November 27, 2011

"Call Me a Traditionalist"

"Tradition is the illusion of permanence." ~ Woody Allen

'Tis the season and with it is comes times of reflection of the past year and optimism for the next. Christmas time, for me, has always been a very special time and whichever holiday others celebrate is equally as special to them. It's about family, friends, loved ones who are gone but remembered and new additions to welcome into the fold.

'Tis the season as well for home builders associations around the Federation to install their incoming leadership team for the upcoming year. 
My first time attending an installation dinner occurred many years ago. I looked forward to attending as it was going to be my first black tie event. In the building industry, the opportunity to wear a tuxedo comes rarely, if it all. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I wore a tuxedo since my wedding day. I rented a tuxedo for the installation but learned quickly that it would be less expensive in the long term to buy. 

The installation of officers, and the board of directors, was also a time when you had a Christmas Tree at the event (before political correctness ran amuck), with women in gowns, adding to almost all the men in tuxedos; something special was taking place, you could feel it. 
The installation banquet era, for the most part, is gone. It was a simpler time that called for an extravagant celebration of leadership to end one year with the promise of the next. Business casual has replaced the tuxedo & gown and the reverence of the installation has been replaced by a quick swearing in of the officers and board. Once in awhile some of the actual members being installed, both officer and board, don't even make the event! 
Call me a traditionalist but for me it's very sad to watch and experience the "new" ways of an old, but eloquent tradition. Blame it on the economy if you want but the volunteer leadership installation needs to return to the days of past. I know what you're going to say; "learn from the past, experience the present and prepare for the future." Some traditions have a place that doesn't need to be improved upon and in my opinion this is absolutely one of them. The installation banquet is a time where you leave the real world outside and, for a few hours, we celebrate our industry. 'Tis the season to visit with old friends and meet new ones, enjoy the evening with your (again, political correctness) significant other and at the end give a standing ovation to the newly installed volunteer leadership.

In an ever changing industry, with the highest of peaks and deepest of valleys, one thing can be a constant. The traditional installation banquet.
Maybe tradition is "an illusion of permanence," and tuxedos won't make a comeback, but could you please put on a tie?  

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

November 20, 2011

Leadership: "Risks v. Benefits"

Choosing to make the decision to move forward in becoming an HBA leader places you in a unique role. You have made the choice to invest your time and with investment there comes the inevitable "risk/reward" moments of reckoning. Are there risks? A few but the rewards, or better stated, the benefits, outweigh the risks. In this final installment of the leadership series will highlight the risks and uncover the benefits of choosing to become an HBA leader. The leadership power point training for this series of articles will be located on by The International Builders Show, 2012. By utilizing the power point training and the discussions from these leadership articles you can craft or add to your current HBA leadership training.

Risks v. Benefits
The Risks;
When we discuss risks we are talking about only a few elements and they are completely under your control; IF you recognize them.

  1. Time commitment - In past articles about your choice in becoming a leader I wrote about understanding "association first, your business second." This is not a motto but a direction. However a few people wrote me and said "Mike, members can not place the association over there business, particularly in these times." I agree with them, wholeheartedly. I never said or wrote "place the association over your business." I wrote that when you are working on association matters your business can't influence your contribution(s) to the conversation, the initiative and/or future of the HBA. The risk I'm referring for this discussion is giving your all to the association and neglecting your business. There are some who have not recognized this and their business suffered. Be careful and understand the balance. It's always your decision, your choice. 
  2. It's not about you - Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones, sung "you can't always get what you want." You may think you have the only solutions but their are others that have similar or different points of view. The risk here is sometimes your thoughts will be the direction, sometimes they won't. How you respond is under your control. Remember, Mick finished the lyrics by singing "but if you try sometimes, you may find, you get what you need." 
  3. The "Paper Towel" experience - A long time ago, someone said to me that we use our volunteer members like paper towels; keeping pulling off sheets of  contributions until you are left with a card board roll, then discard. This risk is all in how you view that statement. If you feel like you are being used, you'll sour on the HBA. What you have to place above that feeling is that during your time you gave to the best of your abilities and assisted in helping the HBA and, in turn, the building industry. You can't hold on to position and you need to recognize that others will be choosing to help, with you and after you. 
That's it; we covered time, input and ego. I can't think of any other risks but I'm sure there may be others. Again, if you identify these risks from the start, you will neutralize them, make them a non issue. Your choice.

