I can guarantee that the average age of the NAHB board member is well above 51. With age comes wisdom and experience and that can not be taught, it has to be lived. With youth comes fresher view points, an adaptable mind towards the future and its many ways to communicate and conduct business. As an example, Social Media. I have heard from the established members that they could care less about “tweeting” and “what the hell is Facebook?” That’s my point; the established member, certainly the majority, is not so keen on social media as a communication vehicle. Yet here we are in an age where everything is moving rapidly towards the social media communication era, a vehicle that distributes information at lightning speeds.                                                                                                        Companies around the country are constantly looking to stay ahead of advancement or at least keep pace. When the majority vote comes from an age group that is generally content with status quo, with exceptions to legislative initiatives, it’s difficult to move forward. I just became a life director of NAHB and I have a lot of time invested within NAHB, from the local to the national level. I am one of the 20th Century thinkers. There has to be a better way to conduct the business of our Federation without it forgetting its past and the great leaders who have created our history but embracing the next generation as well.                                                                                                                                                    
   Added note: 
almost three quarters of NAHB board, current, life and senior life, do not attend the 3 board meetings per year.

  1. The need to bring more members in to the discussions. Committees are the working groups, with specific goals, designed to help NAHB with members needs. What I’m seeing is the same members being positioned on different committees, chairing the same committee more than once, past chairs being reappointed to committees and in effect blocking potential new blood from participating. There is an enormous amount of talent on these committees and on certain ones, like Legal Action, the best minds should be a committee member and continue as long as they can contribute. Other committees should embrace change and that only can come from a constant infusion of that new blood. I am currently watching great members who contribute to committee meetings as observers and are involved more than the actual committee member. Those observers are consistently looked over in favor of the known member. I have had numerous members tell me they are disenchanted with the committee process because they are never appointed. It’s not what you know but who you know that helps you in the current model for committee appointment. Being that we are all volunteers on these committees I would think the more members you engage the better the overall passion for NAHB. When it’s the “same old same olds” you decrease productivity by not expanding involvement. Committee work, regardless of how you view its importance to NAHB, has to have constructive momentum. You don’t always get that from an “entitled” member.
  2. NAHB is a single family home builder association. Yes, it certainly was and those days should never be forgotten. If NAHB membership requirements only allowed for single family home builders the Federation would be significantly different today. Think about it; no remodelers, no multi-family, no commercial, no mixed use, no high-rise and, although they do build single family homes, no high production builders. Those disciplines would still exist just not within NAHB. Those disciplines would have their own associations or a combination of disciplines together. Associates would have to pick and choose where they would have better opportunities to gain business. After all, when all is said and done, associates do need to generate sales and profits to run a business just like the single family home builder. The 21st Century NAHB is a much diversified group of businesses all dedicated to the Shelter Industry. Shelter is under attack, all forms. If we are to grow as a diversified group of shelter providing businesses, we need to all accept the fact the each member is a valued as any other. Otherwise defections will take place and that only will weaken NAHB and its protection of its original group, single family home builders. Single family home builders are the vital core of our Federation and always will be. To have a strong core and nothing else will tax that very core. Let’s work together towards our common goal, shelter, and stop working against those with “different” vehicles for construction.
  3. NAHB has a tremendous wealth of information and education that is, for $150 per year, the best bargain I have ever seen. It truly is remarkable, once you realize that typing NAHB.org on your computers keyboard, the world that is literally at your finger tips. Unfortunately the average member has no idea what the complete membership holds for them. That discussion could be a book so I could not do it justice in a blog post. Ask your NAHB representatives from your state and local HBAs to demonstrate the power of NAHB. Those representatives are at NAHB because you sent them there. Have the representatives conduct a class on NAHB.org, prepare NAHB reports for the executive officers and local presidents for distribution and discussion at local or state board meetings. Include NAHB articles within your own publications. I recently read quotes form members across the Federation regarding NAHB and I was shocked to realize the majority of members have little idea of the value of NAHB. In all fairness, before I became “actively involved” with NAHB I was one of the majority. My education was self taught, built on networking and understanding the value first hand. We talked about it a few thoughts back; social media vehicles such as Facebook and LinkedIn can bring you into the NAHB world virtually and that will be a fantastic step towards your own national presence and awareness. On both of those social media sites NAHB has a pronounced presence. To find NAHB and related groups/pages just type NAHB or National Association of Home Builders into each sites search boxes. The key once you join the groups? Participate.

