By Marcia Gruver Doyle
As recounted in his autobiography “Groucho and Me,” Groucho Marx sent the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills the following telegram resignation: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
Groucho’s sentiments aside, however, I would propose one resolution to make for the new year is to join your local contractor association. Yes, I know they can sometimes be costly, and if you’re going to get the most benefit from them, it means time spent in meetings when you’d rather be on the jobsite. But recent conversations and events have underlined to me the distinct benefits to association involvement:
You’ll become known outside your immediate circle. A Tennessee contractor credits his involvement with the national Associated General Contractors of America with jobs he might not have gotten except for the networking he’s done on national committees. When a fellow committee member from Chicago got a project in his town, guess who they called in as a subcontractor? It’s a relationship that’s now resulted in several jobs, both adding to the Tennessee’s contractor’s bottom line, and giving the Chicago firm a reliable contractor who knows the local lay of the land.
It will help you take the next technological step. A builder’s exchange in rural California made the decision to put its specs and plans online. While this is something you may take for granted in your area, it’s made a huge difference among the 700-plus members in the countywide builder’s exchange. Instead of trudging to the plan room to view plans, they can download this information in their offices … or on their laptops in their pickups. It took several meetings for the exchange board to hash out the details of this effort, but they’ve done it successfully (member acceptance of the online presence is so widespread the number actually visiting the physical plan room this past year has dropped 80 percent) … and without raising dues.
It could be the smartest thing you’ve done as an individual is to join a group.
You may get ideas that will make all the difference. During an association meeting, the Tennessee contractor heard about performing as an owner’s representative. When his city announced they would put out to bid more than $70 million in community projects, he made the city a proposal to act as the owner’s rep for a fee, which of course eliminated him from consideration as a contractor for any of the work. While at first it looked to his competitors like he was turning opportunity away, he’s now viewed as one smart cookie: While his competitors are scrambling against bidders lists of more than 20 contractors, he’s earning a set fee that he can bank on to meet payroll.
You can score political wins. When the California Air Resources Board voted December 17th to approve amended off-road diesel rules, it represented a complete turnaround from the agency’s position of just a year ago. The revised ruling, which gives contractors in the state more time to comply, wasn’t accidental, but the result of a concerted, organized effort from contractor associations.
So give your local contractor association a try. It could be the smartest thing you’ve done as an individual is to join a group. EW