The Value of Trusted Associations

You can tell a lot about someone by his or her associates, and that’s as true for businesses as it is for individuals. Every successful business understands the value of ongoing trust-based relationships with other industry professionals.

Take the example of builder trade partnerships. If a builder has top-notch trade partners working on its jobs, it’s a sign that the builder is top-notch as well. Birds of a feather do, in fact, tend to build together. The rewards that come from partnerships between highly professional companies go to everyone—builder, trade partners, and customers—in ways that are obvious and also not so obvious.

First, the obvious. A builder who has a trusted cadre of great trade subcontractors— and who treats them well—earns the best value and the finest customer service those subcontractors have to offer. The builder’s customers enjoy fair pricing and timely work. Builders are really no different than homeowners in this respect: once they find a plumbing or landscaping company that consistently gets things done right and on time, without the need for micromanagement, they use that company again and again. It’s smart business.

A reliable trade partner can also be trusted to take care of the customer without the builder having to act as an intermediary. Consider the process of choosing ceramic tile. As one builder put it: “It’s a waste of time for me to be in the tile shop with the clients as they go back and forth making choices. I add no value.” The ability of the tile shop to manage the process makes scheduling easier and helps control costs. Less obvious but equally important payoffs have to do with continual improvement. A trusted trade partner won’t be afraid to tell the builder if something can be done more efficiently, and vice-versa. In fact, good builders schedule meetings with their trade partners at the end of big jobs for the specific purpose of sharing feedback. Over time, everyone becomes more professional and efficient, and customers reap the benefit of well-managed projects.

The best builders also go beyond their market. For instance, most professional builders belong to a trade association that keeps them up to date on trends in design, construction, codes, and business management. Some participate in the local chapter of a large organization like the

National Association of Homebuilders, trading expertise and knowledge with other local builders. Others join networking groups with companies from non-competing markets who work together to help one another strengthen and grow their businesses. By sharing what works and what doesn’t, each member company becomes more successful and better able to serve its customers. Membership in a trade group is a good sign. That’s because these groups don’t attract builders out to make a quick buck. Rather, the willingness to pay (often steep) membership fees and to participate in the organization’s activities is the mark of a company that’s serious about adhering to professional standards and even helping to develop them. It’s a company that wants to improve the industry as a whole for the benefit of everyone. These are pros who treat homebuilding like the profession it is, and who take great pride in that fact.