March 31, 2014

"A Big Universe That Just Became Easier to Explore"

On a clear night, it seems you can visit other worlds just by gazing at the stars. Those stars and planets are there all the time, but sometimes we can't see them for the sun or clouds. But they are there, always. The only problem? No way to access unless you have your own space shuttle. But that would cost money, and training. The question is, having money and training, would you explore the universe?
When you take the time to clear your mind, like a clear evening sky, you can see a lot of things. When you take the time as an executive officer (stop laughing) you may see things as well, not the universe but our association. Our entire association. If I were to provide you with a space shuttle (train or plane) and training, would you explore our association? 

If yes, continue to read....
NAHB is providing the resources for executive officer orientation. From

What is the purpose of the program?
This orientation provides executive officers (EOs) the opportunity to become familiar with NAHB’s programs, products and services available to them and their members. Through networking with their peers and NAHB staff, EOs can more effectively articulate NAHB's benefits and services it makes available to HBAs and members.

Who’s eligible?
All full- and part-time executive officers of builder associations affiliated with NAHB can attend. NAHB Orientation is designed to benefit executive officers with less than five years of experience. However, all EOs are eligible to register! 

And the best part.... it's paid for by NAHB

NAHB's Executive Officer Orientation Program (login to, then click here)

I know quite a few executive officers and they are all busy with maintaining and growing their own memberships and scheduling meaningful general meetings. Most of them would say it's close to impossible to get away from the local. That may be true but if this orientation, if utilized efficiently, I could honestly say/type NAHB may have given you extra hours in the week, extra days in the year to be the best executive officer you can be. The benefit to you professionally is worth the two day time investment. NAHB believes you are the key to our grassroots membership so they believe in the financial investment. Your president, officers, board members and committee chairs will be very pleased with your universal knowledge of all levels of our association. Hopefully you clicked on the above link and read all the details. Please share this blog with your president and have him click on my name at the end if he or she would like to find out more.
There are a few hundred executive officers with less than five years under their belt, hired at the peek of the building industry depression or at least by the end. This orientation will deeply benfit them in particualr, but overall, all executive officers would benfit, and by extensuion, the local itself. 
In fact, before this was offered from NAHB, the locals in New Jersey paid for the trip to D.C. to send their respective executice officers to NAHB. From my home local; "The ability to meet my association peers in a 'one on one' environment helped establish national relationships as well as resources for my local membership, now and for the future." Gina Woolley, Executive Officer, Shore Builders Association of Central New Jersey. 

Why am I interested in your professional development? Because I, like NAHB, believe you are the key to increasing our membership, local by local. Presidents change from year to year but the executive officer is the one consistent part in the constantly moving machine we call "our association."

And..... it's all paid for by NAHB (did I mention that already?).


March 24, 2014

"'Competition is Good,' Said the Apple to the Orange"

"And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual,it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department."
                                                                                                                              - Andrew Carnegie

Competition; it brings out the best in people. Or at least the best the individual has to offer. Competition has always proven to be a way to have people excel IF they have the drive to be better, do better and effect change. It is clearly visible in pro sports, in the American free enterprise system and, to bring it to a more direct discussion, our association.
When you have one person running for an elected position the voters, get no CHOICE, no say in the matter. This may cause a candidate to go on cruise control, never really having to thoroughly explain their platform and their vision.
Every once in awhile, we have contested elections meaning more than one candidate is running for an elected office. More than one candidate running means we don’t have any one on cruise control, no one ordained. In 2014, at the national level of our association and for the first time in five years, we have a contested election for 3rd vice chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. We actually have the opportunity to see the next senior officer under fire, speaking on their beliefs, demonstrating how they can help our members be more successful and no matter how successful you are you can always strive to be a little bit more successful. This is America after all. If you are more successful that means you are better protected from outside influences looking to harm your business. Being successful also means to become more profitable. If builders are profitable, they build more. If they build more, associates gain more opportunities to sell. If that happens, local HBAs have better opportunities to gain more non dues revenue as well as retention and recruitment.
We don’t really know what’s on a candidate’s mind unless they are truly pressed. Uncontested means vanilla platforms. Contested delivers a very clear message. It also places a spotlight on each candidate as we hear from them on their platforms as well as answering questions from our membership. We get a chance to see and hear a little more clearly when our candidates are seen in that brighter light. 

What I don’t care for in contested elections is the “positions for votes” that we witness from time to time. “Support me and I will give you a chairmanship or a voting seat on a committee of your choice” is an example that I am sad to say occasionally happens. I like a candidate who will say to me “support me and I will help you with your business through our efforts as a team at NAHB” speaks volumes to me. I would accept a position because I earned it and others recognize that I have made even the slightest of a difference and not because I deliver votes. We are NAHB, not congress.

I also have a less than favorable view of opposing candidates, and their “team,” going negative against the other candidate. This happens at all levels of NAHB and it’s not the norm but does happen once in awhile. If you can’t win on what you bring to the federation, get out of the race. Does that not mean anything to the offending candidate? NAHB is not the place for negative campaigns, especially when we are fellow members. Such divisive tactics make it harder for us to stand UNIFIED as the voice of a great industry. Let's not forget that negative and derogatory comments from campaign teams are a direct reflection on that particular candidate. Campaign behavior is a true predictor of what one can expect out of a candidate in the future. What's that old saying "a leopard can't (or is it won't) change his spots?”
Yes, I believe contested elections have a great role in deciding who you trust with your livelihood and, by extension, your family and employees or co-workers and employers. It’s all about competition and the drive to bring out the best. And once you bring out the best in someone, you have improved them, translating into yet another success for our federation.
Remember, at the end of the day NAHB’s success is our success; it is your vote and you should use it wisely.

submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

March 17, 2014

"Random Thoughts, Thought Outloud"

It's been awhile since I let my inside voice come out, you know, the one that says things that should maybe not be said. I promise I won't say anything controversial (maybe a little), just some things that have been on my mind and I need to release them.

