-By Beth Schaefer NFBA Marketing Manager-
Connecting People, Products and Purpose: Mission Accomplished!
Yes, record-breaking. Things looked promising last fall: For the first time ever, we needed to expand the space on the trade-show floor to accommodate the number of new exhibitors. But nobody guessed the Nashville trade show would be this successful.
More than 1,600 building professionals—from crew members to business owners, from contractors to manufacturers—packed the exhibit hall March 5–7 and many of these building enthusiasts attended educational sessions, for which 44 continuing education hours were offered. Content was targeted at four different audiences, with a management track for organizational leaders, a sales and marketing track for marketers and salespeople, a technical knowledge track for builders and engineers and a hands-on skills training track for crew members.
Opryland experiences the expo!
The Gaylord Opryland Resort is renowned as one of the lushest and most exhilarating vacation and meeting destinations in the world—with its lavish gardens, crashing waterfalls, vibrant shops and fine restaurants. Now it’s renowned as the host of what could be the greatest Frame Building Expo to date! The 2014 expo showcased a modern look and feel with redesigned programs, enhanced education, new trade-show activities and a mobile app to boot.
Of course, Nashville has been a home base for many past NFBA expos. (The “Music City” is right up there with Louisville—site of the 2015 expo—and Indianapolis as a favorite expo hot spot.) Opryland proved again to be an exotic haven for Expo attendees, who took full advantage of their hiatus from work responsibilities to enjoy professional and recreational enrichment.
Keynote, education sessions and workshops
Motivational speaker Mike McKinley charmed the crowds with his quirky humor, wit and zingers. He got listeners’ cerebral wheels turning about business planning and customer service strategies. McKinley’s presentation, “Maximizing Performance, Customer Service, and Motivation,” teed up the Expo and was followed by the ribbon cutting for the trade show. McKinley’s fearless, dynamic delivery inspired attendees to tackle their own business challenges. He stressed the importance of keenly examining the operational practices of one’s own company in order to thrive.
Following his keynote, McKinley led two sales and marketing sessions in an open-forum format. “It was good to have interaction,” said attendee Darcy Hautala of AJ Manufacturing. “Mike gets you thinking back to the basics of customer service. Even the finest, most seasoned salespeople can use a refresher.”
Management sessions included classes such as “How to Develop an Effective and Compliant Safety Program” and “Foundational Leadership Begins with You.” Sales and marketing sessions included “Secrets for Generating Leads Through Your Website” and “Appearance Matters: Showcase Beautiful Design.” Technical sessions included classes such as “Avoiding Common Building Failures in the Post-Frame Industry” and “The Sustainable Site.” NFBA also introduced hands-on skills training on the show floor. Crew members rolled up their sleeves to sharpen their door-application and roof-seaming skills.
John Byler, D&J Construction East, said of the program: “It’s a big highlight for all the crew guys, and it’s just an awesome place to spend a few days. We learn a lot.”
The “feel good” buzz in the halls between sessions was almost palpable. Attendees chatted about the good blend of topics and the new seeds of knowledge being propagated.
Presenter Linda Reed Friedman (“Networking Ignited”—a sales and marketing session) described her experience as an educator at Expo: “The real treat was the gentleman who ran up to me and said, ‘This is the best program I’ve ever been to!’”
The workshop “Improving Your Competitiveness and Bottom Line Through Productivity” (led by FMI, a construction industry research and consulting firm) returned to the expo stage in 2014. After its successful debut at the 2013 expo in Memphis, attendee demand prompted NFBA to schedule the popular workshop again. The second time around, the 4-hour session was just as much a crowd-pleaser as in its first run.
FMI also presented the special workshop “Fundamental Skills of Construction Selling,” which was well received by sales and marketing professionals. In this 4-hour session, participants acquired new skills (e.g., how to network to improve customer relations) and knowledge (e.g., how to understand project life-cycle elements and customer influencers).
Crew members and site supervisors attended the “10-Hour OSHA Workshop on Construction and Safety.” The participants brushed up on the latest regulations and techniques in job-site safety—and earned their 10-Hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration training card for taking part. Presenter Ray Wellington, Fingerlakes Construction, summed up the key takeaway: “The attendees left the class with a better view on what OSHA’s mission is and why it’s important to understand and comply with safety regulations.”
It’s trade-show time
NFBA was pleased to welcome 35 new exhibitors, who brought extra energy to the floor. The result: an exhibit hall bustling with booth traffic. Suppliers, building material dealers and construction service providers were prominent types among the 134 exhibitors. Other exhibitor disciplines included post-frame building financing, post-frame construction estimating and machinery production.
“I’ve learned about different material I didn’t know existed out there,” said Jason Skifton of Brickl Brothers Inc. “This is my first expo, and it’s more than I expected!”
He continued, “This expo has provided us with all kinds of opportunities to meet some of the local people along with some of the national providers of materials and supplies.”
