June 26, 2011

"Combining the Past with the Present to Create a Future"

"I've learned that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am." - Andy Rooney 

Mentor. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines the word as a trusted counselor or guide. A mentee (or protégé) is one that is mentored. Sounds very simple in its definition as well as extremely calming to the mind and, if the right combination of mentor/mentee is at hand, mentoring can combine the past with the present to help create a better future.

To be a mentor you have to have experienced many circumstances, have listened to the elderstatesmen/women of your generation and take the bleeding deacons with a grain of salt and a wedge of lime.

An elderstatesmen/women is a respected leader with experience of time, often one who is thought of as having sage advice to give and leads with subtle guidance. A bleeding deacon is a person who believes him/herself indispensable to a group, a person who becomes so over-involved in a group’s internal management, policies, or politics as to lose sight of its larger goals; (hence) a person with a negative, moralizing character, who acts like the sole source of wisdom.  

I think you can figure out the right type of mentor to choose. 

I have had a few mentors in my life, all of which I considered to be elderstatesmen and they have opened my eyes and my mind to different ways of looking at things, handling things and sometimes ignoring things. I have to admit (most who know me would laugh and say "you got that right") I haven't always been the best mentee. I do know that with out those mentors I would be woefully behind the in the game of life and, in particular, the ways of the home builders association. One mentor who has guided me in the ways of the HBA has had an enormous impact on my association life. He has listened to my questions, given direction when needed and acknowledged accomplishments that I helped deliver. I consider him to be like a brother and he has been priceless in his his teachings. And yes, he has performed as a quasi therapist! He was/is with me most times and it feels great to have that person around. He has taught and continues to teach because I have shown the willingness to have an open mind or at least I eventually will. Those are only the first steps in being a mentor and choosing the right "student' is just as important. The potential mentee needs to have one quality above all others. That quality is the desire to improve with the intent to help. 

The next and probably most important step is where that advice eventually gets delivered. A mentor has to choose his or her mentee carefully. Any mentor will have fallen short of being a teacher if that knowledge stops with the mentee. You see, being a mentee means that one day you will be the mentor. What good is it to keep the knowledge you were given and not pass it along to others? It goes to the title of this post; combining the past with the present to create a future. Mentoring is a process that has been around since time itself and the reason it's so important to continue the process is that nobody knows all the answers all the time. We have evolved as an association because of consistent mentoring that has brought knowledge and guidance to where we are and where will be.

During your time as an engaged HBA member you will have a mentor, maybe a few, and the successful mentors will come from that group of current elderstatesmen/women.  They will be more than receptive if you ask for their insight and when they begin absorb the knowledge and implement it with every step you take. Learn from your mistakes and practice your successes. One day you will be an elder for the next generation. What you have learned from the past, how you applied those teachings to the present day will help the next leaders of the HBA continue to protect and serve the home building industry. 

If you don't have a mentor, start today. If less experienced members ask you for advice, help today. Just be careful not to become a bleeding deacon!

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

June 19, 2011

"HBA Leadership: The Ultimate Return On Your Investment."

Part 8: HBA Leadership, 
The Ultimate Return On Your Investment.

In this final part of our abbreviated Association Maximization series we will discuss leadership for both builders and associates. I hope you enjoyed the first 7 parts as much as I enjoyed writing them.

College gives a graduate the necessary knowledge to function in their chosen professions. It takes time to learn the chosen discipline when it comes to the real world because college gives you “book smarts” while the real world teaches you “street smarts” or, more to the point, “industry smarts.”