  1. Associates in senior leadership. As I shared with you earlier in the post the core of NAHB is single family home builders. All building disciplines fall under the “builder” membership classification and, along with the “associate” membership classification form the only two full memberships within NAHB. The builder disciplines were outline above. The associate disciplines are even more diversified but united in one goal; the shelter industry. Here you have suppliers, service providers and trades all needed to construct shelter. There are some that would say that “this is a builders association, not a suppliers association!” Yes it is and associates help the builder in the construction of that shelter. NAHB is a builders association dedicated to advocacy and that advocacy is for builders. “If ‘it’ affects builders ‘it’ will affect associates” is pure logic as opposed to an obvious statement. In order for us to all work together we have to understand that an associate as a senior officer is a massive benefit in the efforts to engage the entire grass roots of the Federation. Associates do not want to “control” NAHB as some have suggested; they want to help guide NAHB’s efforts in helping builders build. I’ve been told that associates don’t understand the builders business. If that is truly the case, enlighten the associates. Utilize the masses to deliver NAHB’s talking points to federal legislators. In the meantime, taking the point of view of fewer and fewer builders, let’s say that the associate senior officer doesn’t understand the builders business. They do know business and all aspects of it; sales & marketing, strategic planning, budgets and managing. The tremendous value for adding an associate to the senior officer ranks is the ability to provide key insight on proposed leadership directions and the financial impact on the associate membership which provides 2/3rds of membership dues, 100% of The International Builders Show’s booth sales, the majority of local/state HBA volunteerism and financial support. Most builders I speak to within NAHB think it’s absolutely time for an associate to step up into senior leadership. The key is to help the majority of the voting members of NAHB’s board of directors understand that need as well for productive change to start now.

    1. Note: all builder members should be utilizing associate members but until all builders are members we will never experience all associated businesses become associates. But that is for another blog.

Am I nuts or have I opened eyes? More importantly do I have a consensus? Among my fellow “Exploring the Alternatives for the Future” task force members which consist of 10 builders, 3 executive officers and myself as the lone associate I believe on these 5 thoughts we do. Hopefully my thoughts are thought provoking to “can I have an Amen!”

NAHB members (yes, if you belong to a local you belong to NAHB) can view the work of the various Future Task forces and the independent agency. All information can be found, along with task force notes and meeting minutes as well as surveys can be found at this link:

NAHB is YOUR association, understand YOUR investment. While visiting the “Futures” content explore the rest of NAHB.org.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
2011 NAHB Associate Members Committee Chairman

February 19, 2011

7 Habits of Highly Successful Champion Fund Raisers

“Out of our beliefs are born deeds; out of our deeds we form habits; out of our habits grows our character; and on our character we build our destiny.”

The words sponsorship and contributing have taken its toll on many members of our associations. Members who are among the 10% to 20% of those who continually “open their wallets” need the remaining members to start, or be more consistent, in the fund raising arena. It has always been an undertaking to raise funds for what ever the event may be and to convince people to take part financially has been the ongoing challenge.

Our Federation utilizes volunteer members to fund raise and only a handful have been truly successful. To understand their habits you have to get into their heads and hearts. These members are true champions of our industry.

Here are 7 habits of our industry champions:

  1. Change description – sponsorships and contributions are no longer meaningful descriptions of what you are asking. An investment in the building industry is what you are asking for and that is what the new description should be. A “sponsorship” at an HBA golf outing really is an investment in the financial stability of that particular HBA. Sponsorship implies to the vast majority of sponsors that business will follow by their purchase of a sign on the Long Drive Hole. Only members can explain to fellow members that by investing in the HBA your company name is marked as a supporter of the home building industry. The dollars from your investment are utilized towards legal action, public relations and any other initiative that needs funding. Your investment helps the builder continue to build which means your investment gives you the opportunity for business growth. Champions are always looking for and engaging investors.

