By Kristen Ammerman
A new CEO. A new secretary/treasurer. A new branding discussion. A new president. The Annual Meeting of the Members, held on Monday, March 25, in Houston, introduced many fresh ideas and initiatives to the membership.
President Mike Williams noted how hectic and yet productive the year had been. “I was president for about a minute before Jim Birdsong announced his retirement,” he noted. The selection committee hired the same firm that brought us Jim 17 years ago; and after a long process, Lionel van der Walt was hired as new CEO and Executive Vice President. “We made the right decision,” Williams said. “You’re going to see some great changes.”
He noted that we have had discussions with a lobbyist to help us to develop and execute a robust advocacy strategy. This includes areas such as responsible procurement practices, the importance of including independent design professionals in federal and publicly funded construction renovation projects, etc. A group of about 25 worked in the fall on a new RCI Strategic Plan focusing on marketing, advocacy, and technology. A new Building Envelope Commissioning Task Force was established with Bob Card as chair. A new Manual of Practice Committee is operating, “with about half of the people in the room on it.” He thanked all the past presidents, the staff, and his wife Gina for helping him do his job over the last year. “We have made great strides in the last 60 days,” Williams stated. “Lionel will be able to tell you about that in his funny English,” he jibed, referring to van der Walt’s South African accent.
New CEO Lionel van der Walt, in his Envisioning the Future speech, acknowledged, “Yes, I am a little weird…I am from a little country down south…and I did buy a [sports] bra [for my daughter] at the auction last night,” he joked.
He explained his new acronym, “MERIT,” established to express his management philosophy to the staff. The letters stand for Membership, Engagement, Results, Innovation, and Teamwork. He noted as part of the goal of better connection with members, he and other staff members have been recording YouTube videos posted on the RCI YouTube channel and website on a monthly basis to update members on what is happening.
Alec Jeffries is now Director of both Membership Services and Chapter and Region Affairs under a new title of Director of Membership Programs. He is shooting for a membership growth rate of 8% increase over the next year (it was 4% this past year).
Van der Walt made a commitment that membership dues will not increase in 2019 for core members and that he will study the issue of the U.S./Canadian dollar exchange rate and find a solution. In order to freeze dues, staff are working on ways to cut costs by reducing printing and paper use.
The CEO noted that he is working to collaborate with industry partners, including NRCA, NIBS, and ASTM and remarked that one-quarter of the participants in the recent Roofing Day in DC were from RCI, thanks to great member participation. Relationships are being formed with other industry organizations to create a commissioning certification program for the building envelope and to fight against cooperative procurement in construction.
“We are going to do a lot more marketing and create more visibility for RCI while…educating people about the value” of the association. To that end, the board commissioned a marketing firm to do a branding analysis.
“I challenge every single paradigm,” van der Walt stated. “My new tagline is ‘Pushing the envelope’ to better the association, and I hope you’ll join me.”
In the contest for secretary/treasurer, former Region VII Director Ted Sheridan, RBEC, PE, who lost last year to Scott Hinesley, was victorious this year over Outgoing Region V Director Mike Gardner, RRC, RRO. Both were introduced by Nominating Committee Chair Pat Downey. Sheridan, a 27-year member of RCI, pledged to provide more value to RCI’s members, advocate for recognition of RCI designations and a better profile for the association, and to position RCI as an industry leader in the building envelope field. “I’ve never been more excited for the future of RCI. It’s going to get more interesting and more complex.”
Bob Card and Scott Hinesley, running unopposed for the offices of 1st Vice President and 2nd Vice President, respectively, were elected to those posts.
President Williams introduced Bonnie Taylor of CCS Innovations, a marketing firm hired by RCI to do branding surveys about the association. Using a PowerPoint and referring to a handout with results from three surveys done in February, Taylor presented the results. There were 1,033 total respondents (56.5% members and 43.5% “external”). Of those responding from the member survey, 74% were over the age of 46, with 44% over the age of 55. Half of them have been members for ten years or more. This “unbalanced age will eventually be a problem,” as members retire, Taylor noted.
Over half of the respondents cited registrations as their primary reason for joining. In the external survey, 64% said they had contemplated joining RCI but did not. “To many, RCI still means ‘roof,’” Taylor said. The word “consultant” is “also a barrier to potential members, limiting potential growth” from academics, students, and manufacturers.
Approximately 6 to 8% of RCI’s members are female (38% of all students on RCI Foundation convention scholarships have been women).
In addition to the surveys, Taylor conducted interviews with 21 members and nonmembers from the U.S. and Canada. During these discussions, several said they believed RCI was regarded by some as an “old white guys’ association.” Seventy-one percent said there was confusion surrounding RCI’s brand, with 90% wanting to change the name of the organization to reflect the more-encompassing “building envelope.”
