PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together
SMACNA and SMART members show there is no better way to bridge a divide than walking a mile in another’s shoes.
PartnersINProgress SMACNA & SMART—Building a Future Together
JOSEPH SELLERS, JR. NATHAN DILLS Co-Publishers KAARIN ENGELMANN firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief
10 Photo credit: SMACNA California
JESSICA KIRBY email@example.com Editor POINT ONE MEDIA INC. firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Services
September 2019 - Volume 13, Number 9
ERIC WESTBROOK Cover Illustrator
3 LEARNING TOGETHER Sharing perspectives brings people together and bridges the greatest divides.
Partners in Progress is a publication of the Sheet Metal Industry LaborManagement Cooperation Fund.
4 WALK A MILE IN THEIR SHOES There is no better way to foster cooperation than walking a mile in another’s
All contents ©2019 by the Sheet Metal Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Fund, P.O. Box 221211, Chantilly, VA 20153-1211.
ENFORCEMENT IS COMING
Life Safety Certification.
THE ENDURING LEGACY OF EUGENE WILLIS BRAMLETT
to bring positive change to the sheet metal industry.
There’s good reason SMACNA and SMART are strongly encouraging Fire
Eugene Bramlett’s story is one of loyalty, integrity, and rising above challenges
10 EXIT STRATEGIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE TIMELY
Experts say the best time to develop an exit strategy is long before you’ll need one.
12 CAN SOCIAL MEDIA REPLACE YOUR ORGANIZATION’S WEBSITE?
Websites and social media both have merit and drawbacks. Which is right for your organization?
Find Partners in Progress online at pinp.org or at issuu.com/ partnersinprogress. An archive of all issues is available and printed copies may be ordered for a minimal fee. For comments or questions, email email@example.com.
S HE E T M E TA L | A I R | R A I L | T R A N S P O R TAT I O N
Together Language is ripe with idioms, metaphors, and similes that serve a bigger purpose than making us sound clever or poetic. Idioms, for instance—phrases with figurative meanings that differ from their literal meanings—serve to buffer our messages and make them softer on the ego. When we say things like “We’re in hot water,” “We don’t see eye to eye,” or “You put your foot in your mouth” the figurative translation of these phrases sounds less abrasive than, “We are in serious trouble,” “I don’t agree with you,” or “You really said the wrong thing there.” We use this kind of indirect language to get a point across without ruffling feathers (see what happened just there?) but to also make sure the message does indeed get noticed. To truly understand another’s perspective, we must “walk a mile in their shoes”. Of course, we don’t literally mean swapping boots, but we do mean to stress the importance of sharing, learning, and respecting one another’s perspectives. Most often when we hear something we don’t agree with, we take an emotional stand and our brains immediately begin to formulate a rebuttal or contradiction to that thing. But if, rather than a counterpoint our first reaction is curiosity—rather than “No” we say, “Why?” and rather than “Stop
talking,” we say “Tell me more”—everything changes. Taking a moment to “swap boots” requires a pause before reacting, and in that pause the brain resets to a calmer, more thoughtful and less reactive state. In just 10 seconds, stress hormones are reduced, the heartbeat slows, and breathing becomes regulated. In just 10 seconds, an entirely different future unfolds. This issue of Partners in Progress is full of examples of this. Our cover story (see page 4) looks at ways SMACNA and SMART can walk together for greater change by staying focused on the common goals that bridge the industry. The struggle to make fire life safety regulations mandated in legislation has been fierce, and it only came together when those on either side of the discussion chose to widen their perspectives. Read more about the importance of certification on page 6. If there was ever an example of “walking a mile in another’s shoes,” it is in the legacy of Eugene Bramlett, who fought so hard for equality and fairness in the industry he loved and never acted with an ounce of resentment because he understood how it felt to be misrepresented and treated poorly. Read about his amazing life on page 8. Our final two features—on exit strategies and building your online presence—ask you to walk a mile in your future self’s shoes. What kind of legacy do you want your business to leave? Where do you want to be on one, five, or 10 years? It can be difficult to plan outside of one’s immediate environment but we owe it to our colleagues and industry to be brave and widen our perspectives ever chance we get. ▪
Register Now for the Partners in Progress Conference - Feb. 25-26, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada The 2020 Partners in Progress conference—All In—will feature sessions on emerging markets, market recovery opportunities, projects fueled by partnership, and opportunities to keep the workforce strong. Register for the conference now through Dec. 13 to get early-bird pricing. Click the Register button at the top of pinp. org/conferences/pinp20/ for the online registration form and details about deadlines, changes, and accommodations. You will also find details about some of the speakers who will be attending. Click the Schedule link on the left for the preliminary agenda. Consider bringing along someone who has never attended or a future leader in your organization. Look for #pinp20 in social media posts and tag your own posts related to the conference. As part of the conference, Partners in Progress has launched the Strive to Succeed Challenge. Each local area can earn up to $3,000 for use towards future marketing. This initiative is designed to assist SMART Locals and SMACNA chapters and contractors with building a collaborative labor-management relationship. Each Local and chapter completes simple sets of predetermined tasks in phases before, during, and after the conference. Partners in Progress will maintain a leaderboard that shows how each area is progressing. Participating areas will be featured and participants
