The reason our national, state and local home builders associations (HBA) have bylaws can be summed up in 4 primary reasons;
- Consistency - rules and policies, in the form of bylaws, can be applied on a consistent basis so that no one person or group can dictate.
- Efficiency - bylaws include procedures for decision making so that the business of the association can be conducted efficiently.
- Protection - bylaws protect the group from internal conflict and financial risk as well as straying of course regarding overall mission statement.
- Legitimacy - bylaws give the members assurance of the mission, structure, and policies of the association.
This issue has been discussed at the national meetings within various groups and committees, as recently as the NAHB Spring Board Meeting in Washington, DC this past June.
- This is a builders association and the chief elected officer (known as the president) needs to have "skin in the game." That would be a builder member. Builders deal directly with the legislative and regulatory roadblocks that constantly occur when building homes, risk their capital, hope that they bring the home in under budget, or at least at budget, and sell to a qualified buyer. This is not to say associates don't take risks but at the end of the day their number 1 primary "risk," as it pertains to the home building process, is maintaining overhead while waiting for the builder to actually engage in the building process and persuading the builder to buy their product or contract their service.
- It is good for the image of the local HBA, from an external perspective, having a builder as president. Internally, it demonstrates a strong builder "ownership" of the local which makes it easier to gain associate dues because of builder presence and non dues revenue.
- The housing depression ended the businesses of quite a few builders.
- The home builder "survivors" now have to focus on their business as the recovery slowly takes hold. This may mean less time to volunteer builder leadership roles.
- Local HBAs were not immune to the dramatic downturn, with membership totals dropping at paces that few have ever witnessed and. along with the drop in numbers, a loss of sponsorship dollars and other non dues revenue.
- strategically plan their business' direction
- create and manage budgets
- develop marketing plans that help with their branding efforts
- work with or manage employees
- they are, in some instances, community leaders
The local HBA must exhaust every avenue in assuring that this NAHB bylaw be followed because it's not in the best interest of the HBA to follow bylaws once in awhile. The facts are evident; some local HBAs have had, or currently have, associates as presidents. NAHB will not recognize that presidency due to the bylaws. Bylaws either mean something or they don't. If they don't, then throw them all out. If they do, adhere to all of them. If you don't like one or a few, act to amend. When one bylaw is consistently broken it opens the door for others to be broken as well.
There are only two actions that can take place;
- strict enforcement of the bylaw or
- an amendment to this particular bylaw that would have this sentiment as a rough draft;
- Do to the increased hardship of attaining a qualified builder in a particular calendar year, an associate in good standing and thoroughly vetted by that particular local HBA's board of directors, serve no more than one year given the emergent situation of not having a president at all.
- The local must demonstrate that they have a leadership program in place, with help from NAHB, and that they have a pool of upcoming builder candidates.
- No one associate member can serve more than one year with multiple builder presidents in between.
There should never be a bylaw change that allows associates to be president of a local, however, why have a vacant presidency, or worse yet, a builder who can not fulfill his or her responsibility due to their need to focus on business, but takes the role because of the pressure of "you have to" when you could have a qualified and vetted (by builders) associate manage the local for one calendar year. This ensures the local's strategic plan for growth and success as an organization. A sail boat with out sails just drifts.
There is a "danger" of allowing associates to be installed as presidents without developing builder leaders; you will eventually endanger your state builder leadership pool, if you do not strive to strengthen your builder leadership pool at the local level,
The NAHB board of directors, with their makeup being 100% local members, needs to carefully review this situation because a good amount of locals are facing this potential situation and would look for a compromise, meaning an amendment. Because bylaws are not just once in awhile.
Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP