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


joe said...

Well said, Mike!

Dianne D. Beaton said...

Mike -

As a provider of marketing, web and social media services to the building industry I want to say "Amen"! As more and more future home owners who do their research on the "web" to find that special builder who will create their dream home, we need to help those who do not see the need to engage in conversation via the use of technology. We as Associate members can help them become better at their craft by embracing this opportunity to converse with their past clients as well as their future clients.

We are all in this together to provide quality housing for all.