The Benefits;
  1. Education - learning about the industry, the threats, the trends, the future. You will not find this in any college but you will not only find it through leadership but flourish with the knowledge you gain as an HBA leader.
  2. Working knowledge of government - some may say that they are not interested in politics. However, having an interest in how politics affects your home building industry career brings you knowledge that, when explained, delivers insight to you that you may not receive as a general member.
  3. Career improvement - whether you are a builder or an associate you will be able to apply your new found knowledge to your business. It's one of the returns you receive by investing your time in the association.
  4. Strategic planning and business direction - understanding where the industry is at the moment is great. Knowing where it is heading is better. Whether you build homes or supply product/service to the construction, you have competition. Leadership gives you a distinct advantage that your competitors won't have. Some will say "Mike, you are going against what you wrote, 'don't use the association!'" I wrote "utilize the association, don't use." Huge difference and as a leader you understand the knowledge you gain is part of utilization. 
  5. "Education and application" (better known as volunteer leadership) - there are training organizations, like Dale Carnegie, that will teach you the philosophy of leadership. There are organizations like the HBA that will not only teach you but give you hands on experience, learning by trial and error. This type of education will help you lead within your own company. Think about; if you could lead volunteers to success in the HBA imagine what you could do if you lead paid employees. 
  6. Relationships that last a lifetime - your time in the association as a leader brings quite a few benefits but the relationships you make are priceless. You are part of an extended family. Like any family you will have your share of "Kodak moments" as well a family squabbles. Please understand, as part of leadership, you won't go through tough times alone or ever rejoice with good news by yourself. Some may say that this isn't a benefit. I truly believe it has been an enormous benefit for me.
The benefits, like the risks, are also your choice. Choosing to be an HBA leader is always your decision. Never let other members pressure you to become involved or more involved. When the time is right you will know when the time is right for you. There will be plenty of times when you reach  the proverbial fork in the road and how you choose to make the decisions will ultimately teach you lessons and, if lessons are learned, will help your future decision making within the association and within your profession.

I would like to thank the past, the present and the future leaders of our association. You are a rare breed in a "what's in it for me" world; you care. Almost all the presidents of our HBA smile when they are making the transition to "past president." They will say they are relieved that their time is over. I don't believe them for a minute. They are smiling because they know they gave it their all for the home building industry and that smile is one of satisfaction that they didn't sit back and watched, they led.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

November 13, 2011

Leadership - "Associate Vice President"

Last week's article we discussed the functions and makeup of the HBA senior officers. Today's article will highlight associate leadership within the HBA and specifically focus on the associate vice president position. Some HBAs do not have this position but their bylaws allow for an associate to become an officer. This is also the case for some state associations and NAHB does not have any associates serving as a senior officer. The "reasons" for not having this position are plentiful and the reality of the concerns is quite the contrary. If you were to ask any executive officer what the associate members bring to the HBA they would say that associates are invaluable volunteers and investors in the association. They are also business people, like builders, who manage their businesses, strategically plan for their business' future, recruit new accounts (think members for the HBA) and can troubleshoot with the best of them. The associates, if they are educated in the HBA leadership process, are a fantastic resource for the senior officers in the strategic planning and marketing of the HBA. Associates understand the affects of a brutally sluggish economy, particularly in our industry, and the need to do their part in helping the builders start building again. Builders and associates are tied together in the home building and remodeling arena and both need each other to be a complete one.

The Associate Vice President (AVP)
If your HBA "allows" associates to serve as an officer but they do not have an AVP position understand that the associate officer has other responsibilities. If they are the treasurer their primary focus is on the financial health of the HBA  and if they are the secretary their responsibility is the  administrator for the board. 

