The Value of an Active Associate Member

Courtesy of: Michael Kurpiel, C.G.A. , C.G.P

It seems like a great idea. Join the local HBA, go to a general membership meeting and watch your customer list grow.

“Looking for a way to boost your business? Join the HBA! Attend a few general membership meetings and VOILA—new business is beating down your door within days! But wait, that’s not all!!

This actually sounds like an early Sunday morning infomercial on some obscure cable TV station. And like so many of those dubious infomercials claim, the product they are promoting really doesn’t work.  At least not like the spokesperson claimed it would.  Something that’s too good to be true… well, you know the rest.

While these are fantastic networking events that help you build your social capital, the fact of the matter is quite simple; the association is not just about attending general membership meetings and/or HBA events and then gaining business.  But before I go any further, let me explain the importance of those events; the net profit of each and every event goes toward the operating expenses of the HBA.  Event attendance, sponsorships and your membership dues all help the local stay in business.  And why should you care if the local stays in business?
In order to answer that question, let’s understand the local association, and what your membership is all about, starting by giving a brief summary of the HBA.  (My interpretation of HBA 101 is just my opinion, but it is an opinion built on years of watching, learning and participating at all three levels of HBA membership, local, state and national).

The HBA is the watchdog for building industry threats such as regulatory roadblocks, enviro-elitist agendas, governmental cost increasing red-tape and any other known home building obstacles that would slow or, in some cases, stop home building.  The local senior officers and local board of directors, all volunteers, along with professional staff monitor the above concerns and threat to the home building world.  And when the threats surface, these volunteer leaders take action.  And if you read your local’s monthly publication or local HBA industry briefs, you will learn what actions are taking place and what may be needed to help secure positive results.  Every company, every individual, which/who is in the home building world, owes their livelihoods to the volunteers and professional HBA staff, that help protect all of our careers.

The purpose of summarizing the HBA goes to the value of an active associate member.  Let me start with associates in general.  Associates, which make up two-thirds of the HBA membership, are broken down into three categories;

  • Suppliers;
  • Trades;
  • Service Providers.

Each of the three has a much needed part in the home building process. For instance, I provide building materials.  Suffice to say that without lumber, it would be difficult to supply the frame of a residential home.  However, I know that if the home builder is not building, there is no need for my company’s lumber.  For that matter, there would be no need for masons, plumbers, electricians, drywall contractors, roofers, siders, mortgage reps, home warranty providers, etc. (If I missed your discipline, sorry).  Answer this question:  “If a home builder stops working today, would you be working tomorrow?” If your answer is yes, well you really don’t need the home builders association.  However, if your answer is “NO” then you would have a huge problem.

How do you secure your future if you rely on home builders for income, for a career? Become active in your industry, because it is your industry.  The builder takes all the risks in home building.  The builder has to secure the financing for acquisitions, continued financing for development and the actual construction of each home.  In the meantime, builders also deal with the bureaucracy of government agencies needed in building each home.  That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  We, as associate members, sit and wait

for our part in the home building process to occur, with financial risks as well, but not the same as the builders’  risks.  Associates benefit from the parts they provide, but the builder doesn’t benefit until completion of the project.

I hope you are following me because now I will give you my version of the home building cycle of life.

  1. Builder needs a viable HBA for its watchdog efforts in protecting the advancement of the home building industry as well its “strength in numbers voice.”
  2. Associates need builder to actually build in order to stay in business.
  3. The HBA needs engaged and active members to keep the HBA profitable knowing that those profits keep the HBA viable to be the industry watchdog.

And the cycle starts at number 1 and can not be broken or interrupted.  Builders would be hampered enormously without the HBA.  If a builder is affected, the associate will be affected.  And if members in general are affected then the HBA becomes affected.  And so on and so on…

Now, where do the Active Associate Members and their value fit in?  These are the volunteers that have decided to help the HBA remain viable (read the home building cycle of life again for a  through volunteerism and/or financial support.  Active associates plan and prepare for the HBA’s much needed net-profit generating events, they make the member outreach for sponsorships, member retention and recruitment, support HBA events through attendance and have taken a proactive stance in educating their co-workers and employers to the HBA’s value to the home builder.  There are a lot of associates who are members, but only 10-20 % takes an active role in HBA support.  If you go back, once again, to the home building cycle of life, you can see why active associates are indispensable to our association/industry.  Home builders who seek out and utilize the active associates are the ones who are in this industry for the long haul.

Associates who are active, care about the home builders’ concerns and risks and want to secure their own company’s business interests as well.  The value of an active associate member cannot be measured in black and white, unless you are looking at your HBA’s budget.  But if you believe in the value of the HBA, you can’t ignore the reasons why the HBA is financially healthy, vibrant and relevant.  Active associate members are volunteers that balance that fine line between association initiatives and their employment initiatives.  And the active associates’ industry knowledge, gained by being involved, makes them more than just a sales rep; it makes them a valuable trade partner to the home builder and invaluable asset to their employer!

What better way to thank those associates than by giving them the opportunities to help with their continued employment.  “Do Business with a Member” is a slogan from NAHB that state and local HBAs have utilized in directories and other HBA publications.  But it is so much more than a slogan; it should be gospel.  But let’s turn the knob up even further.  Do Business with An ACTIVE member, starting with active associates.

The home building cycle of life is needed for all of us to survive, particularly now.  We will survive this economic crisis and home building will return.  The HBA will make sure that when home building returns, it will return stronger than ever.  We need to support those active associate members and give them thanks.  As financially difficult as times are, these members did not abandon the HBA.  Their value is their loyalty to the home building industry and its continued protection for all of our careers, builder and associate.

The “Do Business with An Active Member” philosophy can only help engage dormant  members to become engaged and increase the power of the HBA’s protection of the home building industry.  That protection helps all associates with the current customers.  The HBA gives you opportunities for business and to rise above your competitors by being active.

As I end my “conversation”, I can only hope and encourage every member to keep appreciating those active associates or start to appreciate their efforts.  September is Associate Appreciation month, so declared by NAHB and many local and state HBAs.  Maybe it should not have to be declared and is the mindset all year round.

Thank you to all the active associate members for giving me the opportunity to have a career in the home building industry”.