will be recognized at the Conference, in Partners in Progress, and on social media for their contributions. Find out more by clicking the Challenge link in the left menu. Part of the Challenge involves assisting with the onsite conference charity project, Project 150. Project 150 is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization that was created when the founders learned of 150 homeless high school students at Rancho High School in Las Vegas. The students were in need of support over the Christmas break. The charity now serves more than 6,000 high school students in need, including 3,300 registered homeless and 3,100 non-registered homeless, displaced, and disadvantaged high school students at 58 high schools in Southern Nevada, and 20 high schools in Reno, Nevada. Find out more at pinp.org/conferences/pinp20/project-150/. Visit pinp.org to keep up to date and find useful resources available to SMART locals, SMACNA contractors and chapters, labor management cooperation trusts and committees, training centers, and individual members of SMACNA and SMART. Registration is required for full access to all resources. It is free but limited to members. You can also find us on Facebook as “sheetmetalpartners”, on Twitter as “smpartners”, and on Instagram as “smpartners”. Tag us in your social media posts for more recognition of your work. ▪ Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 3
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes By Cairine Caughill
The Waldinger Corporation’s Guy Gast (l) and Business Agent Jon Quijano (r) taken at Local #45’s offices.
It’s often said that to understand another person’s point of view, you need to walk a mile in their shoes. In the case of SMART and SMACNA, if you try one another’s shoes, you might find they fit better than expected. Guy Gast, president of the Des Moines division of the Waldinger Corporation, believes that, on some level, the unions, the business managers or agents, and the contractors are all doing the same job. “Most of us are doing the same thing every day—trying to figure out how to get work and put people to work.” (Read more about what Gast had to say about understanding what makes your labor-management counterpart tick at the last Partners in Progress Conference at bit.ly/pinpshoes.) Ray Reasons, business manager for Local 36 in Missouri, values the relationship they have with their contractors and knows they need them to be successful. “Anybody who thinks Local 36 is going to do it without the contractors is sadly mistaken,” Reasons says. “That is a distinct partnership. It’s like a marriage, really. Everybody knows a marriage takes work, and you have to be receptive to the other person’s needs and wants.” He believes open dialogue is the key to a successful working relationship. “You have to listen to the good and the bad that other people have to say about you,” he says. “And you can’t just focus on the good. The good gets us by every day, but it’s the things that we need to work on, that take the time and the effort, that you have to exert hours on to make better.” Local 36 has shown they’re listening by improving the ability of union members to meet contractors’ requirements. When contractors have expressed a need for union members with certain skills, the Local has organized training for their members, which allows the contractors to confidently bid on the work knowing they’ll have the qualified workforce to do it. Reasons adds, “We value the partnership, so we nurture that relationship every chance we get. Typically, when it comes to contract negotiations, we’re hammering out the dollars because if we’ve got issues in the CBA prior to that, we like to get those addressed at the time—not brush them under the table and worry about them when the contract is up.” Reasons is confident that both organizations know they’re in it together. “I think Local 36 and the local SMACNA chapter are very good at realizing what affects the other,” he says. “Their fight is our fight and our fight is their fight.” Gast insists it’s important to stay focused on what truly matters. “Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that a high priority for us is making sure that we have something for people to do every day. It gets obscured by other perceived agendas, perhaps the thought that I want them to do work for less or that I want more production without paying for it. We’re naturally reminded of our different perspectives. “Most of the time when I have been involved with any kind of issue where the union has one position on something and I have another position, if our relationship fractured, it is
because we have so much self interest that we have forgotten about the real interest: the customer.” Gast encourages people to “put on a different pair of glasses. Don’t put on mine. Don’t put on yours,” he says. “Put on the customer’s and say, ‘What do I see? Do I like what I see?’ If you can honestly say, ‘This would be really good for you,’ then we’re probably on the right page. Sometimes we have to admit that what we’re debating or arguing about would not be of much interest to our customer.” Lauri Rollings, former executive director of Plumbing, Mechanical, Sheet Metal Contractors Alliance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, believes labor and management aren’t that different. “When you really break it down, both have the same goal, which is to maintain strong union market share and make sure the folks who are actually doing the work have a safe working environment, come home from work every day with no incidents on the job site, and have a living wage and benefits that allow them to provide for themselves and their families. “Each side needs to keep in mind that we have goals in common that are stronger than our differences,” she says. “In any relationship, the parties are not always going to agree, but it’s much easier to disagree respectfully and try to work our way through those differences if we realize we’re both working towards a common goal and we’re just taking different routes to get there.” In other words, by occasionally trying on and walking in each other’s shoes, our journey in the industry is bound to be more pleasant and successful for everyone. ▪ Cairine Caughill is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada. Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 5
ENFORCEMENT IS COMING There’s good reason SMACNA and SMART are strongly encouraging the Fire Life Safety Certification By Natalie Bruckner Photos courtesy of Tony Kocurek
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Christopher Ruch, director of training for the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI), distinctly recalls being a young apprentice and crawling into building spaces where few would enter. What he saw in those spaces shocked him. So much so that he decided to devote part of his career to becoming an advocate for HVAC fire life safety training and certification. “I can’t tell you the number of times I would encounter faulty fire dampers and tell the foreman, only to be told that this was an extremely common occurrence,” Ruch says. “To me, it didn’t make sense. My wife, my friends, my neighbors were working in these buildings, and just one weak link in the chain meant a wall was no longer fire resistant. Lives were at risk.” It’s an all too common scene for sheet metal workers, and yet to date, very few states require an inspection from an ICB-certified HVAC professional. However, this is about to change. “Increasingly, building operations managers are seeking to hire technicians who are certified to perform the inspection and testing of fire life safety systems,” says Duane Smith, director of certification
(ICB/TABB) for NEMI. “The ICB is the only certification body in the HVAC industry that provides fire life safety certifications. So, the importance is realized when SMART members have valuable opportunities for work hours that serve a great concept—public safety.” One sector that is paying close attention is healthcare, in particular hospitals. “In the medical field there are certain inspections that now require a fire life safety report and that has encouraged people to look into getting certified,” says Tony Kocurek, owner at Energy Balance & Integration LLC and vice president on the SMACNA executive committee. However, it’s not just the owners and developers who are starting to recognize the benefits of ANSI accreditation. Insurance companies have also been enlightened to the fact that faulty ductwork can act as a freeway, circulating smoke and toxins throughout a structure, even to offices far away from the flashpoint. “We’ve seen universities in New Mexico whose insurance companies now require it because of the legislation in the state,” Kocurek says. “These insurance companies realize the risks and want to see the certification of the installers, not just the ones doing the testing. Eventually, I think this will be nationwide.” Ruch agrees, adding that it’s not just in states where fire life safety legislations are in place, either. “While there is more of a focus in New Mexico and Nevada where legislation has been passed, and in Hawaii which is enforcing it, we are also seeing insurance companies requesting documentation in California,” he explains. According to Smith, to date one school district, five counties, 15 cities, and two states have passed legislation requiring inspection and testing of fire and smoke dampers, smoke control systems, and smoke management systems. “Other cities and states across the United States are aggressively seeking to pass legislation—imagine the profoundly-positive impact SMART members will have on public safety.” While the certificate is not new (the first certification exam was actually completed back in April 2009), the ICB-Certified Fire and Smoke Damper Technician and Smoke Control Systems Technician (previously called the Fire Life Safety Level 1 and Level 2 technician) have gone through a transition over the years and have become more specialized. The way the course is being offered has also changed. Kocurek says the idea is to make the certification accessible to all. “It can be hard to study when you’re working all day and have a family, so we’ve taken the course online to allow people to do it from home,” Kocurek says. John Hamilton, TABB Chief Operating Officer, adds that online classes help people get certified remotely so they don’t have to wait for the Local to put on a course. Then there’s the increasing number of apprenticeship programs that are even making fire life safety certification a mandatory requirement, with Local 49 being just one example. Around 40 hours of study time and hands-on training followed by a certification exam are required to become certified. “The exam is designed to assess the specific knowledge and skills required to
Vince Alvarado, Local 49, Senator Mimi Stewart, and Isaiah Zemke, Local 49, at the governor signing of SB 143.
perform the job,” Smith says. “ICB certifications are valid for a period of two years—an essential component for re-certification is continuing education. Continuing education units (CEU) earned during that period demonstrate that the certified professional is up-to-date on current industry knowledge and skills. By passing a certification exam you are demonstrating competence.” While there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that ICB certification will be required for all sheet metal workers down the road, when it comes to fire life safety, some still have a “wait and see” attitude. “It’s all too easy when business is strong to put things on the back burner, but becoming certified now means you are ready for when the market experiences a downturn,” Kocurek says. “It opens up more job opportunities.” It also makes great business sense, as Ruch explains. “Part of the reason to be prepared is being ready for a market downturn and already having a specialization,” he says. “One way or another this enforcement is coming. You will want to make sure your technicians are installing the system correctly because a year down the line, when the periodic test happens, the last thing you want is someone coming in a building you did and saying it wasn’t done right.” Being proactive rather that reactive does indeed make good business sense, and it will also save time, because, as Hamilton explains, once legislation takes place it can turn into a scramble to get people through the certification process. “Fire life safety inspection legislation assures sheet metal industry customers of the quality advantages of hiring persons or entities certified by the ICB and verifies their competence in completing the work,” Smith says. ▪ Natalie is an award-winning writer who has worked in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United States. and Canada. She has more than 23 years experience as a journalist, editor and brand builder, specializing in construction and transportation. Check out youtu.be/AOEnMosiAbI for a video of the Milwaukee JATC demonstrating the difference between functional and nonfunctional fire dampers. Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 7
To Thine Own Self Be True: The Enduring Legacy of Eugene Willis Bramlett by Deb Draper • Photos courtesy of Bobby Bramlett This is the story of a man who made a difference in the lives of his family, his workmates and associates, and in the lives of African-American people in the sheet metal industry. In January 2019, Eugene Willis Bramlett, founder and CEO of Aire Sheet Metal in Redwood City, California, left behind his beloved wife of 63 years, Wilhelmina Johanna (Monna), and his two sons, Marlo and Bobby, who are continuing his life’s work. For 48 years, Eugene Bramlett steered his company through often turbulent times to become the longest tenured and largest African American-owned HVAC company in the United States. He served as president of the San Mateo Chapter of SMACNA and sat on the Board for two decades while acting as the co-chair of the sheet metal JATC from 1972 to 1976. “Eugene was a professional through-and-through,” says Matthew Smith, principal and managing officer of Smith Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. in Stockton, California. “He was an outstanding SMACNA contractor, but there is so much more to his story.” Bobby Bramlett talks about how his father came from a family of 13 kids in Oklahoma and later moved to California. While still 8 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
in college, Eugene joined the United States Air Force, serving in foreign deployment as a master sergeant and member of the military police. In 1954, while stationed in Soesterberg, Holland, he met the love of his life, Monna. When he sought permission from his commanding officer to marry, the answer was an unequivocal “no.” There was no way he would be allowed to marry a white woman. “My dad said he was doing it, like it or not,” Bobby says. “He never backed down, despite their threats to send him back to the United States and despite failed attempts to discredit him. No one was going to tell him what to do—that’s how he lived his entire life.” They married, and Bobby was born in Holland. In 1958, the family was sent back to the United States and soon began the long drive from New York to California. As they travelled through the southern states, Monna had to sit in the back seat and keep her young son on the floorboards for fear she and Eugene would be seen as a couple—still illegal in parts of that region at that time.
“In Kentucky, we were run off the road by a group of men who saw mom reach over and give dad a bologna sandwich,” Bobby says. “They likely thought she’d kissed him on the cheek, and she probably had.” Had it not been for an off-duty sheriff coming the other way, Eugene may very well have been lynched that night, Bobby says. “And yet my mother always chose to focus on the goodness of that sheriff as opposed to the ignorance of the seven men who surrounded my dad.” In California, Eugene went to work for his brother, stoking furnaces and pouring concrete, before he got his opportunity in the sheet metal trade with Frank Purcell of Redwood Plumbing. Years later, Purcell says he hired Eugene—at a time when there was little racial diversity in any of the trades—because during the job interview he asked Eugene what he expected out of the experience. Without hesitation Eugene answered, “Your job.” Purcell hired him on the spot. Bobby laughs recalling how his father started that job stuck at the back of the shop making government clips. “The shop foreman wasn’t happy about him being there and vowed he wasn’t going to let him get any further,” Bobby says. “Instead of complaining, Dad built his own machine in the shop that allowed him to make those clips faster. In no time, they were overstocked with government clips. That was my dad’s business and life model: ῾You get them drunk with service, and you’ll always be able to mug them for sales’.” Many of Eugene’s struggles were less worthy of a chuckle. Once, Eugene was working on a job underground in a vaulted area with two big steel doors at one end for securing the worksite. He was gathering up his tools at the end of the shift when two crew members locked him in and drove away. “Luckily, the foreman noticed Dad’s truck was still outside and went back down to see where he was,” Bobby says. Following the faint voice calling out from behind those doors, the foreman rescued Eugene. “Those two were fired, but Dad could never easily get into an elevator after that and suffered from claustrophobia for the rest of his life,” Bobby says. It didn’t stop Eugene, though. He soon became a journeyman, and through hard work and his passion for learning, he became foreman and later superintendent. In 1971, he started Aire Sheet Metal. “Eugene grew up in times when he was not accepted and didn’t get some of the opportunities he should have, but he rose above it and said, ‘I’m not going to let that discourage me or take me from my focus on doing good, quality work in an industry that I care about’,” Smith says. Don Basso, business representative for Local 104 from 1982 until 1994, recalls that before the days of affirmative action initiatives, there weren’t a lot of minority-owned businesses. “Eugene’s was one of the better shops for promoting the individual and promoting the union,” Basso recalls. “He was a sheet metal worker before becoming a contractor, so he saw both sides of the picture.”
In the late 90s, Eugene was instrumental in merging the San Mateo SMACNA chapter with others to create the Bay Area Chapter, currently the largest in the United States. “He was heavily involved in the apprenticeship training program, and he deserves a lot of credit for improvements made there,” Basso says. “He was very good at recruiting people to come into the sheet metal apprenticeship program, and he followed them all the way through.” Smih recalls stories about how Eugene brought in minority employees and helped them understand and deal with discrimination so they could rise above it all and not miss out on the opportunity to succeed. “Many of those individuals came back later and said to him, ‘I worked 30 years in the industry, and now I have a pension. I just want to thank you because, given the abuse, I was ready to give up.’ To have someone like Eugene lead by example and mentor those recruits, it was an incredible thing for him to do,” Smith says. “My father had a ferocious way of approaching life,” Bobby says. “It wasn’t loud, but it was directed and it was intense because he believed performance is what matters.” Against these odds, Aire Sheet Metal grew and prospered under Eugene’s leadership. He brought his sons up through the company, and they ran it together until it was time for Eugene to step back.
“Eugene grew up in times when he was not accepted and didn’t get some of the opportunities he should have, but he rose above it and said, ‘I’m not going to let that discourage me or take me from my focus on doing good, quality work in an industry that I care about’,” says Matthew Smith, Smith Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. Today, Bobby and his brother Marlo don’t like to use their official titles: President and Executive Vice President. “Titles mean nothing,” Bobby says. “Dad taught us to respect the person, not the title.” Recently, the California State Assembly and concurrently the California Senate conferred its highest commendation upon Eugene Bramlett for his “dedication and service to the San Mateo Community, for professionalism in the sheet metal and HVAC industry, and for his generous contributions to youth as mentor, role model and patron.” Eugene Bramlett changed the sheet metal industry and mentored many of his peers, but he left the brightest mark on is own children. “We had only one hero,” Bobby says. “The most loyal, the most gracious, the toughest human being I have ever known in my life was my father. And I grew up with him, so how lucky am I?” ▪ From her desk in Calgary, Alberta, Deb Smith writes for trade and business publications across North America, specializing in profiles and stories within the hospitality, food service, mining, recreation, and construction industries. Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 9
EXIT STRATEGIES The Good, The Bad, and the Timely
By /Jordan Whitehouse • Photos courtesy of California Sheet Metal Joe Isom and his business partner were in their mid-50s when they started thinking about their exit from California Sheet Metal. They weren’t ready to leave yet, but they knew the clock was ticking to make a plan that would secure their futures and that of their company. “We saw from our own research and talking to other people that it can take some time to make a transition or to sell your business,” Isom says. They were right. After talking to more people and exploring a third-party purchase, they finally landed on an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in 2013. This essentially means that they sold the company to all of California Sheet Metal’s employees, including union members. It’s turned out to be the best option for them, but every company is different. The most important thing is to have a plan, says John Ovrom, the president of transition advising company Exit Consulting Group. Ovrom also helped Isom and his partner devise their succession plan. “It doesn’t mean you have to execute the plan, but if your goal is to some day leave the company without it being reliant on you to be successful, then the longer you plan it, the better it is.” Few companies appear to be heeding that advice, however. According to a study from Deloitte, only about 10% of American companies say they have a management succession plan that is effective in transitioning young leaders into senior roles. With about 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day until 2027, that could spell disaster for the future of these companies and their retirement coffers. 10 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
So, where does one even start the planning process? The place to start is to define “the win,” says Ovrom. Reasons for leaving typically fall into four categories, he says—emotional, financial, risk reduction, and health—and each reason coincides with a different exit strategy. “If risk tolerance is big, for instance, then you can’t sell to an inside buyer because they likely won’t pay you quickly,” Ovrom says. “So that means we have to take it to a third-party sale, which will allow you to get out faster.” All options have their pluses and minuses, though. A thirdparty sale might get an owner out quicker, but the value of the company might not be as high as anticipated, particularly if little thought has been given to who and how the owner’s shoes get filled. For Al Youna, president of YMI Group, a third-party sale wasn’t right for him. “A few years ago, I decided I didn’t want my retirement to be contingent on the sale of my company,” Youna says. “Instead, I worked with a financial planner to develop a 20-year plan. Once I reach that time, I could basically decide to walk away from the business, and I’d be able to live the same lifestyle.” If legacy and trust are big issues for an exiting owner, another option is to hand the reigns over to a family member. But that person has to be trained and ready to take on those leadership responsibilities, Ovrom says. “The best transition I’ve worked on is the one in which the son or daughter is in the business, started at the bottom, and moved up. This is particularly true
No matter the type of exit plan, the key is to give yourself lots of time to get one in place, says John Ovrom, president of Exit Consulting Group.
