Does your industry have a professional association? If so, is it worth joining?
This month I interview Dean Phillips, Membership Development Executive – Gold Coast for Master Builders Queensland and ask what is important about Industry Associations for the Building & Construction Industry and why you should consider joining.
KB: Hi Dean and welcome! So, I guess the first question is, what is an industry association?
DP: Master Builders is a not-for-profit membership based association that specialises in construction, and anything associated with construction including builders, trade contractors, consultants, designers and inspectors. All the fees and money that’s generated from the association goes back into supporting our members.
We encapsulate builders and trades, the industry as a whole because the information that we access and also our ability to influence policy in government, affects those sub-industries that sit on the edge of the construction industry.
KB: You really are out there being the face of the industry, to support changes.
DP: It’s probably the most unseen and undervalued aspect of the association, is their ability to lobby government and influence legislation. That’s one of the prime resources that is unseen and it’s hard to put a dollar value on that as well.
So with the new legislation, a lot of those decisions are being made at a government level without consultation with industry. So somebody has to be the voice of the industry and that’s our advocacy on behalf of our members.
KB: So you’re doing all the work in the background, to support your members
DP: Behind the scenes, absolutely.
KB: So why is it important to join and what are the benefits?
DP: There’s two reasons why most members join and that’s risk mitigation and to improve their bottom line. So first of all, from a risk perspective, compliance and licensing are two where if you don’t comply, you can lose your business.
KB: Yes, that’s a one big area I focus on with my clients too, making sure that we minimise the risk.
DP: Absolutely. And from a risk point of view it can be onsite, offsite, insurances or whatever the exposure is. Being a member of the association gives you access to the resources that you wouldn’t necessarily get.
KB: What sort of resources have you got that are a benefit to the members?
DP: Say there’s a change in legislation or building code or if there’s technical changes, we’re often the first to know about it, so we can inform our members be it via email, updates in our magazine, industry update evenings or our website. That way they can be informed. It isn’t good to rely on information form other sources, as it’s hard to know how up to date it is.
Or how accurate it is?
DP: Yes, because things just evolve and change that quickly, that-
KB: And that’s your job I suppose, you’re out there at the forefront making sure that all the information that you’re delivering to the members is up to date.
DP: Absolutely. It has to be.
KB: And that it’s factual, it’s not hearsay stuff that might be in the newspaper or that they have heard from their mate at the pub.
DP: Yeah, absolutely. Part of the membership gives access directly to people who specialize in that area, so we’ve got 130 expert staff in Southeast Queensland.
DP: So there are technical experts, legislative experts, H.R. experts, whatever area you need information you can be assured that you’re talking to an expert in the industry.
KB: It is really industry specific, so whereas someone else might be an expert in law but they might not be specific for the industry whereas your people know everything about the industry.
DP: Correct. And what you find is a lot of government agencies will be hesitant to back up their information with emails or some sort of verification, whereas Master Builders will always back up their information and give you the answer to your question, where we’ve got the answer from and send an email to show you where it’s come from as well.
DP: And it’s that type of peace of mind that you just can’t get from Google or looking at information or getting it from your mates, so it’s really important.
KB: It is much better than going down to the pub and talking to the blokes there and asking, “So, what do you recommend?”
DP: “This is how we do it,” and it’s, “We haven’t had a problem in 20 years,” so people just take their word for it and it’s crazy.
KB: Dangerous too, isn’t it?
DP: Absolutely. When you’re risking your livelihood, your home, your family, all your assets in your business.
KB: What sort of events and services do you offer to members?
DP: As a member, you pay an annual fee and that gives you annual subscription or access to core services, member benefits and discounts. So the core services are the key areas to business and compliance when it comes to contracts, legal support, OH & S services, so we’ve got specialised teams in all those areas that can give you information and also help support and provide audit type process to oversee what you’ve got and give you hints and information on how to improve those systems.
KB: What benefits, such as member discounts, and what companies are you partnering with to offer those discounts?
DP: So there’s Fleet Services where you get just about any vehicle you like. That gives you national Fleet discounts. So, with Toyota for example, you automatically qualify for Gold Fleet discount that is the highest discount you can get. Often that can be the magnitude of 10 years’ value of membership, Recently a member saved upwards of five grand off retail off a vehicle, so there’s definitely a value there. Kennards Hire and Totally Workwear, they offer discounts to members and it’s exclusive deals with Master Builders only. There is a deal with Caltex fuel cards. Telstra has a dedicated service to Master Builders which is evolving now too. So previously it was run by a third party, Telstra are now having a dedicated Telstra team that will be based in Brisbane, to look after Master Builder vendors.
DP: And even so, like, if you wanted to make changes to your account you have to go through Master Builders to make those changes currently, that’s all changing.