Why create an AVP position at your HBA? 
  1. The AVP's will help, with proper focus, the associate members who account for two-thirds of the membership (on average). What issues are affecting the associates need to be understood as much as builder issues. There are many reasons I could give you for saying that but the number one reason would be that associates are the massive majority of investments (sponsorships, membership dues) and attendees of HBA events. The health of the HBA is dependent upon this income and participation. The AVP will help in assisting the senior officers in communicating with the associate members and giving the "other" point of view of the industry.
  2. This position helps foster a better overall team approach for the HBA and destroys the old "Us' v. Them'ns" mentality. Unfortunately, this still exists within the Federation.
  3. The AVP, when visiting with his or her officers team, will highlight the complete building industry. I have personally visited with state legislators and federal legislators, always with builder leadership. The legislators revived a different point of view and had a better understanding of just how many people are affected by industry roadblocks and stoppages.
  4. If your HBA doesn't have any associates on its senior officer team it is time to rethink that bylaw and work to amend. Associates want to serve, they want to be a part of the solutions and actions to help the builders, the building industry.
What is the role of the AVP?
  1. Spokesperson for the associate membership.
  2. Motivator.
  3. Communicator.
  4. Liaison.
  5. Mentor.
  6. Should help to create an associates committee for the main purpose of industry education and working on business issues that affect associates.
  7. Identifies opportunities for increased builder-associate interaction and partnerships.
  8. Blends the associate members needs with the ultimate goals of the HBA.
  9. Identify the effects of board actions, legislation, regulation and economic climate on associate members.
  10. "If it affects builders it will affect associates" is the AVP's position in discussing HBA actions with the associate membership.
  11. Part of the "one voice" of HBA leadership.
Some have just read this and are asking "why do we need an associate to perform these actions?" We have talked about peer to peer in fundraising articles and the same approach is successful here. Builders will speak to associates about building industry issues as if the associate always understands. The AVP will ask the "meaning, cause and effect" questions in officer discussions and break the issues down into its simplest form and communicate the information to the associates. I am not saying associates are not bright; I'm saying they don't deal day to day with the same issues that builders do and therefore not accustomed to the verbiage. But we do understand the point made in # 10 above all to well.

Associates, if you do choose to continue on the leadership path and becoming an AVP is a leadership goal, remember, it's your choice to do so. The business of the association comes before your business. If you can't be an officer without leaving your personal business outside the meeting room door then you should not aspire to this level of leadership. You can't be an effective leader with a personal agenda and you will actually go backwards in how others will view you. 

Next week's blog will detail the benefits and risks of being a volunteer HBA leader.

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

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader." ~ John Adams

Note: This series of blog posts are based on The NAHB Associates power point presentation titled "Unlocking the Mystery of Associate Leadership." A special thank you to the New Jersey Builders Association for donating the presentation to NAHB in hopes that our associate members across the Federation could help those members who would like to contribute their skills and talents in leadership.

November 6, 2011

Leadership - "The Senior Officers"

"Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm." ~ Publilius Syrus (100B.C.)
It has been said that all journeys come to an end so the road to leadership would seem to end with becoming an officer of the HBA. On the contrary, it really is only the beginning. We have spoken about volunteers, committee chairs and board of directors. Each level brings you closer to that feeling of ownership in the association. When you become an officer you develop a desire to truly be the protector. How deep that desire goes is up to each individual but you are protective of the HBA nonetheless and you know are a part of its fabric. Your days as an officer could be many years removed but most past officers, particularly presidents, still are engaged because the HBA never left them. This is a good thing. 

Senior officers are that beacon of light on a stormy night. They lead when some may choose to take cover. Their natural instincts are fight, not flight, and inspire others to stay the course. As I write this article, our industry is in the worst economic crisis it's ever experienced. Local, state and national officers, in today's world, are the reasons I believe we will make it through this time in our home building industry.

The Senior Officers:
HBA officers have the same requirements as board members. This level of leadership goes further as the officers work on the internal management of the HBA and have more of a time commitment that a board member. To become a leader in the HBA is a personal choice and a professional commitment.
The most important point to remember as an officer is this; "one thought, one voice" mentality. It is certainly fine to have disagreements as officers, in fact it makes for a healthy discussion. However, when the door to the officers' meeting room opens, an effective officer team comes out united in course and action.