I don’t know how many people in our home building and remodeling industry have a college degree or any years spent in college but when it comes to this particular industry a college degree is great but it doesn’t prepare you for the challenges of this noble profession. The ultimate education, for the home building industry, is HBA leadership. The time, which certainly is money, you spend learning about the industry prepares you like no college can.
There is a worn out “joke” that is always used about builders and being president that builders always go bankrupt after they have served. Unfortunately some have but it’s not because of the HBA leadership role. Multiple factors may have caused this; economic conditions, poor management skills, poor time management skills or even the fact that maybe they should not have been a builder. Who really knows but I do know that it wasn’t being president that did it. Yes, it does take time to be a leader let alone president. By blending the following benefits of leadership into the way you conduct business, for both builders and associates, you will understand that serving as officers and board members you will gain immeasurable quality in return:

  1. Direct knowledge of industry threats or trends. In the meeting rooms of local, state or NAHB board of directors what could possibly affect the building industry is discussed and strategic plans are implemented. Knowing how certain or multiple items can affect the industry prepares you and your company for those affects. If it affects the building industry it has a direct affect on your business (this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). As a general member you will get the same information but the amount of thought and discussion that went into the releasing of that information to the general membership is the education you , as a leader, receive. Your time spent volunteering at the leadership level should not be considered wasted time by you. It should, in fact, be considered education of the real world. The time spent and the knowledge gained is invaluable.

  1. Working knowledge of government. In your role as an HBA leader you will be asked to be involved with your state legislators or your state’s federal legislators. This places you in direct contact with the lawmakers meaning you are building relationships with those who can control your career, your destiny. I can’t place a dollar amount for your return on your investment here either. This is another benefit of leadership that is invaluable.

  1. Your career or business improvement and direction. Learning about this industry from all angles prepares you, makes you more in tune with trends that can make your company stand out. It gives you a road map for your company’s, or your personal, short term and long term plans. The direct knowledge you gain as a leader could save years of retooling, restructuring, reinventing yourself and company. Once again, invaluable.

  1. Relationships that last a lifetime. The leadership level brings you into a family style environment. Like any large family, there are people you like and people that you don’t like. Just like a family, your personal feelings are put a side when turmoil or crisis hits. The bonds become stronger and the relationships grow deeper. Leadership at this level brings that social capital I spoke about to a higher plane. Say it with me…. INVALUABLE.

If you properly time mange the risks are minimal and the benefits are enormous. Not everyone is a leader and that’s fine although everyone has certain leadership skills inside them. It may be that you are not as confident as you’d like to be or maybe you don’t relish the idea of public speaking. Added benefits of HBA leadership would be that you will develop a more confident attitude and as you get to know the members at this level you will speak with confidence as well. Time and gradual participation is all that’s needed and you ascend at your desired pace.

Stepping away from what’s been written there is another reason for you to become a leader. Your industry needs you. We need new ideas, fresh takes on situations, new faces with raw and exciting passion that only comes from the beginning. The next generation of leadership will decide the future of our building industry. These new leaders will be properly mentored in what has worked and what hasn’t worked. The new leaders will listen to the past, pay attention to the present and craft strategies for a better future of home building and remodeling. Don’t look at the “ask” of being involved on the board or as an officer to be a burden to you or your family. Look at it as a great business asset that will enable your family to have a great life. Today’s 21st century leader has enormous advantages that the past did not have. With the rise of social media and instant contact time management abilities have skyrocketed. When your local, state or NAHB leaders come to you to discuss your HBA future, listen to what they have to say.

Becoming an HBA leader now may not be the right time but it is absolutely the right direction for anyone whose passion and career is in the building industry. 

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

PS: These articles are based on my "Association Maximization" power point presentation that has been given in multiple local HBAs across the federation. You have my permission to reprint these articles in any of your HBA newsletters or utilize them in new member orientation. If any of the material used helps bring in or retain one new member then it was worth the time to post.

June 12, 2011

"The Do’s and Don’ts of Building Your HBA Reputation."

Part 7: The ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of Building Your HBA  Reputation.

We have covered quite a bit with regards to the HBA’s purpose, how to get noticed for the “right” reasons as well as utilizing the HBA to be informed and build a business contact network.