For the first time ever, NFBA showcased exhibitor-led education in the exhibit hall. Expo LIVE! premiered to rave reviews from spectators. Expo LIVE! presentations lasted 15 minutes each and covered topics ranging from tool options and pointers on fasteners, panels and roof seaming to inventory management.
Annual business meeting: Onward and upward
Members rose bright and early on Thursday morning to catch the NFBA’s annual meeting. Association leaders presented NFBA financials, 2013 achievements, and 2014 priorities. The meeting concluded with board elections.
Attendees were especially interested in the 2014 priorities. The presentation outlined new initiatives like the Gail Miller Recognition Program for Excellence in Safety, the NFBA website Supplier Marketplace, the Post-Frame Advantage website redesign and Post-Frame Advantage webinar “Architectural Alternatives for Post-Frame Building Systems” and highlighted the forthcoming publication of the revised Post-Frame Building Design Manual.
Awards celebration: Lights, camera, action!
Awards luncheon tickets sold like hotcakes. Building enthusiasts enjoyed a delicious meal while applauding the industry’s top performers—and viewing photos of spectacular post-frame buildings on a big screen, too!
Ken Gieseke of McElroy Metals graced the ceremony with his fourth appearance as presenter. This year’s format was different because of the redesigned and expanded Building of the Year contest. Gieseke announced the 12 first-place BOY winners in the Experts Division and then presented the 12 first-place BOY winners in the Masters Division. The pinnacle of the event was Gieseke’s presentation of the Judges’ Award to Josh and Teresa Sweinhart, owners of Wood Originals Inc., for their outstanding post-frame project. You could hear the oohs and ahhs.
“We enjoyed seeing what projects won in 2013,” said Josh Sweinhart. “We also liked how the awards were divided between small and large companies, showing the variety within post-frame construction.”
Five post-frame professionals expressed heartfelt thanks when they accepted their awards: Crew Foreman of the Year Kole Kroft, FBi Buildings; Bernon G. Perkins Award winner Ron Sutton, Morton Buildings; and the three inductees into the Rural Builder Hall of Fame—Al Geisthardt, Plyco Corporation; John Hill, Lester Buildings; and Rick Stowell, University of Nebraska.
Kroft expressed gratitude to NFBA and program sponsor American Building Components for his Crew Foreman of the Year Award. Kroft also thanked his supervisors at FBi and his crew. “Day after day you have made my job easy and enjoyable,” Kroft said onstage. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by such good people who can share in our success in each building we construct.”
Especially moving was Sutton’s acceptance of the Bernon G. Perkins Award, NFBA’s most distinguished honor. The audience rose to recognize the seasoned engineer, applauding his years of service and devotion to the post-frame industry. Sutton graciously expressed his joy at being awarded this honor.
Boy, one room was buzzing until midnight on Wednesday evening! That would be the venue for Plyco Corporation’s annual hospitality party. This event is always hopping, but this year Plyco was celebrating a momentous occasion: its 60th birthday! Crowds filled the room to congratulate Plyco on 60 years of superior service. Fred Beyer—a beloved musician with many an expo under his belt—provided piano entertainment. “Plyco fun” was had by all!
On Thursday—just after the trade show closed for the day—spiritually minded revelers gathered for the annual Christians in Construction reception. The reception included entertainment (a trio of vocals/keyboard, bass and guitar), crunchy snacks; refreshing nonalcoholic beverages and, most meaningful, prayer and words of inspiration. People enjoyed gathering in a relaxed, family-friendly setting to celebrate the post-frame community and the role of faith in their work.
Talk about a successful new venture! On Thursday evening, Graber Post Buildings hosted its first expo reception. Attendees—representing a wide range of ages, cultures, and building backgrounds—hope there will be many more! They flocked into the Tennessee Ballroom to enjoy ice cream sundaes, a variety of beverages and toe-tapping live music. The music of Will Stoltz and his backup band—which included an excellent fiddler—is described as “Amish roots, Nashville sound.”
Mark Graber of Graber Post Buildings reported, “We were very pleased to host the Thursday night reception at this year’s NFBA Expo, and we were overwhelmed by the turnout. It was great to see our many national customers, and it was also great to meet and socialize with all the other frame building professionals we hope to develop new relationships with. Our sincere thanks to all those who attended.”
Looking ahead (and forward!) to Louisville
Next stop: Louisville. If the 2015 expo is anything like the one that just ended, it’s something to get fired up about!
“I’ve really enjoyed the  show,” said attendee Sam Henry of Martin Builder—Lester Dealer and NFBA member for 20+ years. “It’s different from most trade shows. There’s less razzle-dazzle. Everybody’s straightforward and shooting straight. The booths are set up that way, and I like that. We will go to Louisville. It’s definitely worth coming [to the Expo]. No doubt about it.” FBN
Connecting People, Products and Purpose:
Connecting People, Products and Purpose: