Member Profile: Building Trust and Personal Connections
The latest in a series that profiles members of local NAHB Remodelers who are strengthening their local councils through networking and recruiting new members. The grassroots champions who are being highlighted in this series have collectively recruited more than 400 new members for the NAHB Remodelers to date.
As a contractor sales representative at Crescent Lighting in Fife, Wash., Kat O’Brien knows first-hand the importance of building personal connections.
She has worked in the residential lighting industry for four years and joined the Master Builders Association of Pierce County in 2006 in order to help her local remodeling industry and to connect with colleagues.
O’Brien’s experiences as a new HBA member and as membership committee chair taught her the fine points of member recruitment as well as the benefits that can be gained through volunteering, networking and being active in the association.
“The best compliment one of my contractors can give me is that they trust me to work directly with their clients,” O’Brien said.
One of her favorite roles is helping those clients realize their vision by recommending options that might not have occurred to them.
“I want them to be able to look at their finished project and love it when they say, ‘I picked out that chandelier’ or ‘I chose that wall sconce’ — with a little help from me,” O’Brien said.
Developing New Skills
During O’Brien’s first year with the HBA, networking was her biggest challenge. The members she met “all had known each other for 10 or 20 years and it was hard to break the ice,” she said. Not only that, most of her work until then had been as an inside sales representative where customers came to her, so she rarely had to network professionally.
“I was fortunate to have several excellent networking mentors at the HBA who helped me improve my skills,” she said. “I also decided to recruit my own bunch of friends as members. Before long, the established members started taking notice and it was a lot easier for me to speak with them.”
Today, O’Brien serves as the vice chair of the association’s membership committee. It’s a role she relishes. It not only enabled her to recruit new members, it gives her the opportunity to get involved and bond with all the members of the Pierce County HBA.
“I like to say that by regularly coming to meetings, you demonstrate to others that you have consistency and follow-through, which is good. But to really benefit, you need to take it to the next level by striking up relationships and network,” she said.
O’Brien said she thinks “everybody probably starts out afraid of networking. Some just hide it better.” And, as one of her mentors once told her, networking “works much better if you don’t think of it as networking” but instead think of it as “just making friends and playing nice.”
She also stressed that to for networking to be effective, people should not look at it as a means to achieve short-term objectives like picking up an order or a project. Networking, she said, is all about building long-term relationships ― and trust.
“People want to do business with people they know and trust and I can help them use their builders association membership to do just that,” O’Brien said.
Increase Your Professional Credibility
The Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) designation emphasizes business management skills as the key to a professional remodeling operation.
Remodelers who earn the CGR become members of an exclusive national program and gain recognition as industry leaders.
To learn more about the CGR designation, visit www.nahb.org/CGRinfo, or call The Professional Designation Help Line at 800-368-5242 x8154.