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FMI Quarterly/September 2013/September 1, 2013

Trade Associations and Industry Service Partners: What Do They Offer?

Industry6_imageIf you are involved in the construction industry, chances are you are a member of a local, state or national trade association. If not, you probably have a working relationship with a construction industry-related service partner, such as a CPA group, software company or law firm.

Whether you are a general contractor, a construction manager or a specialty trade contractor, there are plenty of educational opportunities for you to participate in a variety of targeted trade associations. The opportunity is there. Are you taking advantage?

By offering education, trade associations and industry service providers support their members and clients with information and management techniques that add value in helping contractors become more effective in managing their businesses.

You and your business can benefit by taking advantage of the educational programs these associations or organizations offer. Each is staffed with professionals who constantly explore developments for the industry they serve, and many provide a wide variety of learning opportunities.

EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE

Depending on the position within the construction firm, there are a range of opportunities for most personnel. For example, those in general contractor upper management can use their membership to take advantage of education with the Associated General Contractors( AGC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) or at a seminar put on by an industry service partner where the topics and agenda are specifically developed for those in such roles.

In addition to general contractor trade associations, many owners, presidents and CEOs are involved in other specialty associations, such as the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA), Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), and the Sheet Metal and the Air Conditioning Association (SMACNA), to name a few.

The Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) was developed to serve the educational needs of chief financial officers in the construction industry. CFOs are continually informed on topics relevant to the practice of construction financial management via courses and seminars.

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) is North America’s only organization dedicated exclusively to the interests of professional construction and program management.

Local trade associations offer education for non-management roles as well. Workshops are geared towards field personnel, such as estimating, project management, safety training, expanding market share and people management.

EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS

The quantity of construction industry-related educational offerings that exists is staggering. There really is something for everyone! Annual conferences and conventions are an obvious opportunity for local and state trade associations to offer education to their members.

The largest construction industry convention, CONEXPO-CON/AGG, which is owned and produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), is an international exposition held every three years in Las Vegas, Nev. This convention is aimed toward everyone in the construction industry interested in improving bottom-line performance, elevating industry standards and increasing personal proficiency and expertise. Showcasing the latest equipment, products, services and technologies, the 2014 CONEXPO-CON/AGG is slated to feature more than 2,400 exhibitors and a comprehensive education program with sessions emphasizing industry issues and trends, management and applied technology. More than 130,000 are expected to attend the next convention.

CMAA presents two national gatherings annually. The Owners Leadership Forum is held in the spring, and the National Conference & Trade Show takes place in the fall. In addition, professional development programs, including instructor-led courses, self-paced online programs and webinars, are offered throughout the year.

“While it is often difficult, spending two or three days away from my office gives me renewed perspective and energy on my work and my organization,” states Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, LEED AP, Architect of the Capitol. “The educational sessions at CMAA’s Leadership Forum offer a unique opportunity to get continuing education credits that we all need for our professional registrations. They also are strongly relevant to my current business. All of us are dealing with BIM, LEAN, risk, constructability, commissioning, scheduling, knowledge management and partnering every day. This year’s Leadership Forum theme focuses on ‘solutions and connections’ and I ask, Who doesn’t need both solutions and connections to be successful?”

If traveling to a national convention is not in your travel budget, then perhaps you can take advantage of educational opportunities within your own state. ABC of Alabama hosts an annual BizCon event, which is focused on business connections. Alabama’s leading contractors from four Southeastern states attend this annual event for networking and in-depth and unprecedented economic development and trends that affect development in the Southeast.

Mittie Cannon, director of Workforce Development with Robins & Morton, has attended the ABC Alabama BizCon event for the past three years. “I attend BizCon because it allows me networking and professional development opportunities,” states Cannon. “As a workforce development professional young in my profession, it is critical that I network with others across the industry. This allows me to learn from others through live dialogue and the exchange of ideas. BizCon helps me better understand the status of the industry and where we are headed. I do not always think about the industry from an economist’s perspective, but at BizCon, you hear and learn the economics of construction. It is important that we have these conferences. And the training will help me better serve Robins & Morton as well as the industry.”

The Washington Society Certified Public Accountants continuing professional education program is the most extensive educational resource for CPAs in Washington state, offering more than 12,000 hours of live professional education annually. From tax education, fraud education, or chapter or committee events, there are so many different types of educational opportunities from which construction financial managers can choose.

Based in Chicago and able to serve clients nationwide, The PrivateBank Construction and Engineering Group focuses on architects, engineers, contractors (general, prime, sub and specialty) and building material suppliers. During its annual conference, The PrivateBank Construction and Engineering Group provides its clients with presentations on topics pertinent to the construction industry, including business strategy and emerging national and local trends.

GOING ONLINE TO LEARN

Trade associations and service providers are now offering remote events, such as webinars, to educate members in a large circumference area. There are many valuable reasons why webinars have increased recently. Travel is not required for attendees, as they can join in from their office or home computer. Hence, there is more time for the attendee to be dedicated to the webinar. Another benefit is that attendees can invite other members of their organization to observe the webinar, which reduces education costs to the employer.

Webinars also benefit the host, as there is no meeting space or equipment to be rented. In many cases, the association or organization can keep a copy of the webinar and post the presentation on its website, providing member value and increasing the number of visitors to the organization’s website. The host can also distribute copies to its membership or clients via email.

Dexter + Chaney supplies the construction industry with award-winning construction software for business and operations. The software firm offers a popular series of complimentary webinars designed to help today’s busy professional plan, develop and execute best practices for the construction industry. Some of the topics included in its 2013 series are Lawsuits: Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best; Driving Best Practices in Business Development; From Good to World-Class: Where Are You on the Contractor’s Life Cycle?; Building Customer Satisfaction; and Previews of Construction Software.

The Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) is uniquely dedicated to serving the acoustical and specialty ceilings and interior finishes industry. CISCA provides market-driven solutions, including dynamic networking, quality education, accessible resources and expert technical guidelines to enhance the success and profitability of its membership. As a part of its educational programming, webinars are offered to the membership and are stored on its website. Some of the many topics in the archives include How to Get Paid; Change Order Management; Inventory Introduction; Proven Techniques for Improving Construction Productivity; Business-to-Business Negotiation Essentials; and Using Social Media to Sell in Construction.

CONCLUSION

The opportunity to stay educated is certainly available within your trade association or through your industry partners. Whether you are the chief executive officer of a company and want to learn how to prepare your company for future changes in the economy, or are a professional development representative looking to network with your peers, reacquaint yourself with what your trade association or industry partners have to offer. If you or your company is not currently involved in a trade association, ask your fellow industry associates which they recommend and then contact the association to learn what educational opportunities it has to offer.


Michelle Anysz is a marketing manager at FMI Corporation. She can be reached at 919.785.9298 or via email at manysz@fminet.com.

 

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