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Posts Tagged ‘Networking’

Recently, a product rep friend of mine posted a tweet with the hashtag #justasalesperson. Because this individual is a CSI member and a CDT, the hashtag should have read #TrustedAdvisor.  She exemplifies what a product representative should be, and therefore, qualifies as a Trusted Advisor.

What qualifies a product rep as a trusted advisor? To begin with, a product rep that holds a CDT or CCPR knows what the design and specifier communities are looking for: expertise.  They know their product, construction documents, and they understand the construction process.  A good product representative makes the effort to know her/his competitor’s product as well.  They meet regularly with their clientele and thus forge an ongoing relationship.  Occasionally, they may need to advise that their product is not the appropriate one for the job and need to send me to their competitor.

It is out of this long-term relationship that trust emerges. As a design professional and a specifier, if I don’t know the product I’m specifying, I will contact someone I know that has experience with the product.  Preferably, this would be the company’s local representative, but I don’t always know who this might be (shame on you absentee reps that never show up).  Chances are that I know someone with a connection to the product I am looking at through my connections made over twenty-eight years of CSI membership.  Often, that contact may be in another part of the country.  I know I will get a correct answer through this network.  Additionally, they will usually put me in touch with the local rep and I am able to forge yet another relationship.

In general, if someone comes to see me with CDT or CCPR on their business card, I make an effort to make time for them. They will usually be knowledgeable and know where to find answers that may not necessarily be on the tip of their tongue.

So, for those readers that are product representatives that are not CSI members, you need to join. Being active in the organization puts you in contact with a large and professionally diverse pool of potential customers.  You can further step up your game by sitting for the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) exam during the examination windows each spring and fall.  Obtaining this credential indicates that you possess knowledge of construction delivery methods and processes, construction documents, and building life cycle activities and needs.  The CDT is also a prerequisite to all CSI certifications including the CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative).

All of these things qualify you as a trusted advisor, and assuming you are active in the organization, you would likely be the first one I would call for product information and advice. With that said, when registration for the Spring Certification Exams opens in January, I would strongly encourage you to sign up.  After all, you don’t want to be just a salesperson.

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I’ve spent this week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week of R&R. While walking the beach, I’ve observed how the forces of nature have left their mark.  There are water marks left at high tide and ripples in the sand deposited by the wind.  The fiddler crabs left myriad tiny footprints in the sand as have the marine waterfowl.  Multiple animals deposit their shells on the sand following their passing.  We are admonished to leave only footprints and take only memories as we leave.

Like the natural forces on the barrier islands, those of us that are design professionals are obsessed with leaving a mark. Hopefully that mark constitutes a beneficial impact on the community that is the world.

We need to leave functional infrastructure, architecture that provides shelter, and somehow with both of these, we need to leave a beauty that users and observers will appreciate. Easy to think of this from the standpoint of monumental architecture, or a Golden Gate Bridge, but something as utilitarian as the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge that connects Hatteras Island with the rest of the US has a certain beauty in the rhythm of the pilings and the stantions that support the guardrails.  The built legacy should survive us and benefit society for generations to come.

In the process of creating the built world, we have a far more important obligation to leave an intellectual mark with the younger folks that work with us through the intentional transfer of knowledge. This takes place through mentoring, networking, associations, and certification programs.  Experienced professionals such as myself need to make certain that when we leave our professions that we don’t create an unfillable void.  Our professional legatees need to be ready step in and fill the space.  It is our obligation to make certain they are.

Likewise, we have much to learn from the younger professionals in our lives. They are full of energy and new ideas.  New ideas are worth our time, attention, nurturing, and even of our championing.  Pay attention seasoned professionals, as your young colleague may provide the idea that makes something work in a new and wonderful way.

So a quick memo to my younger colleagues: I want to spend time with you.  You have the capacity to make me better, and we can make each other better.  The best place to find me on a first Tuesday is at a CSI meeting.  In that venue, we can both learn something new.