Home builders association elections are for candidates running for office, at any level of our federation. Generally speaking, we are electing leadership whose core mission is to help protect and grow our association so it is in good position to help protect and grow our industry. On that much we can all agree.

What raises my eyebrows is when members make an "off the record" declaration, before being approved by the governing body, of their intentions of running and ask “can I have your support?” The easy way to do this is to say “yes, you got it.” However, all voter eligible members should look at the entire field. Some who are intending to declare for a leadership position may be following certain guidelines and are waiting to announce. What if you backed a member who couldn’t officially ask for your vote and they followed protocol? Does that mean you are obligated to fulfill that support already given regardless of who another candidate may be? What if that other candidate was a better choice for the association at that moment in time, does that mean you will still vote for the person you gave your support because you’d feel bad about pulling your support?

Here’s is my point; don’t commit until you know all the candidates. Understand their positions on things that are important to you and your association. Make an educated choice when voting, not just because the candidate who came to you first is a great guy or fantastic lady. We need leaders and leaders come from understanding your concerns and how we feel the association needs to be led.

Oh, and one more thing; rumors. There is an old song lyric that goes “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” Leaders don’t feed into second hand information or he said/she said. If you want to know someone’s opinion or position, ask them. That way you can see their face, read their eyes and know exactly how they feel through in person contact. Throw out rumors; they are not healthy and cause misinformation to go off like wildfire.

Readers will think I’m writing my opinion on this matter about a particular election but that's just speculating. There are quite a few elections coming up at the local, state and even national levels and I may be addressing all of them. Who really knows? I’ll leave the particulars in my thoughts but my actions will be to vote for the candidate I feel will best represent us and I am stating that I personally will not endorse or support any candidate for any office until I know that both (or more) are officially recognized as a candidate and I know their positions on certain points of association direction. It is my responsibility as an eligible voter to do what’s best for my association and industry; not for myself or another individual.

That's it, I feel much better now. As you were.

submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

March 3, 2014

"X, Y, BOOM"

"The Times They Are a-Changin'" was released in 1964 which, coincidentally, is the same year as the end of the baby boomer births. I happen to be part of that generation and as I race towards my 54th birthday (June 8th: cards and gifts appreciated), I notice a lot more gray spreading through my hair. My facial hair, if I allowed it to grow out, would make me literally a gray beard. After more than a quarter of a century as a member, spending some of those years engaged in leadership roles, I am figuratively and literally a gray beard. I remember, like it was yesterday, my first day on my local's board of directors, age 34. I was "that" group of membership, the new kid on the block, but still, I was a baby boomer. As one of the new and younger board members, my thoughts and ideas were heard, but not truly listened to by my elder statesman (and one woman which was another issue back then!) on the board. 
Well, here I am almost 20 year later and I'm the elder statesman. I realized something along the way; I was taught to mentor, to listen to other, fresher points of view and to make sure I did my part to prepare the association for the future, well after I was gone. 

The association wasn't meant for me to rule. The association was meant to protect my industry and safeguard it to the best of my volunteer abilities. The one thing I did not do was think about the next generation. Lately, over the past 5-6 years, I self taught social media mechanics and application, created Facebook pages and Linkedin groups as well as engaged on Twitter. What I didn't realize was the next generation, X and Y, were already here in full force on social media. The Millennials are as well. I then look around our federation and realize we are not making inroads towards the  future of NAHB.

When we get married and start families, we are setting the course for our family's continued growth. We raise our children into adults, preparing them to start their own families perhaps. And on it goes. This is the way it has been for life, but why would we think our association is different from life? Are we preparing our "family" for its future or are we living in the here and now and letting  the next generation fend for themselves? 

Just so you know, the average age of an NAHB member is now 56 years old with the average age of our board over 60 years old. Where is the youth? Where will the future protectors of NAHB come from? We can certainly try and invite Gen X & Y, but they need to have a focused purpose. They have young families that take away or limit their volunteer time. X & Y have a dramatically different business climate to navigate and it's extremely difficult to break free for extended periods of time. Even if X & Y could participate, would they be listened to by the 50 plus year old  NAHB leaders, who sometimes could be set in their ways and have no appetite for change,  in discussions of association direction?
Change is going to happen whether the current NAHB leaders believe that or not. They just have to remember back when they were the new kids on the block. If we don't begin to incorporate the next generation everything we baby boomers worked for within NAHB will be in jeopardy of fading away. If you believe what you are currently doing as a volunteer is for the greater good of our industry,  you would be derelict in your role as an NAHB leader not to embrace the enviable; we must bring in the next generation. Now.

Gen X & Y will not;

  • participate if the purpose is not clearly defined
  • engage if meetings are long and not settled with a clear cut decision of action
  • will not leave their families for full weeks at a time
  • will not want to be involved with political positioning of others

NAHB Membership committee is currently forming a working group to start looking at tools to help the locals recruit Gen X & Y into the local, as members first, and then mentor to bring them into association leaders.  This working group will not have the traditional members or staff, meaning those who have been around. No, this working group is being comprised of, wait for it..... Gen X & Y members and staff. Hopefully, when all is said and done, the findings of this group will be sent out for discussion.

Generational change starts at the grass roots level which are the local HBAs. This gray beard fully understands that change will come. I won't resist, I'll embrace. What say you?