DP: So, in addition to that we’ve got numerous functions that you can attend to network and build good business relationships. A lot of our members will come to industry update evenings. They’re specifically held at our office to provide information, could be legislative changes, technical changes, could be just a new supplier that’s in the industry, some innovation, and materials obviously, solar power and efficiency is a big player now. Whenever something changes it’s just a way of getting that information to our members but it also gives our members the opportunity to talk to each other and although many people consider the other guys down there, the other members, their competitors, it’s amazing how much they share information.
DP: I know you attend Women in Building. It’s the same, it’s amazing how open businesses can be to discuss in front of other people what the issues are and then once one or two people start talking, you see a few more, because everyone’s got the same issues.
KB: That’s right.
DP: And they definitely share information, share resources, and also just provide support as well.
DP: There’s often a bit of a club atmosphere that comes along with it. And that’s great because it actually encourages people to collaborate and work together and when you do that I think it just becomes more enjoyable and more successful.
DP: Our meetings just enable that platform because they’re fairly informal. It’s an environment that’s not strictly business.
KB: Makes it much more relaxed, so people are more comfortable, I suppose, to open up and talk about what’s going on in their business.
KB: Can you talk to me about any recognition or awards that are available to members.
DP: Yeah, absolutely. The Awards night. The Awards night is massive. It’s an industry celebration. It’s another opportunity where the decision makers, business leaders come together to be to be recognised by their peers and by an industry association. It’s been successful but it’s also a way of rewarding contractors that come to those events as well, even though the award might be in the name of the head contractor, by inviting the trades and the designers and the drafters and the consultants, certifiers, whoever may be involved in that project, they seem to get a little bit of ownership of that project as well, and that recognition often helps sustain relationships and keeps long term subbies in place.
DP: It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet other people in the industry. When you’re out there working you don’t get the opportunity when you’re on your site, running your errands, doing everything for your business, you just don’t often get the opportunity to meet others who have exactly the same issues. It’s also good to get that recognition off the back of the awards as well. Master Builders has a couple of magazines available and I’ve seen businesses completely change, after they get recognized as an award-winning Master Builder. They get a spread in the magazine that’s going out to eight and a half thousand members. In addition to that there’s another 10,000 magazines distributed throughout the states, so they get good coverage and, the co-alignment, aligning their brand with our brand, gives consumers confidence, because the perception out there is that a Master Builder is a better builder and if he can market to that perception then you’re definitely going to win more work.
KB: What sort of training or courses do you provide your members?
DP: Training is part of core services and yeah, really essential. As at RTO Master Builders prides itself on being at the pinnacle of training.
DP: Another area we haven’t talked about is insurance.
DP: You know, I see so many guys put tender out for insurance and they go with the cheapest quote, often they’re not reading the fine print. I have some examples of guys who have gone to make a claim and not been paid, because they weren’t adequately covered.
KB: That’s the thing, if you don’t know, but at least you know with Master Builders they will explain it to you and say, “This is why the premiums are worth $X, because you’re covered for this, this, this and this, whereas the competitors policy doesn’t cover you for any of that.”
DP: That’s right.
KB: And I know that my tools are covered wherever they are, I know that contract works insurance is in place, I know I am covered.
DP: That’s the reason we have account managers in place and so many insurance staff. Because, then you can make an educated choice. The premium might be similar or slightly high, but your coverage is so much more comprehensive. It’s very competitive for price, often it’s priced better.
KB: And it’s specific to the industry so you know you’re getting the best coverage.
DP: With our competitors you would make a claim, direct to an underwriter and you can often get caught up in an electronic service, you’re not talking to a person. Whereas our account managers will launch a claim on their behalf.
KB: And you can ring them anytime, they’re a real person.
DP: That’s right. You can come and see them face-to-face in the office.
KB: What if you’re in regional areas?
DP: There’s insurance staff throughout the state. There’s always someone that you can make an appointment with.
KB: Are there different levels of memberships?
DP: There’s a whole range of different categories. The price is fixed for consultants, apprentices, trade contractors, manufacturers and supplies it’s fixed. The only variable fee is for builders and that’s based on turnover. The reason for this is because we find the bigger the business, the more resources they tend to utilise. Some associations have a pay for service, whereas once you join Master Builders any additional service is actually part of your membership fee.
KB: What’s the best way for someone to go about joining?
DP: Anyone in the Gold Coast region can contact me directly, that’s the best way. Otherwise you can go to our website. There’s direct links there to join and find out more about membership. There are 12 membership development executives in the state, so we’ve got a regional presence. If you’re in Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton, Burnett Wide Bay, there’s actually a membership office in every area.
KB: So, then if they contact you, you can put them in touch with the right people?
DP: Yeah, absolutely.
KB: And if they were interstate as well, as far as, they might be in Northern Territory or in South Australia or other locations around Australia?
DP: We can put them in touch with the right person. Absolutely.
KB: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today Dean.
DP: You’re welcome!
For Membership enquires, contact Dean on 0419 710 358. Don’t forget to mention this article.