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Recently, a local TV station ran a feature on the 11 o’clock news about a couple of lovebirds who are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary. During the teaser, I recognized the husband as someone I had worked with on a couple of projects in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Several years following the end of our professional relationship (precipitated by Earl’s retirement), I ran into Earl at the local gas station and noticed a window sticker indicating that he and his wife were members of the Order of the Eastern Star. Knowing that my wife’s grandparents were very active in that organization at the state level, I asked Earl if he had known them. As it turns out, he and his wife had known my grandparents-in-law quite well, and so it is that Charlottesville connects with Culpeper Virginia in multiple ways at multiple levels.

Since the world is interconnected through the various relationships we have, I have to think of the many wonderful relationships I have developed over the last twenty-five years as a member of CSI. The relationships cultivated through the years have resulted in enhanced professional development beyond the plethora of CSI sponsored educational programs I have attended.

By being active in the organization, I have come to know hundreds of professionals from all over the country and Canada who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. As a result, there have been multiple occasions where I would pick up the phone with a question and one of my CSI friends would be able to get me the correct answer. On other occasions, I’ve been more than happy to reciprocate.

By having this large network of friends, I have been blessed both professionally and personally because of my membership. I have to say that CSI is probably the most economical professional organization I belong to, in spite of holding membership in multiple chapters. Even if the dues weren’t what they are, the value is far higher than the memberships I have in organizations with far more expensive dues.

With that said, I would strongly encourage construction related professionals, and especially students in construction related curricula to join. Getting involved is easy, simply go to http://www.csinet.org and follow the directions. I’m certain you won’t regret it, and perhaps, someone may remember you to a mutual acquaintance in forty-some years.

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Our culture is obsessed with the future.  Marketers have used slogans like “The future is now!” and Hollywood produced several “Back to the Future” movies starting in the mid 1980’s.  There is a pervasive addiction to having the most current technology, even if it doesn’t always perform its function as well as that which it replaced.

In contrast, my father used to tell us to remember the past so as not to repeat mistakes and live for today.

I would like to propose an alternative:  Live for today, but embrace the future.  I do so by making myself available to mentor young people.  After all, the future belongs to you.

For each of you that would follow me professionally, I would strongly encourage you to embrace and enhance the future of your career.  You can do so by joining CSI (no, not the TV show, but the Construction Specifications Institute).  It is there that you can network and gain much knowledge that the schools and universities don’t seem to have the time to share.

There is only so much that you can accomplish sitting in front of a computer.  You can insert all the content in the world into a social media page, but doing so or viewing such a page will never convey as much information as a face to face conversation.  We learn much from the things others say and do, including vocal inflection and body language.  You get only words from a sterile message conveyed via the internet.  More to the point, you cannot put a hug or a warm embrace onto a computer no matter how many emoticons you insert.

To further enhance your future in the design and construction industry, you need to participate in CSI’s Certification Program.  Sitting for and passing the CDT exam will afford you and demonstrate to others that you have a level of knowledge of construction documentation that graduates from architecture and engineering schools often lack.  I am aware of several recent graduates who immediately found jobs following graduation because of the fact that they held the CDT certificate.

So, live for today and embrace the future by becoming a member of CSI and sitting for the CDT.  There are a large number of us who would welcome you with open arms and a smile.  More to the point, your future career may depend on it.

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Last Wednesday evening, I was delighted to hear a one hour concert by “Mr. Jefferson’s ‘Bones”, a wonderful trombone ensemble.  Most of us know the sound of a solo trombone.  The sound can be rich or thin, loud or soft, strident or mellow.  Imagine taking the rich sound of a solo trombone and combine it with three others and imagine the four part harmony, particularly if the highest part is played up in a typically trumpet register!  The effect was wonderful, particularly the piccolo part of Stars and Stripes Forever played on trombone.

 Now imagine the sound of a professional symphony orchestra.  Each of the players can produce a rich solo sound, but combined, the acoustic output is so much more!  By utilizing each individual player’s talents, the somposer and conductor can do so much!

 So it is with the construction team.  Good buildings don’t just happen.  It starts with an owner’s vision.  Mix in the talents of an architect and several engineers and other designers.  Now add in a great contractor with his accompanying group of specialty subcontractors.  Mix in a plethora of good material suppliers and product reps.  Let’s not forget the local inspectors and planning departments.  The result is so much more than any one individual could produce on his/her own.