- Eliminate current brand conflict and simplify RCI’s message.
- Fully brand the association’s registrations.
- Create a more appealing mission for academics and students.
- Focus efforts on advocacy, industry awareness, and research.
- Showcase cooperation and outreach opportunities with other fields such as architecture and engineering.
- Change RCI’s image as an “old white guys’ association.”
Member comment on the branding report was lively. Bob Elsdon asked, “Are we contemplating a new name? And if we are, how are we coming up with a new name?” President Williams said nothing would happen without a member vote, while van der Walt noted, “This is really important because our marketing initiative is on hold until we have this resolved.”
Dick Canon had issue with the survey results showing that 34.3% of respondents were involved in building envelope services and only 6.45% were in roof consulting, while Bonnie Taylor responded that it was intentionally a single-answer question, and that therefore, people who did both roof
consulting and other building envelope consulting probably answered “building envelope services.”
“I think the numbers [from that part of the survey] are wrong,” Joe Hale opined. “There are people who will reorganize as ‘roof consultants’ if they are left out. …We’re an architectural, engineering, and building envelope firm, but roof consulting pays the light bill. Seventy-five percent is pure roof or reroof. This whole group is a bunch of mongrels.”
“Nobody is being left out,” Williams responded. “We want to be the ‘big tent’ organization.”
Nelson Hall asked for a show of hands of how many people in the room earned most of their money as roof consultants. A great many hands went up. Jon Canon asked how many people were actively trying to build their business with all sides of the building, and almost all the hands in the room went up.
Warren French noted, “As one of the old white guys, I’m excited about the innovations, whether it includes a name change or not. It’s long overdue.”
Jesse Torres, who noted he was 46 years old—just barely in that upper 75% of the membership in age—said the survey results might feel like a shock to a lot of “seasoned professionals,” but that he supported van der Walt and Williams.
In other business, attendees were directed to a printed State of the Association report listing activities in each department.
Convention Chair Bob Card announced record attendance at the convention this year, at 1644, and that three-quarters of the trade show booths are already sold for 2019.
Secretary/Treasurer Scott Hinesley gave the financial report for 2017, noting revenue of $3,969,334, expenses of $4,080,125 (much of the difference due to the search for a new CEO), and a total retained earnings balance accumulated during the past 16 years of $1,517,031. “The organization is on solid financial footing with 544 new members in 2017, bringing us over 3500, and a total of 1834 registrants.”
Foundation Chair Joe Hale gave an update on the Foundation. He thanked GAF for sponsoring the charity event for 12 years, and the spouses for their many years of volunteering for the auction, as well as the staff and Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner for their work. He also thanked the Foundation boards, and especially thanked the Canadians for their input to RCI. He announced that 47 final applications have been received for the Newlan and Lyons scholarships, and 12 winners will soon be announced. The weekend brought in $90,925 gross with $54,180 from the auction and the rest from chapter donations.
At the conclusion of announcement of election results, Mike Williams pinned the President’s Pin on Mike Clark; and Robért Hinojosa, who is now leaving the board of directors, pinned the Past President’s Pin on Mike Williams.
Clark joked he was the 34th in a series of mostly “old white guys” to be elected to lead RCI, with the “young Mr. Hinojosa being the one exception.”
He noted that on a recent trip to Arizona with his wife Kitty, they visited many sites, including Montezuma’s Castle, built by the Sinagua Tribe hundreds of years ago. In the National Park Services’ gift shop at the monument, a poster entitled “Advice from a Cliff Dwelling” caught Clark’s eye. After reading the bullet points, he decided they were good advice to him going into the next year as RCI’s president. They read:
- Find your niche.
— No matter where you identify yourself within the building envelope consulting community, RCI has a niche for you.
- Rise to the occasion.
— RCI has always risen to the occasion and will continue to do so with members’ support.
- Stay close to the earth.
— Clark joined RCI in 1991 when it was the Roof Consultants Institute, and although RCI has expanded its focus, it won’t forget where it comes from.
- Be constructive.
— The association is positioning itself to take advantage of the opportunities available in the building envelope industry.
- Stick together.
— The board, the members, and staff are all in this together. Contact the board with constructive
- Build on strong foundations.
— Those who lead the organization now stand on the shoulders of the founders and those who have gone before.
- Don’t go down in ruins.
— Clark noted his wife is his biggest cheerleader but tells him, “Don’t screw up.” He promised to do his best to move the association forward and to “do more, say less.”