We will now focus on the do’s and don’t of developing your HBA reputation. The list could be very long on both sides but this post will focus on a few points that should help you maintain a solid reputation.

I know I'm supposed to start with the "do's" but I wanted to highlight the don'ts first. Plus, "Don'ts and Do's" sounds funny!

The don’ts will start it off followed by the *do’s:

  1. Don’t use the association. Everybody is in business but don’t exploit your involvement to showcase your company. I remember one time, a member asked to attend a board meeting. The member was not on the board but asked to attend. No problem, right? The member came in early and placed his/her company’s brochure in the board packets and gave a 5 minute sales pitch to the board. Needless to say that was not the time or environment to sell. I’ve witnessed the same type of exploitation at committee meetings as well.                      
*Association business first, your business second. Wear your name badge with your company logo, introduce yourself by name, and then company name, whether you are a guest of a meeting or a member of that particular group. Make sure when you speak, it’s for the benefit of the initiative. 

  1. Don’t think that the association is not providing you with business. I know members ho have said that they are not getting builder business. OK, maybe not from builder members (yet) but are you doing business with builders who are not members?                  *Know that the HBA is helping all builders, not just members. Yes, all builders should be members of the HBA and maybe in time they will. But those non member builders are building because of the efforts of the HBA so “Yes Virginia, you are getting builder business from the HBA!”

  1. Don’t say yes and not perform. There is an old saying in the sales world, “under promise and over deliver.” The same holds true for being a volunteer. When you accept something you have asked for under promise and over deliver. Others are counting on your commitment, a commitment that you wanted. Don’t accept a responsibility or assignment unless you mean to be professional and handle it.                                                                     * No one will think less of you if you say you need to back out of your commitment. No one. However they will think less of you, which will hurt your reputation, if you OVER promise and UNDER deliver or, worse yet, NOT deliver at all.

  1. Don’t be a resume builder. This is the same as the last item only broader. I know members who sign up for everything, but contribute nothing. All these committees, written down, give the impression that the member is dedicated to the HBA. They’re dedicated, but they’re dedicated towards self promotion. When you volunteer be a volunteer.                *Contribute your thoughts, your time and particular skill set to the initiative at hand. You will be a reputation builder and you will be a valued member.

  1. Don’t interrupt members engaged in conversation. When two members are talking face to face this means they are in an intimate discussion. There is one member I know, maybe you know one as well, who is famous for barging into a conversation. Not only is it rude, you will be given a reputation as rude. And members will not go out of their way to help rude members.                                                                                                                 *Be patient, there will be an opening later to say hello, or another meeting. Or an email to the person you needed to “target” that lets that person know that you saw them, timing wasn’t right for a conversation but you wanted to say hello. Thoughtful and considerate.

  1. Don’t monopolize the conversation. OK, you’re not an interrupter but are you like a pit bull with a steak bone?  Do you hold onto the person you are speaking with, probably to, without consideration of others?                                                                                               *If you are engaged in conversation with someone, maybe a builder member, and you know others would like to say hello as well, make your conversation brief and ask for a call or office visit to continue discussion.

  1. Don’t ignore or delete without reading HBA emails. You never know what the email contains and it could help you or it could be an action alert. Either way you have invested in the HBA, why ignore the information?                                                                                  *If you feel you’re getting to much HBA email, call up the EO and ask if there are places on the HBA website that you can visit and read the information online, at your leisure. Action alerts are not leisurely and are needed to be sent out. But they are being sent to help you. Appreciate the HBA for being the guardian of the industry.

  1. Don’t show up to an HBA event in a bad mood. Everyone has a bad day and nobody wants to be around someone who talks about their bad day. That’s what therapists are paid to do. People’s impressions of you are always happening.                                                                                                                       *Always be on your game when you are out in business public. Know that it’s alright to take off a night if you’re not in the mood. People want to be around others who make them feel good or at least comfortable. Wouldn’t you?

  1. Don’t act like you’re at a friend’s house for a party. There are a lot of HBA events and at those events alcohol will be served. Nobody likes a drunk and you will be remembered for that the next day, and beyond.                                                                                                *I’m not going to tell not to drink but please know your limit! Remember, it takes time to build a reputation and one minute to ruin it. You are also not doing your company any favors either.

  1.  Don’t get discouraged with your HBA investment.                                                              *It’s a long term commitment that only produces a return with the type of quality you put in. Patience is a virtue but is should be required when it comes to HBA expectations as it pertains to your involvement.

Those were the ten obvious do's and don'ts, at least to me. If you have more that you would like to share please post a comment and let us know what you're thinking.

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

PS: These articles are based on my "Association Maximization" power point presentation that has been given in multiple local HBAs across the federation. You have my permission to reprint these articles in any of your HBA newsletters or utilize them in new member orientation. If any of the material used helps bring in or retain one new member then it was worth the time to post.

June 5, 2011

"An HBA Approach to ‘Selling’ Builders"

Part 6: An HBA Approach to ‘Selling’ Builders.

Ask yourself these two questions; “Do I have a product or service that is needed in the building industry?” and “Do I have competition?” If the answer to the first question is YES and the answer to the more important second question is NO then you are in a very unique position to have all the business you can handle. But if you are like 99.9% of the other associate members you do have competition and your product and service is not unique.

The HBA offers you an advantage that only members receive and one that you may want to utilize. That advantage comes in two distinct forms. The first form is the business connections you are making. We talked before about building social capital with other associate members. Here is where you receive more returns on your HBA investment. By developing association friendships you are expanding your sales presence. Think about it for a moment; when one of your HBA friends is meeting with a customer wouldn’t it be great if they could refer you to the builder? They would only refer someone if they could depend on the person that they were recommending. That only comes from working side by side with someone in order to understand their professionalism as a volunteer and how that professionalism cold translate at the income generating level. This scenario can be multiplied by the amount of interaction you have with other members which in itself is worth the yearly membership and eliminates the dreaded cold calling.
Always remember, however, the laws of reciprocity. Don’t be known as a “taker” but do develop the reputation as a “giver.” It’s always better to give than receive but it will come back to you so make sure you do some unsolicited referring. Your HBA actively engaged membership can fast track this process which can save you years of developing relationships the old fashioned way; one at a time and very slowly.

The second advantage comes in the form of industry awareness. Again, going with the assumption that you do have competition, what do you have that stands out from them? A particular product? So does your competitor. Outstanding service? Well, we all have offered, that haven’t we? The only thing that you have that is different from your competitor is….. wait for it…….. YOU. Your professionalism and your “likeability” factor are the keys to separating yourself from the others. But it takes time to demonstrate that, doesn’t it? To gain new business you need to be given an opportunity and persistence with patience will reward you with that opportunity. In the meantime, when you are delivering product information and pricing why don’t you utilize something that can actually help the builder with his or her business? That something is at your finger tips on a sometimes daily, most times weekly, basis. That something is industry updates and information. Your HBA provides to you, its member, this information for your use. It helps you with your business planning and, by understanding how this information affects the building industry, you can then talk with your customers and potential customers about something other than product, price and service. You become the “go to sales rep” for industry knowledge. Not product knowledge, industry knowledge. This is a great way to distance yourself from your competitors while at the same time making you the “go to sales rep” for your company as well.

Through established business connections and your willingness to understand your industry, where you earn a living, and becoming a valuable source of information, your HBA membership can provide you with an impressive return on your yearly investment. These two advantages are there for you to utilize you just have to want to stand out.

Next week's blog will talk about the "Right and the Wrong" ways to enjoy your HBA membership.

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

You have my permission to reprint these articles in any of your HBA newsletters or utilize them in new member orientation. If any of the material used helps bring in or retain one new member then it was worth the time to post.