in construction. The guys in construction are a pretty tough crowd; you’re not going to walk in and gain their respect just because you have the same last name.” And then there’s the ESOP route. Virtually unheard of until the mid-1970s, there are now over 6,500 of these plans in the United States, covering 14.4 million people, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership. There are different versions of ESOPs, but in essence, they allow employees to purchase the company from previous owners and receive shares themselves. Ovrom’s advice is to only do an ESOP when the business legacy is the primary motivator. ESOPs that succeed are the ones in which owners recognize they’ve been successful and wish to empower wealth onto the workforce, he says. “Owners can then decide that over 10 years, they are going to work their way out of a job and coach the workforce so they can gain the wealth.” This was exactly the case for California Sheet Metal. “Because we’re a 101-year-old company, multiple generations of workers that have worked here have become owners,” Isom says. “So we wanted the legacy to continue, and sometimes with third-party or corporate purchase they’ll break up the company. We didn’t want that to happen.” They also decided to include members from Local 206 in the ESOP. It was a straightforward process to do so, and Isom says they’re glad they did because they’ve always felt that a lot of the strength and success of the company comes from those members. Local 206’s Business Manager Doug Tracy says it has been a win-win for everyone. “When guys know that it’s partly their company and they have a vested interest, I think the level of effort and quality go up,” Tracy says. “[ESOPs] are also a huge benefit to the relationship between the union and the contractor. Animosity is all but eliminated because everybody’s on the same boat.” No matter the exit plan, however, the key is to give yourself lots of time to get one in place, Ovrom says. Isom’s final piece of advice is to hire the right person to help with succession planning. “Don’t do it yourself,” he says. “Don’t try to do all of the process or the evaluation, because you have to run your business. These people are professionals. It might seem expensive, but in the end it’ll pay off.” ▪ Jordan Whitehouse is a freelance business journalist from Vancouver, British Columbia, who writes for magazines, newspapers, and online publications throughout Canada and the United States.
Course instructor and ITI field representative Aldo Zambetti. Photo courtesy of Partners in Progress.
ITI’S BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COURSE Most experts agree that the earlier a business owner can start thinking about a succession plan, the better. That thinking could begin even before they become owners, and the International Training Institute’s (ITI) business development course allows them to do just that. Launched about two years ago, the three-phase course helps union sheet metal workers prepare themselves for becoming union sheet metal contractors and, if they wish, for exiting on firm footing. “The mantra from class one to the end is: You’re not a failure if you don’t go into business. You’re only a failure if you go into business with your eyes wide shut,” says course instructor and ITI field representative Aldo Zambetti. Phase one of the course involves eight weeks of distance learning that touches on everything from conducting market research and evaluating the personal risks and rewards of going into business to building bids. Phase two is a week-long session at Local 33 near Cleveland where students learn about creating an actionable financial plan, ethics and sales, and devising human resources policy. Phase three is self-directed, allowing students to use the Small Business Association website to follow a stepby-step business plan template at their own pace. Throughout the program, and after it ends, students can get additional assistance, including guidance on how to think about a succession plan tailored to their specific goals and situation from SMART Capital Director Rob Biederman. That kind of specificity is one of the biggest advantages of taking this business development course over others, Zambetti says. “There are classes out there that have highly educated people leading them, but they don’t know the ins and outs of our trade. They don’t understand organized labor construction versus unorganized. We do.” For more information about this free, anonymous course for SMART members, head to sheetmetal-iti.org/businessdevelopment. Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 11
Can Social Media Replace Your Organization’s Website? Do you need a website, social media profiles, or both? There are pros and cons for using both social media and websites in any organization By / Pam Haskell Reprinted with permission from greenindustrypros.com. See the original story at greenindustrypros.com/business/technology/article/21084500/cansocial-media-replace-your-company-website
Being online is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a necessity. There are many options when it comes to giving your organization an online presence, but what type of presence best suits your needs? And what type of medium will match the needs of your market? The endless options can usually be cut down to two choices—a website or social media profiles. The most common question asked is, “What can a website do that social media can’t?” Social media has overtaken many other forms of online marketing and communication online, causing many organization representatives to wonder if a website is even needed. Can an organization survive on social media alone? Social media comes in so many forms, and each profile only takes a couple of minutes to set up and get started. There are already millions of potential connections swarming Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, presenting a sizeable and easily accessible opportunity for users. 12 » Partners in Progress » www.pinp.org
Social Media Advantages Cheaper: Social media pages are quick and easy to set up, and organizations can usually set up accounts free of charge. This means a person can get a basic online presence started quickly with little effort. No Commitment: There is little or no commitment to your social media profile, and if a person feels the profile is no longer doing the job they want it to, they can just delete it. Organizations can also just switch to another platform or have multiple social media profiles going at once—they are not stuck with one provider. Real-Time Market Interaction: Social media enables and encourages back and forth interaction between organizations and the individuals they are trying to attract. It makes organizations more approachable and human, which allows easy two-way communication and helps establish relationships. Potential consumers will learn more about an organization’s offering, values, and purpose as they read daily or weekly updates, keeping that same organization top of mind.
Brand Loyalty: Interacting with an organization on a daily basis will help create a sense of loyalty to the company or Local and its way of operating. Social Media Disadvantages Limited Customization: Social media platforms generally follow the same layout and offer little or no customization. Yes, profile holders can add a photo and the organization’s details, but there isn’t much they can do with the basic layout of the page. This limited design limits creativity and the ability to demonstrate originality. Open Forum: Consumers can ask questions and voice their opinions (feedback and possible complaints) on organizations’ social media pages. This means someone must monitor the pages and keep a close eye on what the audience is saying. In most cases, the public has complete control over what they comment on a business profile and can also link the company profile to a comment they are making on their own profiles. No Control: A lack of ownership is probably the number one problem when it comes to social media platforms in that the organization does not own their social media profile. The social media sites control some of the content and promotions appearing on or next to the pages, and owners must follow strict guidelines to keep their pages afloat. In the event a social media platform becomes obsolete or stops operating, users’ online presence would disappear. Do companies need a website? If an organization wants complete control over its authority online, then a website is the better choice over only having social media profiles. What’s great about a website is that it belongs to the entity that creates it. Website owners decide where it goes and what it looks like, and it provides an unbeatable level of credibility for the organization. A website can be as simple or as complex as required. Consumers want to put their trust in an organization that looks professional, and a website can help achieve this. Website Advantages Credibility: Websites are an important way to demonstrate the legitimacy of an organization. People expect companies and Locals of all sizes to have an up-to-date, mobile responsive website, and they are more likely to trust an organization with an accessible, easy to navigate, informative website. Controls: When an organization has a website, it owns it. The owner has full reign over how it looks and what features are displayed on it. More Marketing Opportunities: Through a website, organizations can create more effective marketing campaigns. There is more freedom to communicate with consumers using videos, blogs, consumer feedback, news, and even some promotional offers. Other options include pay-per-click campaigns, which are used to drive traffic and the advertiser
pays a publisher when the ad is clicked. Sending clicks to an organization’s homepage is a waste of money because once people land there, they have no idea what to do next. Having a website allows organization representatives to create a custom landing page to which all paid-for traffic is directed. This means they are able to target specific audiences with specific services and have a much higher chance of turning them into consumers. Full Availability: Websites are available 24 hours a day. Many now prefer to get information about organizations online and on their own time—websites make that happen. Having a website full of helpful information and contact information can seriously reduce the amount of time spent answering common questions. Disadvantages Maintenance: Depending on how big an organization’s is and what content management system it’s built on will dictate how much time and effort it will take to maintain. It’s important to maintain a website at all times from both a security point of view and a customer point of view, and this can become quite a time-consuming task. Websites Cost Money: No matter who you choose as your website developer, it’s going to cost money. For the love of all things professional, do not get a free website. Consumers will know when an organization has not paid a penny for its website, and they’ll make their own judgements about the company’s choices and why they were made. It might even cost potential market share. Cost ranges widely from $500 to $100,000 or more depending on what functionality is required. More Time, More Effort: Website owners have to make more of an effort with regard to effective marketing. It takes time, patience, and skill to ensure people—and Google—find an organization’s site. Who’s Taking Home The Win? It’s important to note that a well-laid-out digital strategy will include both a professional website and regularly updated social media accounts. Based on the advantages and disadvantages of both a website is vital for any organization. Even if a business is small and growing a website can help eliminate some of the growing pains. Social media shouldn’t be forgotten about, either. It is an incredibly powerful tool to help organizations run smoothly and effectively. It helps engage with consumers, allows organizations to share new products and services, and bring visitors onto the website for more information and contact info. ▪ This article was written by Pam Haskell, owner of the website design & development company Chili Pepper Design (cpdesignco. com). She helps businesses in the landscaping and outdoor living space create and maintain a modern web presence along with online marketing and reputation management services. Partners in Progress » September 2019 » 13
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