March 26, 2011

Building Better Relationships with Builders

(The following is reprinted from a national Associates discussion paper)

The principal reason most associate members join the home builders association is to get business from the builder members. However, it is not always easy and it is never automatic. Membership does not give an associate member the right to a builder’s business. What it does, rather, is give him the opportunity to seek business from builders. Many builders in turn will try to do business with an associate member, provided there is a favorable balance to him in price, service, and quality. Consider some of these basic principles in building your relationships with builder members:


1. Visit the builder regularly with good reason -- do not waste their time. Do not underestimate their interest in new products.

2. Keep the builder's literature current. The builder needs current information if they are going to use your product, not only to show his customers, but for other suppliers or subcontractors that may be involved in installing your products.

3. Keep the builder informed if there are pricing or product changes. There has never been a builder who liked price increases, but they dislike surprises even more. Timely notice will allow them to adjust their budget.

4. Let them know immediately if a product is discontinued or going to be discontinued, and what their replacement options are.

5. Tell the builder immediately if a product or service is going to be delivered late. Stay in touch with them so you know when you and/or your product are needed. Remember that other suppliers and subcontractors may be affected when you are late.

6. Sell quality products and do not compromise your reputation with inferior products or services.

7. Be honest with the builder about what features or benefits they may gain by paying a little more. If your offering has deficiencies, tell them in advance so they can make adjustments.

8. Do not waste the builder’s time -- take care of their needs quickly. When you make an appointment, be on time or call to say you will be late. They have to deal with a lot of suppliers and subs.

9. Be knowledgeable. Try to understand the builder's business. Are they building luxury homes or affordable housing? Take Certified Graduate Associate (CGA) classes to stay informed of trends in the building industry and be a source of information to them. Find answers to their questions. Reliable information will keep them coming back to you.

10. Get actively involved in the home builders association. Just as the builder makes their living from the building industry, so do you. Getting involved not only benefits the industry as a whole, but also gets you the recognition you need from builder members. Regular meeting attendance will give you additional visibility. Devote some of your advertising budget to placing ads in the association’s newsletter.

11. Encourage pride and service throughout your company. You are judged by the attitude of everyone who works for you. Polite secretaries, accounting staff, and delivery people are greatly appreciated.

However, DO NOT:

1. Do not speak negatively about your competitor or their product or services. They may be a personal friend of the builder or even a fellow member of the home builders association. We all have to prove ourselves to be accepted. You will not succeed by speaking negatively about your competition. Also, the builder may have been using your competitor’s product or service. By speaking negatively, you are saying that the builder was not very smart for using it. In either case, you are going to make the builder defensive. Instead, focus on making positive statements about your products or service. Give the builder references of other builders who have been satisfied with your product, service, quality, and price.

2. Do not misrepresent the facts, or, to put it bluntly, don’t lie. Whether it’s about a delivery, what you or your product can do, or about price, never become an untrustworthy businessperson. Do not tell the builder you are giving them the best price available when you may have given someone else a better price. Prices can vary based on quantity, delivery, and a variety of other factors, and builders know that. They do not want to be lied to any more than you do.
Bottom line, selling to builders takes a lot of common sense and courtesy. Your membership in the home builders association is a tremendous asset to your business. By applying these basic rules to your sales strategies and actively participating in the association, you can greatly enrich your builder relationships, increase your sales opportunities, and grow as a consummate professional.

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

March 19, 2011

"3 Types of Members"

“There are three types of people; those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those who don't know what's happening.”

The above quote is timeless and is attributed to many and, unfortunately with regards to the last two types, practiced by many. One of the great things we enjoy as Americans is the right to take peaceful action for just causes.

As members of NAHB, we are encouraged to work with our state and federal legislators to advance our industry’s initiatives and work with the legislators to effect change. This past week, Wednesday March 16th to be exact, members of our Federation met in Washington, D.C. with members of Congress for NAHB’s annual Legislative Conference. Out of 157,000 member companies within NAHB we had just a little over 500 builder and associates make the trip to “The Hill” to discuss ways to enact financial reform and maintain Mortgage Interest Deductions for homeowners. 500 out of 157,000 or, to make it easier, 0.003% of membership “made things happen” this week in Washington or at least did their best to help the legislators understand our issues and our thoughts on solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, those numbers are simply not going to cut it. If our legislators don’t hear ALL of our voices they won’t know that their constituents (you) are suffering and, if you are in the building industry, you know how much suffering you’re dealing with. I know the expense of traveling to Washington is prohibitive to most which certainly, and understandably, explains the low numbers. If that’s the case, how can you contribute your time to advocacy efforts? The answer is participating in your state and in your districts. Just because you can’t make it to Washington doesn't mean you can’t meet with your congressmen and U.S. senators at home, in their office or yours. In fact, I believe that’s a much more effective way to communicate your concerns for your livelihood. The distractions of Washington, at the federal offices, are intense. Meeting them at home places you in a much more relaxed atmosphere and, with not having the external pressures of being in the capitol, your legislators can spend more time discussing your issues, your solutions and more important, your number of people employed in the building industry.

There are certain times of the year when your federal legislators are on recess and our back in your home states. NAHB’s Government Affairs staff can provide you with those dates. I would hope that your career means a lot to you and your future as well. By making things happen you are a part of the process not just watching. If you’re the third type who doesn't know “what’s happening,” start reading your HBA alerts and calls to action. Ask your local president to explain what NAHB is doing on all of our behalf to make our industry well again. When you are up to speed then take your destiny into your hands and get involved through our NAHB Grass Roots efforts.

I always found it humorous, still do in fact, when I hear that “special interest groups” are always lobbying the legislators. We all have a “special interest” and it’s called earning a living and providing for our families. As a person with a career in the building industry I am proud of what we do and I find it a noble industry, particularly the home building and home remodeling disciplines. We provide shelter and a better quality of life for families, as well as those who’d like to start families, and those new or remodeled homes are where memories are made. It’s time for our members, all 157,000, to take SOME action when called upon so we can demonstrate our passion to those in positions to help us.

Like it or not, politics decide everything in life. Make “things happen” to ensure that the right decisions are made.

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

March 12, 2011

For Better or Worse…….

“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”
   - John Churton Collins (1848-1908), English literary critic.

Read the above quote carefully. How do you interpret the meaning of what Mr. Collins is expressing? If you were to ask me, I would say that he was saying be faithful to those who are faithful to you in good times and bad times.

We have always said “It’s good business to do business with a member.” I believe it’s much better to do business with active members, and in this case, active associates

Our industry is just starting to ascend from the depths of the "Great Recession" and we have witnessed quite a bit of change. Unfortunately, that change was for the worse. The local and state HBAs that are making it through these extremely difficult times are doing so because of the passion from their active volunteers, the majority of which are associate members. Most builder members, who were active, have stepped back to attend to their businesses and rightfully so. Our associate members recognize this and, even though construction is limited, they are remain actively engaged with their HBA.

Other associates have stopped volunteering, stopped attending events, stopped sponsoring or simply cancelled their memberships because the building industry business opportunities has been "slim pickings." These associates will be back of course when times are better and expect to jump right back into the process of obtaining the builders' business once those opportunities to sell reappear.

And then there are the "other" associates within the National Association of Home Builders, who have remained active, have not abandoned their local or state associations because of the harsh reality of our economy. These ACTIVE associates are continuously attending committee meetings, fundraising and volunteering their time to make sure each association event is a success because they believe in the importance of the HBA.

“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.”

Now you’re asking “what point is Mike trying to make by writing this post?” That’s easy to answer; I'm writing this post as a message in the hope that  all the builders, who believe in our federation, view our active associates, who remained faithful to our building industry, as true trade partners who did not abandon the builders association in our time of adversity.  Sometimes the need to highlight a certain viewpoint is needed and in this case, MAGNIFIED.

The builders association has to remain vibrant so when homes are needed to be built again we have the strength of the Federation to continue protecting our livelihoods from the next wave of housing industry obstacles and enemies. The only way it can remain vibrant, or close to vibrant as possible, is for our volunteers to remain engaged because they believe in the power of the HBA.

A great way for the builder members to say thank you to all the active associates, when the building industry starts to recover and homes are once again built or improved, is to give those active associates the opportunity to have the builders' business.

There may be some who are offended by this post. If that's the case, did I strike a nerve? Staying involved could be as little as two hours a month attending a committee. Or spending two hours a month calling for investments in the HBA. There really is no excuse not to have some involvement other than the lack of builder business opportunity. If that's what you're all about than I ask all those who value the HBA to consider this;

“In prosperity our associate members know us; in adversity we know our 'true' and active associate members.”

It's great business to do business with an ACTIVE member.

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

March 5, 2011

The Power of Knowledge: From Average to Champion

One of my favorite movies is “Secretariat” about the most famous horse to ever come down the stretch. The movie itself was, in my opinion, well done. The story was based on a true one and the historical information is very accurate. That’s the part that amazed me the most, the facts about Secretariat. The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes, both designed for speed horses, for the Triple Crown (1973) were really the lead up to the final race, The Belmont Stakes. The Belmont demands both speed as well as extreme endurance and this is the race where most thought Secretariat would fail. In fact in most of Secretariat’s races he came out of the gate last but finished strong. The Belmont was a race that is not only remembered for winning the Triple Crown but for its incredible start (he charged out of the gate possessed) and improbable finish. It is that finish that leads me to this week’s blog. That finish was won by 31 lengths which showed how truly dominant Secretariat was at the time or any time.
My point for bringing Secretariat’s dominance to you is the question I ask; “what separates you from your competition in ways that have you gain the champion’s edge?”

(Watch this video then continue with this blog.)

Now that’s what I call dominance where you leave no doubt that there is you and then the rest. If you are the only game in town and have no competition stop reading and go about your day. But if you are like the rest of the associate members you need to come to grips with the realization that unless you are “different” from your competitors you will always be “in the pack,” never blasting through to the finish.

You have a product or service, great start but so does your competition. You have competitive pricing; well you’d better if that’s all you have. You tell funny jokes at the bar while buying the next round; ah the memories that last for those 15 minutes are your nest egg.

The five “keys” to being a professional representative in the building industry?

  1. a product that is needed
  2. product understanding
  3. a price that works with a budget
  4. a personality that emits trust and likeability
  5. customer service before, during and after

No, these are not “keys” but you better bring them to the race if you want to get on the track. No the key to being dominant is KNOWLEDGE. Past the knowledge of product you’ll find industry knowledge. There are many ways to gain industry knowledge but here are two examples of where I believe you’ll find that knowledge:

  1. NAHB Education, specifically the Certified Graduate Associate (CGA) Designation. The courses that are required to earn this designation are all designed to help you, the associate member, understand your customer’s or potential customer’s business. What a builder goes through to build a home is not only a test of skill but incredible patience and stamina. Understanding the process goes a long way towards you separating from the competition. Your local will know how you can take the CGA course but your local may also offer other educational programs that could also help. Talk to your executive officer, they’ll know the right steps or go to and type Certified Graduate Associate in the search box.

  1. Industry related information. Do you read the information provided by your local? By your state?? NAHB??? And if you answer “yes” to any or all do you understand how it impacts housing? If you answered yes 4 times you are just beginning. Now what do you do with all this information? The answer to that question will decide if you will be Secretariat-like and help you capitalize on your 4 yeses. “The Secretariat rep” will take this information and deliver it along side the product and pricing which will cause further separation from the competition. You are bringing information that will help the builder plan accordingly for his/her company’s future as opposed to what you have brought that is utilized during the actual construction known as the present.

All the truly successful associates I have known in my 25 years of membership have utilized knowledge to blow away the field. Reading is simply not enough. Understanding, and a thirst for continued knowledge and sharing of knowledge, is the key to standing out.

Secretariat had the will, the speed and the endurance to be a race horse. Some say a horse is very intelligent but with out trainers that are knowledgeable about their industry it’s just a horse.
The right training took those three traits and turned him into a champion for the ages.

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