Learning Through Networking

DeanKredit.jpgRubbing elbows, schmoozing, meet and greet: no matter what you call it, nothing can describe the power of networking. IEC Members who attend local and national events can speak to this - in fact, networking is usually cited as the greatest benefit of not just attending events, but becoming a member of IEC.

This was the case at the 2013 IEC National Leadership Conference, which took place in Memphis, Tennessee. We had a great turnout and even saw some new faces in the crowd. The week began on a high note as attendees filtered into the beautiful Peabody Memphis and retrieved their Memphis Welcome bags, which were provided by Mid-South IEC. If you haven't had a chance to use the two Memphis seasonings from the bags, I highly insist you do so soon!

A general session presented by Mark "Rusty" Sherwood kicked-off the event and really set the tone for the conference. He spoke about trends in the industry, and how leaders need to be more innovative to adapt to these new changes and trends. He then had contractors quiz themselves on their level of innovation. Now I'm not going to tell you my score, but I will tell you that I'm glad I took notes that can be implemented at K2 Electric. I'm guessing a majority of those in attendance will have to hone their creative thinking and innovation skills too.

The other two sessions also provided fantastic information. Economist Timothy Gill of NEMA provided members with an in-depth financial forecast, detailing what we can expect for our business volume in the future. The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - the economy is improving. It's just going to take some time to get there. Phillip Russell shared with attendees how the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)'s decisions will affect merit shop contractors and went into more detail on the Noel Canning decision on the recess appointments of three NLRB members.

This seminar reminded me how decisions in Washington can be absolutely detrimental to my business, and nothing will be done unless I speak up. This is why I believe the upcoming Legislative Fly-In in May is one of the most important events an IEC member can attend. This is the one time of the year where a large group of merit shop electrical contractors can gather on Capitol Hill and collectively lobby for their business and the industry. They say there is strength in numbers, which is why your attendance at this event is so critical. Besides getting your voice heard, you will also have a chance to network with other contractors. Just a simple conservation can lead you to a discussion on how to deal with a regulatory audit or hearing, unionizing campaigns, or even provide you with grassroots and campaigning tips.

One characteristic of IEC members that sets us apart from other associations is our ability to share best practices with other contractors, even if they are - technically speaking - our competitors. Not only do we share information, I see contractors share manpower with competing members in the same market/area and join forces when it comes to training, workforce development, and more. I can't think of another organization that shows this kind of support and I think this makes us the strongest association in our industry.

As the year progresses, I look forward to all the networking opportunities ahead, both nationally and locally. The contractor or industry partner I sit next to during dinner may be the person who helps improve my business. There's no telling where a simple conversation can go. I urge you all to take advantage of your chapter events as well as National and actively engage in conversation with another member outside your company.

Dean Kredit is IEC's 2013 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Kredit serves as Chair to the Board of Directors, House of Delegates, and Executive Committee. He is also the president of K2 Electric in Phoenix, Arizona.