January 6, 2014

"Thoughts on Being a Local HBA President"

2014 and beyond
"Happy New Year! " Three words that make everyone feel as if they can start anew, chart a new course, change their way of life. Of course, there may not be anything you need to change within your life. Still, those three words do make most people feel very good. So good, in fact, that they make promises to themselves, set goals. In other-words, resolutions. There, I typed it and you read it. Resolutions.

One of my many resolutions (because, surprisingly, I'm not perfect) is to help locals develop leadership, specifically, developing local builder officers  for the HBA ladder, meaning a succession towards presidency with a builder as president.  I won't rehash my thoughts on why locals should have builders as president but I would like to encourage local home builders association (HBA) to keep seeking qualified builders to groom and serve.  
As an associate, I can't describe how builders feel about serving as local president, so I thought why not let a builder describe the feelings and benefits of serving the local. Today's blog article, first of 2014, will bring you "a local president Q & A" session with Barbara Chiusano, Chiusano Homes (click here), a home builder from New Jersey. I have known Barbara for many years and she is, without question, one of our most passionate leaders and, on a personal note, a dear friend who I had the privilege to serve as her associate vice president.
Barbara,  is a single-family & multifamily home builder from Marlton, NJ. The Chiusano family has been building homes in the South Jersey/Philadelphia market since the 1950s with Barbara joining the family business in 1981. The Chiusano family has had multiple family members with membership within the Builders League of South Jersey (BLSJ) for over 40 years, and Barbara, serving on BLSJ's board since 1997, became the second family member to serve as local president in 1999 and again in 2007.

Barbara Chiusano
What led you to become a member of your local home builders association (HBA)?

I was following a family tradition.  At Chiusano Homes, we look on being actively involved in the association as a part of doing business and being a professional builder.

What were your first impressions of the local HBA?

I was awed by the extent of the talent and knowledge of the BLSJ members as well as the activities designed to help our industry.

Did you experience an immediate value to yourself professionally?

Yes, the opportunity to meet, speak with and develop relationships with other builders, associates, business owners and professionals provided a new and very useful network of contacts. 

Did you experience an immediate value to your company and its strategic planning?

There were issues and topics being discussed that were relevant to our company and had the potential to directly impact our business.

What was your first role in HBA volunteerism and how did it make you feel?

Being asked to be on the local Board of Directors. Quite frankly, it was a little overwhelming to me because I had only minimum exposure to the local and did not have sufficient understanding of the workings of my local, and how it interacted with our state association and National.

What thoughts did you have regarding local committees and when did you realize the unique importance each committee has within the local?

It took me quite a while to understand the workings of the local and how the various committees contributed to the overall workings of the local.  I did find the Board reports from each of the committees very helpful.  When I was president, I made an effort to sit in on at least one committee meeting.  That really clarified the significance and role each committee played.

What were your initial impressions of the local board of directors?

I had a lot of respect for the members of the board, their commitment, knowledge and the extent of their involvement.  

When did you realize that your local played a prominent role in the building industry?

From being on the Board and listening to the committee reports.  As I progressed "up the ladder," and had more opportunity to participate within various committees, I got to see first-hand how active the local was in both municipal, county and state issues.  It was exciting to be a part of that.

What made you decide to accept a nomination to become a local board member?  

I recognized this as an excellent opportunity to further educate myself on the home building industry.

Could you explain your first memory of being asked to serve as an officer of your local? 

The first time, I was excited at the prospect of being much more involved, pleased that the members would consider me, and concerned that I would be able to do a good job.  The second time, I had actually volunteered.  I got on the ladder by default- the first choice had a job transfer.   

What thoughts were going through your mind when you attended your first local officers meeting?  
 It was a lot to absorb as “the new person”- trying to get myself up to speed on not just the issues, but the organization.  The second time, I was able to focus on the issues because I understood how the organization worked, and who the all the people were.

Did you experience a higher value, personally as well as professionally, by serving as an officer?

Absolutely; serving made me much more knowledgeable about issues; exposed me to people and situations I would  otherwise not been exposed to;  developed lasting business and personal relationships; and as an officer I was forced to do some things that were out of my comfort zone (public speaking for one).

Could you share your thoughts on the day you were installed as local president?

I just remember wanting to do the best job I possibly could do, both times!

What was your first board meeting like, for you personally, as the chief elected officer? 

For me, it was very personally challenging.  However, I had an excellent group of fellow officers and staff which made the job much less difficult including an EXCELLENT Associate VP whose name was Mike Kurpiel. (editor's decision to leave in the compliment about me.)

How did serving in the various leadership roles at the local help prepare you for your term as president?  
 It gave me the opportunity to learn the issues and concerns understand the organization, get to know the membership and to personally prepare myself to act as President and still do what was necessary to make sure my business was being attended to.

Could you explain how your years of volunteer service has helped you?

The knowledge gained by attending meetings and having the opportunity to discuss issues with my peers invaluable to me personally and to our company an whatever time I have put into the local I always consider an excellent investment.
My participation has helped me build and develop a network of contacts who continue to be an asset to our company.  Many of the associates that we currently utilize for our jobs are with us because we developed a relationship with them first through the association.

One of the things that have always impressed me is that members are willing to go out of their way to help and advise other members.  As an officer, I had the opportunity to work along with, and get to know, executives of some of the largest, most successful national and local builders, companies and professionals. Through that interaction, I was amazed at the amount of information I gained. I do not believe this would have happened had I not been active within the local,

Frankly, if you are not active, you are overlooking an excellent opportunity. I also would recommend to anyone to serve twice in any capacity!  It was something I was very glad that I did.

Your thoughts on residential construction’s future for the next 5 years?

Slow, but steady and cautiously optimistic.  I believe that new construction will have an edge over existing homes.  There have been quite a few changes in codes, technology, construction techniques, new products and new floor plans that an existing home just cannot compete with.

 I think that the overall concept of home ownership is alive and well, but the pool of potential buyers and their expectations and lifestyles have changed.  The building industry has to change with it to meet the needs, wants and expectations of today’s contemporary buyers. 

Barbara Chiusano and her 2007 officer team. From left to right; Rick Van Osten, Executive VP, Mike Kurpiel, Associate VP, Jerry Silvi, Treasurer, Barbara Chiusano, President, Pete Haran, VP of State Affairs, Bob Brown, 1st VP, Michael Paparone, 2nd VP.

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