The Long View on Relationships
The Long View on Relationships
You never know how or when a professional relationship will benefit you. If you’ve read my past articles, you know by now that I spend a fair amount of time building relationships. I don’t do it because I expect to gain something specific; I do it because I have learned that, at some point, every relationship has value.
Sometimes I find the value simply in the good conversations and sense of camaraderie as we work through the challenges the construction industry throws our way. Other times, our relationships allow us to accomplish things more collectively by leveraging our combined knowledge, expertise and position. When I think of the latter, a few instances come to mind that might help you appreciate the worthwhile return on the time investment of building a broad collection of professional relationships.
One instance is this building official I’ve become friends with over the years. He currently serves as the Deputy Building Official for the City of Des Moines, IA. We’ve gotten to know each other through meetings of the Mid Iowa Construction Code Council (MICCC) and the Iowa Association of Building Officials (IABO). I try to attend as many of those meetings as I can. One, it lets me know a great deal about what building inspectors are looking for in the field and the issues they are having; and two, it gives me advance notice of building code or code enforcement changes.
Early on, I was pretty quiet in those meetings. I just listened and introduced myself to other attendees when I had the chance. Every once in a while, there would be a question related to truss installation, and I would share my opinion, based on either how my company dealt with an issue, or a broader point of view that had been developed through the SBCA Board of Directors. After a few years, when an issue was raised in my area of expertise, they’d immediately ask me for my input. They didn’t always agree with me, but at least they asked for my opinion.
Eventually, I became friends with the Deputy Building Official when I argued that the City of Des Moines should avoid adopting the code provision that required gypsum to be installed on unprotected floor assemblies, unless they were constructed of 2x10s (see March 2015 issue of SBC where I talk more about this issue). While the City of Des Moines ultimately voted against our industry, the respectful dialogue and sharing of common end goals helped establish that our industry’s point of view and perspective are valuable for them to consider on future issues.
Recently, that relationship began to reap benefits for our company, and frankly, our entire industry in Iowa. He asked me for truss layouts, so he could train some new building officials on how to read them. Not only did I provide him with layouts, I also dropped off BCSI installation training for the new hires. I even offered to do a training session for their new building inspectors in our market. It was a win-win: They got training, and it saved us a bunch of headaches going forward because these new building officials will know what to look for from the start.
Another example is the relationship I’ve developed with our local Habitat for Humanity. Many of you have probably worked with this worthwhile organization at one time or another. Recently, I’ve been involved with Habitat projects as a favor to some of our largest homebuilder customers. We’ve become someone they know they can contact when they need help coordinating the framing of Habitat homes in the Des Moines area. Because of that, I recently was given the opportunity to provide BCSI installation training to a group of Habitat jobsite supervisors.
Not only is it beneficial to have that group knowledgeable about proper truss installation on their many jobsites, but through programs like this, we now have better relationships with a wide variety of framers throughout the metropolitan Des Moines area. One fringe benefit was that I was able to bring in our new truss designers, and a few people from our home plan design team, to go through the bracing and truss installation training at the same time. It was a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Another good example is my relationship with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). Sen. Ernst was recently elected to Congress, and was actually the first confirmed Senator to give the Republicans official control of the U.S. Senate after the last election. Originally, she was an Iowa State Senator, and her district included Osceola, the town where our manufacturing plant is located. Sen. Ernst used to host a lunch once a month in Osceola, and I always made it a habit to attend.
Over the months, I had the opportunity to talk with her and share my perspective on everything from the economy to our business to the military. She was a Lieutenant Colonel with the Iowa Army National Guard, and as I learned about her service to our country, I shared with her stories of my son’s tours of duty overseas. We had a mutual respect and care for our nation’s service men and women, and we also got to meet each other at various military-related events.
Recently, Sen. Ernst came back to Iowa and I, along with a small group of Iowa HBA members, was fortunate to have a quick meeting with her (see photo). This was a great opportunity not only to catch up with her and learn about her experiences in Washington, DC, but also to talk about some of the challenges we face here with regard to a shortage of production labor, workforce training for skilled labor, and the effect of the code provisions we will need to overcome as Iowa looks to adopt the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC), especially affordability in rural areas. Overall, it was great to see her, and to have her assurance she’s willing to help us if and when we need it.
Again, you never know when a relationship can prove to be valuable—invaluable even—and you certainly can’t forge a new relationship assuming you will get an immediate benefit out of it (people have a tendency of seeing right through that). However, being a good resource for information and common sense always seems to build fast friendships. I can’t encourage you enough to take my experiences to heart and make a similar effort in your marketplace.
Start with a building official you work with periodically. Learn their struggles and find a way to help them out. I guarantee, you won’t regret the investment. You never know when they’ll be in a position to return the favor and help you.