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FALL REGIONAL CONFERENCE TAKES US TO OHIO

Fall has come and gone, at least for those in the northern half of the country. As the snow flies and the election energy draws down, we can begin thinking about what happened to those golden months of autumn.

This fall was a great opportunity missed by many no thanks to the economy and the need to work harder. Still, some member companies took the risk and found a new energy introduced by the CFA Management Committee at this year’s Fall Regional Meeting. Held in Columbus, Ohio to be in proximity to a large percentage of the CFA membership, this event was the culmination of considerable effort of the Management Committee over the past two years. What could you have learned from this meeting if you were in attendance? What did you miss by not making sure you had representation at this meeting? Read on and perhaps this will impact your decision for the next opportunity.

The Fall Regional meeting began with a hosted event by Tremco Barrier Solutions. An educational program including an opening history by Mark Patterson, VP and General Manager for Tremco Barrier Solutions and then a presentation titled The Science of Waterproofing by Dr. James Wells followed an opening reception. The evening closed with a dinner and free discussions.

DAY ONE

Following the regular meeting of the CFA Board of Directors on Friday, October 17th, the first CFA Management Forum opened with a line-up of three keynote speakers. They joined the CFA Board and a small but mighty representation of the CFA membership. These speakers brought collective knowledge in the fields of customer relations, business opportunities and employee law to the forefront. The purpose—develop sound business ideas that each attendee could return with and begin making a difference or to insulate their company from future threats.

Headlining the event was Kevin Stirtz, known to many as The Amazing Service Guy. Joining him were Wendy Ward, Vice President for the national PR firm, Constructive Communication and James Ferber, Managing Partner of the Columbus, Ohio, Office of Littler Mendelson, the nation’s largest employment and labor law firm.

Beginning with Strategic Planning more than a year ago, CFA committees and staff have been diligently working to establish a revitalized education component to our events. The need to provide ways for our companies to grow as employers, area businesses and profitable entities is paramount in this business climate. From this seed, the groundwork for a successful first event was laid.

The Amazing Service Guy is more than just a moniker when it comes to Kevin Stirtz. It is the identity that firmly explains the message embodied in everything he does from his lectures to his books. Attendees found this keynote presentation captivating and entertaining while it gave solid advice for the way a company must go to business in today’s challenged marketplace. The goal each company has is to attract new customers and hold on to the current ones.

In the face of declining prices and the pressures of low-ball competition, how can value actually play a meaningful role? This is precisely what Mr. Stirtz spoke to giving a step-by-step road map to augment or perhaps transform a company’s business plan. His seminar titled “Never Lose Another Customer”, left each person in the room scrambling to jot reminders of ways to tweak or replace their own customer service policies. Perhaps some of these will soon be featured in our series Management Moves.

A title like Creating Success with Effective Proposals, evokes the idea that you have work to do to make sure the one shot you get is the best it can be. Whether your company regularly markets the image, quality and value by answering RFPs or not, the content that was delivered in this presentation gave new meaning to the concept of understanding what your customer really wants.

In the fast paced world of declining business (now why does that sound like an oxymoron?), companies quickly find ways to copy and blanket response for more opportunities served rather than focusing time, energy and talent on making the first impression the lasting impression. Wendy Ward detailed the necessary decisions that must be made whether presentations and proposals are a part of your regular business or perhaps will become a part of your future opportunities as the landscape of the residential industry is reshaped.

Each attendee came away from this presentation with a solid understanding of the pitfalls in their own responses to these opportunities and ways that they can turn from the “more mud on the wall approach” to refining the “consistency of that mud for optimum wall-sticking efficiency”.

The final presentation during this first Management Forum came on the heels of the successful presentation given during Summer Convention. The CFA has found a treasure trove of exceptional topics on business law in the firm Littler Mendelson. This time around, James Ferber focused on the Employee Free Choice Act and the potentially severe impact it holds for the nation if becoming law.

The challenges faced by CFA members regarding unionization are well documented and some have been the topic during our Conventions. This presentation focused on the specific details that may drastically change the landscape in which employers interact with the influence of unions and what may result for their labor force. Mr. Ferber detailed the steps that can be taken by our industry to provide input to Congress and the risks that are quite real if the present and incoming administrations proceed with current adoption plans.

Many questions were fielded throughout this presentation and many attendees left with an interest in seeing the CFA as a leader for their organized opposition. Look for more presentations by representatives of this firm at our 2009 summer meeting in Amelia Island.

DAY TWO

The normal education day during a CFA regional meeting occurs on a Saturday. Given the economic struggles, the normal emphasis on construction crews was set aside and focus was given to the two latest initiatives—Certification and Self-Insurance. Baty and Sauter conducted the three-hour CFA Contractor Certification Seminar followed by another two-hour exam.

The committee is considering a designation of “CFA Certified Technician” for those who complete the educational seminar and pass the exam. Employment of at least one “Technicial” will be a requirement to become a CFA certified company. Two companies sat for the exam in Columbus. Concurrently, many of the attendees from the first day stayed to listen as Jay Odice presented the plans for a CFA Self-Insurance program. This continues to be an area of strong interest by the Association but there is considerable work, with many questions, before commitments are made. Those in attendance of this presentation came away with another level of understanding. More details will be forthcoming as the task force assigned to the program development continues their effort.

DID YOU MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY?

As the sun set on the Fall 2009 Regional Meeting, the general consensus was one of reserved optimism. Yes, the CFA can provide meaningful business management education and great things can come from the current program initiatives but it takes the commitment of the CFA members to really decide how significant the impact can be.

Did you miss this opportunity because you weren’t informed enough about it? Did you miss it because the economy left you unable to take advantage of it? Did you miss it because the value was not as great as the business choices you were forced to make? We need to hear from you to maximize these opportunities and bring the highest value each and every event. Contact CFA headquarters and let Ed and Jim know your thoughts.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us