  1. “Skin in the game” – How can you ask anyone to invest if you haven’t invested. The phrase “skin in the game” has been around for a long time and with good reason. Any amount is an investment and by you investing that means you believe in the cause. Champions believe and they back it up by investing.

  1. Mentoring – When we leave this world to go to the next what good have we accomplished by not sharing our knowledge with others. What is a mentor?  Someone whose hindsight can become others foresight. Tell them and they forget, teach them and they will remember. Most importantly, involve them and they will learn. True champions will always look to help others who are willing and involve them.

  1. Self dependent – We all know people who talk a great game but at the end of the day they rely on others do shoulder the work load, others meaning HBA staff. Champions depend on their actions and don’t wait for others to start. I’m not saying be impatient, elevate yourself above the team effort or “go off the reservation” I’m saying a champion will make sure that they are truly engaged in the effort and will not shy away from work.

  1. Thought provoking – Just because something was successful doesn’t mean you stop thinking. The wheel was extremely successful especially when they made it round. However, while the purpose of the wheel has never changed, it constantly was being improved. The purpose of fund raising within the HBA has never changed but if we don’t constantly seek better ways to improve fund raising we are left with an old wooden wheel. Champions are always evaluating current methods and looking at other ways to help the investment process grow.

  1. Not seeking glory – Everyone likes an “atta boy” every now and then but the champion fund raiser doesn’t commit time and dollars to the cause for a plaque or a mention at a board meeting. The true champion does it because they believe in the home building industry and because their careers are affected by what happens to and from within our industry. Champions have heart, passion.

  1. Never stop learning – Champions are always up to date on industry issues. They don’t blindly ask for investments; they ask because they have knowledge. Champions are always asking “why” and “how” and understand the “what” in our industry better than most. Champions are consistently welcoming knowledge.

There you have it, the 7 highly successful habits of champion fund raisers. We all owe a massive debt of gratitude for their never ending passion. But they are not looking for gratitude they are looking towards the day when the 10% to 20% numbers are the ones for those who are NOT investing. It’s not a goal; it’s a continued journey that needs to be traveled. Good thing the wheel was invented.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
2011 NAHB Associate Members Committee Chairman

February 13, 2011

10 Ways to Maximize Your HBA Membership Investment

“I joined the local HBA for an immediate return on my investment. After two meetings I didn't get any business; I’m not renewing my membership!”

If I received a dollar for every time I heard that EXCUSE, well..... you know the rest. 

Most new members don’t fully understand the real value of the local, state or national associations and believe that the association is for a quick business fix. The established (or should I say actively engaged) members know better. Today's post is to give readers a brief summary of how to UTILIZE (key word) the home builders association. I’m listing ten ways to get a better return on your HBA investment but understand that these items are not short cuts. These ten items are not my opinion but the opinion of successful members that I have watched over the years navigate the HBA waters.

1. Recognition

Be active in the builders association to gain visibility. Volunteer for committee work that you can contribute your skills and thoughts. Political fundraising not only helps your career by raising investment dollars for the building industry it will define you as a member who cares.

2. Grassroots

Become involved with those issues that either strengthen or threaten the industry. NAHB has a BuilderLink program that may be similar to a communication mechanism in your state. Make sure you take action when needed and, as important as your own action, send to others in your company so they can take action as well.

3. Don’t forget… your fellow associates!

As an associate your main focus may be to network with as many builders and remodelers as you can. Understand that other associates, those who are not in direct competition with you, can be as valuable, if not more, when it comes to networking. Other associates know builders; by building social capital you are expanding your network. Just remember, give as well, better, than you receive.

4. Believe in the phrase “Do Business with a Member”

If you “practice what you preach” the law of averages will come back to you favorably. Make sure you do your best to make sure everyone in your building industry sphere is either a member of NAHB or has the information to become one.

5. Industry and association business first.

If you want to be regarded as a member that “cares” your company’s business has to come second to association initiatives. I know, that’s easy for me to write but over the years the members who were very successful with building their own businesses through the association did so because they utilized the association, not used the association. When you volunteer for the right reasons, helping the HBA, others will notice your efforts as professional and they will want to get to know you better.