PresidentThe president is THE voice of the association, to the association and on behalf of the association. Presidents are the ones who meet with legislators, support the association's policies internally & externally as well as govern & guide the flow of conversation of the board. 
Presidents also make committee chair appointments that help to establish leaders, create and set agendas for task forces and lead by example. Local HBA presidents generally represent their local on the state board level and should be involved with the state HBA on conveying the local's concerns and help craft guidance.

In the previous article on the board of directors I wrote that the chief elected officer (president), according to NAHB by-laws, is a builder member. The reasons are multiple but there are a few worth mentioning due to the fact that some HBAs allow an associate to be their president:
  1. This is a builders association that encompasses the entire home building industry. Suppliers, service providers and trades (AKA associates) are part of the association, should help lead within the association but should not be, in my opinion, the lead voice of the association.
  2. Builders are the members that have to work with planning boards, building inspectors, regulatory agencies, potential home owners, etc. The builders take the upfront risks to bring a project from the planning stages through the closing. Who better to lead than someone who has "skin in the game."
Roles of the builder ladder (vice presidents) ~ Next in leadership, depending on the individual HBA, you will have a first and possibly a second vice president (builder) to advance up the leadership ladder. In some very fortunate cases there may even be a third vice president.These positions are integral to the success of the HBA as it establishes a succession of builder leadership. Each vice president may have, depending on the individual HA, oversight of a particular aspect of the association through an assigned standing committee or a political action committee. 
  1. These positions help the builder officers become prepared to take over the reins of the HBA by becoming acclimated to the personalities of the HBA and educated of the issues of the HBA.
  2. These positions also gives multiple points of view, from other builders, to the president and help set up a continued association strategy for success.
Roles of the treasurer and secretary positions These positions, depending on the local's by-laws, can be either a builder or an associate (if not part of the builder ladder) and are extremely important in the overall management of the HBA.
  1. Treasurer ~ The treasurer's main responsibility is to take charge of the association's money. The treasurer works with the executive officer to establish a budget for the HBA, submitting the budget for board approval and helps to identify ways to increase "the rainy day funds" through investments and/or other means of keeping the HBA in the black. The treasurer should hopefully have a better than average financial sense.
  2. Secretary ~ this officer position should help to prepare the agenda for board meetings, should send regular and special board meeting notices to the directors, should record the minutes of the individual board meetings and should be, when votes are taken, the official vote tabulator. 
The Immediate Past President ~ After serving on the ladder for multiple years the builder who climbed the ladder and reached the presidency took over for somebody. That somebody was a man or woman who gave their time to, hopefully, making the HBA a little better, a little stronger. We shake their hand and give them a past presidents pin at the installation of the new president. That is not enough for most because they need to stay apart of the team as they make the transition from president to trusted advisor. The immediate past president, in some HBAs, is considered an officer. Some retain a vote within officers' discussions, some don't. Some give their opinion when needed others help to strengthen a new president who may still need some seasoning. Regardless of the purpose this is a person who brings stability and history to discussions. They are most likely your most valued counsel during meetings. The position, more importantly person, is your key to builder leadership recruitment as well. The immediate past president most likely serves as the HBA Nominating Committee Chairman.

The Associate Vice President ~ This position was saved for the end of this article for a reason. Most HBAs have at least one associate as an officer. I say most because there are still some, although extremely small percentage, of HBAs that won't allow associates to be on the HBA board, much less an officer. This is, in my opinion, an incredibly important position within the HBA and one that has a great understanding of the, on average, two-thirds membership of the association. 

I wont't spend time within this article describing this position because.......
next week's blog will define the associate vice president position, the need for the position and effective ways associates should lead from this position.

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

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader." ~ John Adams

Note: This series of blog posts are based on The NAHB Associates power point presentation titled "Unlocking the Mystery of Associate Leadership." A special thank you to the New Jersey Builders Association for donating the presentation to NAHB in hopes that our associate members across the Federation could help those members who would like to contribute their skills and talents in leadership.