 CSI is the one place where the entire construction team can get together in a collegial setting and discuss items of importance to each of us andd the entire team.  This week is Construct 2012 in Phoenix.  I have been in town less than twenty-four hours and have already encountered friends and colleagues who are manufacturer’s representatives, specialty product reps, contractors, association professionals, specifiers, and yes, other architects.  Every one of us is committed to excellence in the built environment.  It’s what we do at CSI

 Now extend the concept to life in general.  If all individuals were alike, we would be a lot poorer (we might as well be a rock on a desolate planet).  Thankfully, we all have differing personalities, different talents, and differing opinions.  This makes our lives far richer.  So I salute my friends everywhere.  I rejoice in you for who you are individually.

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RELATIONSHIPS

My wife’s grandfather ran a small town grocery store in Bedford,Virginia until his retirement in 1966.

Flash forward forty-five years to 6:00 AM on a recent morning when I helped to unload my last trailer load of band fruit (fundraiser) at my daughter’s high school.  In the early morning hours, I was at the end of the roller conveyor catching boxes of fruit as it came off of the truck and sending it down another into the band room.  During the forty-some minutes this process was going on, I chatted with the driver about various things, including his dog who was asleep in the cab.  He talked of finding his canine companion on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke.  This resulted in my asking if he was from the Roanoke area, and he said he was from Bedford.

Upon finding out that he was from my wife’s grandparent’s home town, we got to talking about more local kinds of things, such as where people lived and worked, etc.  It turns out that as a boy, the driver’s mother was a regular customer at Grandpa’s store.  He told me he remembered the old man from when he’d tag along with his mother when she did the marketing.  Needless to say, I was reminded what a small world ours is, to be able to speak fondly of a mutual friend forty-five years plus after the fact.

Since the world is interconnected through the various relationships we have, I have to think of the many wonderful relationships I have developed over the last twenty-four years as a member of CSI.  The relationships cultivated through the years have resulted in enhanced professional development beyond the plethora of CSI sponsored educational programs I have attended.

By being active in the organization, I have come to know hundreds of professionals from all over the country who are willing to share their experience and knowledge.  As a result, there have been multiple occasions where I would pick up the phone with a question and one of my CSI friends would be able to get me the correct answer.  On other occasions, I’ve been more than happy to reciprocate.

By having this large network at my disposal, I have been blessed both professionally and personally because of my membership.  I have to say that CSI is probably the most economical professional organization I belong to, in spite of holding membership in multiple chapters.  Even if the dues weren’t what they are, the value is far higher than the memberships I have in organizations with far more expensive dues.

With that said, I would strongly encourage construction related professionals, and especially students in construction related curricula to join.  Getting involved is easy, simply go to www.csinet.org and follow the directions.  I’m certain you won’t regret it, and perhaps, someone may remember you to a mutual acquaintance in forty-some years.

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I have written on multiple occasions about my CSI membership paying for itself through contacts I’ve made through my membership activities.  Phone calls to other members have helped me sort out issues that come up occasionally in my practice.

 Two days ago, as I entered the office, the phone rang.  It was a member of another chapter who was trying to sort out an issue that had arisen in her work.  I spent forty-one minutes on the phone thinking the situation through with her.  While I’m not sure I gave her the answer to her problem, we were at least able to get her headed in the direction of a workable strategy with which to approach her supervisor.

 Later that morning I received an e-mail from another member who was looking to hire a product rep in our area and asking for names.  In this instance, I knew immediately who to refer to her.  A member of a sister chapter and CCPR was laid off by another company a few months back.  I responded within minutes with contact information for my unemployed friend.

 All that said, if these three individuals were not members of CSI, they would not have thought to contact me.  Since I’ve gone to the CSI network well many times in the past, I felt good about being able to be on the receiving end of those calls and able to render assistance.  Giving back to the organization and its members is somehow even more satisfying than simply receiving this most important benefit of membership.

 So the next time you need help with a construction related problem, call a member of CSI.  In addition to the fact that you’ll probably receive the correct answer, I imagine that the person you call will be rewarded as much as you in the giving back.

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