The Big Payoff
A Board Member’s Look at the Association
by Bill Sarbaugh
As I come to the end of my time as a board member of the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD), I can’t help but reflect on how much my relationship with AMD has changed. When I received a call four years ago to join the board, I almost laughed the board member off the phone. I didn’t fit the profile of an active member in any association, and during the phone conversation, I revealed that not only was I not interested in being on the board, I was questioning why I was even a member of the NSDJA. I couldn’t find the value. I was flattered to be considered, and the advice that convinced me to give it a try was “…just the relationships alone will make your involvement worthwhile.” Bullseye! That’s what I needed to hear.
Willing to Share
Little did I know the strength of character, professionalism and business acumen that permeates our association. I learned, and continue to learn, so much from our membership.
I was surprised at how little effort was needed on my part to strike up a conversation with another distributor and then be prepared to accept a wealth of knowledge. It seems we are all looking for answers and pointers to the same questions and issues. Almost everyone is willing to share business practices and experiences. I just had to ask.
By far, the greatest benefit to being a member of AMD is interacting with the membership. Just a little effort on my part has paid off ten-fold. These people are good, really good. Get involved (just a little bit), and your membership and attendance at AMD functions will be rewarded many times over.
Back when I was questioning the value of AMD, it turns out that the association’s leadership was already two steps ahead of me. These last few years have seen a change in the direction and focus of AMD. We—membership volunteers—have spent a lot of time examining the past, the present and the future for our association. We, the membership, decided what we wanted to be, how the association should run and what we expected from the staff. The association is now focused on being our voice in governmental affairs, our advocate with regards to national and regional code issues, our source for national and regional market information and our trainer for advanced millwork education.
A New Face
The face of millwork distribution is different today. Through self-examination we, along with our associate members, learned that millwork moves through many channels today. This fact has been difficult for many of our members to accept, but by and large, we did. The association now actively recruits potential members instead of actively excluding potential members.
AMD is upgrading and modernizing the educational programs to make them more relevant in today’s marketplace. AMD also hopes to be a source of millwork education for all members of the distribution chain.
The AMD Top Management Meeting has been transformed from a weekend golf outing to a high-powered event consisting of first-class trainers and industry experts, opportunities to discuss current issues with peers via roundtable events and the opportunity to make acquaintances with like-minded businessmen or women with whom you can discuss more detailed issues without feeling like you are giving away secrets to the competition.
It’s the People
I keep coming back to the people. Can you go it alone? Sure, but I was surprised at how much fun it has been to “join up.”
The AMD Annual Convention is also going through a transition. Again, the association is reacting to the needs of the membership. The convention is now stocked with highly-relevant educational sessions as requested by the membership. The featured speakers, always a highlight, remain top-shelf, current and relevant. The exhibit hall remains the focal point of the convention. Clearly, the convention trend for AMD is more about business, while still keeping some of its friendly, family charm.
The AMD staff has also proven to be “consumer-driven.” No longer does the staff tell us what our association is all about. Our staff, under the direction of Rosalie Leone, wants to serve us. Rosalie wants to hear from and serve the membership, which also includes the associate members. She recognizes the unbroken relationship between manufacturers and distributors.
The association continues to reach out, so let it touch you. If you are the least bit interested in volunteering, go ahead and serve a term on the board or on a committee. Do it. The people you meet and learn from will more than make up for whatever time you spend volunteering. The relationships you develop with AMD, your suppliers and your peers will be the big payoff.
Bill Sarbaugh is president of River City Millwork of Rockford, Ill.
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