Volume 38, Issue 3, March 2003
The Industry Needs You
A Little Time Will Make a World of Difference
by Andrew T. Gum
As I depart from the 2003 Glass Association of North Americaís (GANA) Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) conference, I have never been more excited about our industry or the future of the BEC division
(for a review of that meeting, see "Gamble on
This"). The group of 265 attendees was composed primarily of contract glazing firms and industry suppliers. Although our economic climate may be negative, I found the attendees to be amazingly upbeat and positive about their businesses. It is a true pleasure to be able to spend quality time with industry peers who are as passionate about our industry as I am.
Presentations were made and discussions were held concerning many of the important issues affecting our industry, such as risk management, our economic environment, product trends and deficiencies within the construction process, just to name a few. External industry challenges are difficult to anticipate and control. However, proactive involvement from within our industry remains one of our greater internal challenges and is something we can control.
There were many wonderful suggestions made at the conference regarding the direction of the BEC division, governmental matters and the revision and creation of several industry documents. Although the suggestions have been plentiful, the willingness to become involved has been minimal. The bulk of our industryís leadership work continues to fall on the shoulders of a small group of people. There seems to be the perception that becoming involved and taking a role with industry leadership is an all-consuming commitment and that involved people donít have time for anything else in their lives. There also seems to be the perception that voluntary industry leadership is a headache, time-consuming and may draw excessive criticism from peers. Through my experiences, I have found the opposite to be true. We are very fortunate at GANA to have an extremely capable staff that does an excellent job of facilitating the activities of our division relieving the potential pressures associated with my involvement with the organization.
Being active at a committee level is a great place to get started and generally does not require a significant time commitment. Much of our BEC division committee activities are done electronically and via conference calls. If thereís an industry issue or a need that youíre passionate about, the best way to spearhead change is to volunteer to take the lead. If you have a good suggestion, propose a hot topic and take the lead, others will follow. Committee involvement often times does require research, but communication within the group tends to be the predominant activity. Being a committee chairperson not only provides you with a vehicle to impact the industry, but it also can be a rewarding process to see your work affect others positively.
Current Opportunities Available
GANA currently is searching for an individual to head up our newly formed government affairs committee. The association surveyed its membership recently regarding government affair issues and half of the survey responses were from within the BEC division. There has probably never been a greater need within our industry for governmental interaction. This committee will represent all of the divisions within GANA and will serve to influence government policy to the benefit of the entire glass industry.
The BEC division also has an active technical division, which is undertaking an update of our Blueprint Reading and Estimating Course as well as an update of our Fabrication, Erection and Glazing Hours Manual. We have also embarked on the creation of a Project Managersí Reference Manual as well as a contract qualification form to assist contract glazing firms in negotiating fair and equitable contracts. Although all of these projects are progressing nicely, we still find ourselves shorthanded and in need of fresh ideas.
As we search for the next chairperson of the BEC division, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on what my involvement has meant and will continue to mean to our company and myself. From a selfish perspective, without question, the benefits have far exceeded my contributions. Because of my involvement, I have a personal relationship with the owners and operators of the finest contract glazing firms and industry suppliers in North America. My relationships with these companies have helped me to develop the model from which we operate our companies. It has provided a unique opportunity to examine the qualities that bring success to people within our industry.
Other Ways to Make a Difference
Of course there are many organizations inside and outside of our glass industry that impact our businesses with which one can become involved. The American Subcontractors Association (ASA) focuses on protecting the rights of subcontractors and works toward an equitable level of risk-sharing between subcontractors and general contractors. As glazing contractors, your support of ASAís agenda will be dollars and time well-spent. If youíre more comfortable working at a local level, I might suggest your involvement with your state glass association or your local Chamber of Commerce.
I have named a few areas in which one might contribute time to our industry, but itís up to you to determine where the industry and your business would best benefit from your involvement.
Industry involvement has been a very natural progression for me, and, at this point in my career, I donít know how not to be involved. Fortunately, industry involvement is an area in which size doesnít matter. The voice of small business is louder than ever. My challenge would be that each company within our industry provide a representative to become involved with an organization affecting our industry. There are many issues that we cannot control, but your involvement in our industryís direction, education and governing regulations is within our scope of influence.
Andrew T. Gum is president of Thomas Glass Co. in Columbus, Ohio, and is the chairperson of GANAís BEC division. His column appears bimonthly.
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