The Importance of Professional Friends


By Jim Moody, CAE

A long time ago, I ran the association for people who work in associations. It was during those years that it occurred to me that there is an association for every trade or profession you can imagine. From beekeepers to school lunch ladies, there’s a group for everyone. It's the same for people who manage building material associations.

To be sure, the Building Material Association Executive group is smaller than it used to be. There’s been a lot of consolidation over the past few years. But for those of us who are left, I’d dare say each of us would point to it as the most important group in our professional lives.

We see each other only three times per year, yet in those short interactions we’ve formed bonds that transcend usual friendships. The fact that we deal with the same issues means we’re forged in the same fire. No one walks a more similar mile to mine than these folks.

 Two of our meetings each year are in conjunction with NLBMDA meetings, where we don’t have a lot of time and our primary purpose for being there is taking care of our own members who are present. But that third meeting is the one that really matters. We gather for a couple of days of professional development with a little socializing thrown in. We met in August in the heart of Washington’s Columbia River Gorge. Our topics this year focused on dealing with multiple generations in the workforce and learning more about social media. I learned a lot from these sessions, but frankly that’s not where the rubber meets the road for me. Instead, the relationships I’ve formed have turned out to be far more meaningful than the content any speaker can bring.

When I was looking for a job description for a new position, I got an example from one of my BMAE friends. When I needed advice on a personnel situation, one of them lent me an ear. At times I’ve needed shoulders to cry on, and they’ve been happy to offer theirs. We’ve partnered on joint meetings to the betterment of members. Many of us cooperate on the Building Material Operation Comparison program to give meaningful benchmarks to our industry. I could list 20 more examples, but you get the point.

We’ve also come together to say goodbye to a dear colleague whose battle with cancer we’d shared, and we’ve mentored her replacement.

We know and care about each other’s families. I have celebrated the successes of their children as they have with mine. Over time, these relationships have helped me professionally but have also become incredibly important to me personally. As we’ve done work and life together, these people have become some of my best friends. No one understands me and the challenges I face at work (yes, I love you very much, but there are days when this is challenging) more than they do.

That’s what associations do best. It’s very difficult to sell this relationship stuff to prospective members, but I know many of you who’ve been in CSA for years understand exactly what I’m talking about. So many of you can point to pivotal times during your business and think back to how you drew on your relationships fostered through CSA to make decisions.

This week, as CSA comes together for our Sales & Management Conference, our members have the opportunity to renew relationships and forge new ones. We also offer many other opportunities to do so.

If you simply pay dues to CSA and read our materials or use our web resources, you are missing out on the most important benefit of membership. Giving you the platform to build relationships with people who understand you better than anybody else is really what we do best. Come to our meetings. Join our roundtables. Get to know people who understand the trials and tribulations you face daily. Share your successes with them as they share theirs with you. Talk to them about what they do well and take their strategies back home to improve your business. Get to know them and share life together.

The building materials industry has never been easy. It’s incredibly tough to eke out a living in a low-margin industry like ours. Having a peer group of professional friends gives you a better chance to grow your business, but more importantly, it enriches your life