September 2003

Moulding the Future
    A viewpoint from the wmmpa

Roundtables Provide a Lively Forum

Brutal Honesty Can Shape Your Business Plan

by Kellie A. Schroeder

Are you an orator? If so, you are one of the very few who would categorize themselves as such. I applaud you on your diction and confidence to stand up before a sea of people to expound upon whatever message you have to deliver. For it is not inherent nature to have the desire to voice one’s opinion, or message, to a large gathering.

While the majority of people are not orators, we know that they all have something to say, especially on subjects that hold their interest or affect their lives. Given the opportunity in the right environment, most people will step forward to voice their concern or support of a topic. This is why I am an advocate of roundtable sessions. 

By nature, I am a joiner, a do-er and a person that likes to participate. I’ve been active in my local Chamber of Commerce, two professional associations and the Wood Moulding and Millwork Producers Association (WMMPA) for many years. Like most of you reading this article, I’ve sat in on more than my share of committee, strategic planning and board of directors meetings than I care to remember. But, I realize these meetings are critical to carry out the work of the WMMPA or the volunteer organizations with which I have aligned myself. 

I have noted that there are several types of attendees who show up (forced or otherwise) at meetings. At any given meeting, you may find yourself sitting next to a: stone statue—one who sucks in all of the information they can and never once opens their mouth to add to the conversation; start’n stop—the hesitant, wannabe participant that spits out a few good comments and then clams up as soon as attention is focused on them; lava flow—this person is just gushing with comments, advice and/or opinions; and the oak tree—a solid, knowledgeable participant that contributes pithy discussion to the topic at hand. 

I find that one could apply the first moniker to me, depending on the meeting I am attending and the topics presented. If I am clueless on a subject, I tend to want to be the stone statue, but then mentally kick myself to get into the middle of a subject to ask questions so that I better understand what is being presented. If I feel comfortable with the subject at hand, I am a lava flow; rarely, though, do I categorize myself as an oak tree—I still have so much to learn. 
What does the above have to do with my advocacy of roundtable sessions? Your comfort level will determine your participation level in a meeting. And your participation level is a direct influence on the success of that meeting. It is the same with all people. Give them a non-judgmental environment in which to operate, and you will see your peers come alive with ideas to add to the mix. Roundtable sessions are a great way to break down personal walls of shyness and/or intimidation and get people talking. It is also a great forum in which to build your speaking ability and a terrific way to seek out information.

Let’s take a look at the WMMPA roundtable sessions. Prior to any business meeting, attendees are asked to submit anonymous questions on topics they would like to have discussed. This leads to more frank discussions once our meeting doors have closed. An attendee has no fear of asking what might seem to be a “dumb” question, and we find that our topic submission list for the roundtable sessions gets pretty lengthy. Another item to consider is that attendees may utilize this forum to seek pertinent information from their competitors. 

Attendees are broken into groups of six to eight people, and all topics are discussed within each group. For the stone statues in the room, it takes the pressure away from addressing what seems to them like a Super Bowl Sunday crowd and they may interject their thoughts more freely. Once the roundtable groups have discussed all items on the list of topics, then an overall discussion takes place. A team leader from each group stands to deliver their table’s comments and everyone is engaged in talks regarding the summations, again, taking the pressure off those stone statues or start’n stop types of people. 

One of the goals of a roundtable session is to have all attendees comment and arrive at the best solution for a topic and/or list of possible paths to take if no one action can be deemed the correct course. Another goal is to seek pertinent information to assist you in succeeding in business. 

At our February business meeting, someone asked the international members about their U.S. marketing plans for the upcoming years. Various offshore company representatives stood up to answer that question in depth and silenced the room. Their brutal honesty was sobering to the manufacturers gathered that day. There were many who departed that WMMPA meeting knowing that their strategic business plan would have to be rewritten in the coming months in order to counteract what they had just learned in that particular roundtable session. You can probably guess that our list of topics for our recent August roundtable session in Canada shot way up, so much so that we had to devote three hours to the session in order to address each question submitted.

The ability to vociferate your thoughts elegantly is truly a gift. Recognizing that you are not the best of speakers but have something viable to say and stepping forward to say it is inspiring. Knowledge is power. We realize this at a very young age and interaction with your peers is key to surviving in today’s business climate. If you would like to join in on a lively discussion regarding the moulding and millwork industry, I invite you to join the WMMPA at our next business meeting in February 2004. We are gathering at the Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, Fla. 

Please call me at 530/661-9591 or send an e-mail to and let me know that you are interested in participating. Stone statues and all start’n stops are welcome here. 


Kellie Schroeder Kellie A. Schroeder is the executive vice president of the Wood Moulding and Millwork Association.



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