6. Use the builders’ association function to network, NOT SELL.

When you are at an event, do not sell. I have witnessed quite a few people develop a poor reputation by always selling. There is a time and place for everything and this is no exception.

7. If you are not having fun, find another profession.

In today’s business climate that may be easier said then done, however the point remains; if you’re not having fun it will show up in your attitude. Nobody wants to be around, let alone network, with people who are acting miserable. This will only hurt you in the long run.

8. Know how much time you can contribute many associates tend to burn out.

I know some associates who join every committee they possibly can. I refer to them as “resume builders.” Join one committee and make sure your volunteer time is given your best effort. As you become known as someone who is reliable and dedicated you can move on to other committees giving the same effort. Or you just may be able to manage your volunteer time, with your company and family time, and take on an extra task or two.

Note: never forget, and in this order, family, your job and then the association.

9. Never introduce yourself without including your company name. 

Seems like a ridiculous statement but so many people don’t show up with business cards or utilize name tags and when they introduce themselves they forget to mention who they work for. I know I said not to sell, but this isn’t selling, this is branding.

10. Patience.
A minimum of a three-year commitment of activity (on average) is required to attract deserved attention and credibility. I have watched some members become successful in a few months time and others several years. But the average of three years seems to be the right amount of time. Remember, unless you are the only one of your kind, meaning product or service, chances are your competitors are already involved. It takes patience and volunteering for the right reasons to have people recognize your professionalism. Word of advice; when the time comes and you are recognized for your efforts, you will be given an opportunity. Nothing is guaranteed but your dedication to yourself as a building industry professional. When your chance comes don’t blow it.

There are other ways to maximize your investment in the HBA. In fact I have created a presentation that is entering its 11th year; "Association Maximization." This presentation is available for your use just send me an email mike.kurpiel@probuild.com and I will attach. I am also available to come speak at your local as well.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP 
2011 NAHB Associate Members Committee Chairman

February 7, 2011

“LegCon” – WHAT??

If you are even a little involved in your HBA, you know we live with a strange abbreviated language. HBA, BIA, NAHB, GMM, and GA to name a few!  “LegCon” is not easily deciphered. It sounds like a “photo shopped” photo on the cover of a magazine or Joan Rivers on the Go Daddy commercial during the Super Bowl.

But LegCon is the abbreviated name for NAHB’s Legislative Conference. Makes total sense now, right? But the funny thing is - it isn’t really a conference. Most conferences have you attending different seminars to learn how to do something better. At LegCon, you attend one meeting and then spend the rest of the day doing seminars for elected officials in Washington DC., teaching THEM how to help our industry.

You start the day at LegCon with an early morning issue orientation from NAHB’s Government Affairs gurus. Then, you head off to Capitol Hill visits that have been pre-arranged. If you have never sprinted from the House to the Senate, talked with legislators as they walk down the hall, met staffers that look like they aren’t old enough for a driver’s license yet, or shared issue discussions with builders from your state surrounded by marble – you have to try it!

There is no reason to let it intimidate you!
       1.               You pay the wages of all elected officials – they work for you!
       2.               Some of them are just as lost out there as you are – especially the new ones.
       3.               NAHB does a great job of briefing you.
       4.               You don’t have to talk – just showing them you took the time to be there to support the builders and our industry speaks volumes!

This year’s LegCon is 3/16/2011. Unfortunately, it is separate from the Spring Boards due to the Legislative calendar adopted late in January by Congress. This will make it difficult for as many people to attend, but it is vitally important for any Associate who is able to make it to DC, to please show up. There is a flock of newly elected officials that need to know how to get this country building again. They need to see how many businesses are affected by any legislation that affects a builder.

Make your reservations today and join fellow Associates and Builders on March 16, as we fight to keep this nation building. Getting involved with the legislative efforts of NAHB is a great way to support your Builder members and the industry you work in. Congressional decisions affect the bottom line of all of our businesses

There are over 100,000 Associates in NAHB. Think of the number of companies and employees they represent. Think of the number of potential voters and dollars we represent. Associates - that is power! See you in DC.

Submitted by Monica Sommerfeldt Lewis, CAPS, CGA
2011 NAHB Associate Members Advocacy Chair