The premier educational and networking opportunity for custom home builders takes place Oct. 26-28 in Naples, Fla., when the National Association of Home Builders presents its 2007 Custom Builder Symposium. “Discover Hidden Treasures” is the theme for the event, held at the Naples Grande Resort and Club.
“I look forward to the symposium more so than the builders’ show because it’s so targeted and focused upon what I do as a custom builder,” says Randy Rinehart, president of Rinehart Custom Homes, Charlottesville, Va., and vice chairman of the NAHB symposium committee. “I’ve always found that when I attend, it’s not the big things I come away with, but the little things that make it worthwhile. Plus it causes you to get out of your environment and think about your own model of business and how you might want to tweak it.”
Educational topics covered at the symposium include marketing and sales, design, business management, personnel management and several others. In addition to classroom opportunities, roundtable sessions offer an outstanding and informal atmosphere in which to swap ideas, adds Rinehart, who believes continuing education is critical for success in the custom home business.
“When dealing with clients who have children, I often turn to the wife and say, ‘You have three children, right? When deciding who was going to deliver your children, did you ask about their medical credentials?’ Their answer typically is no,” Rinehart explains. “But you expected them to go through continuing education, right? Then I say, ‘Well I can assure you that you’re writing a larger check to me than you did for that doctor. So why would you not expect the same commitment to professionalism from me as you did from the person bringing your child into the world?’ And that usually makes the point about the importance of education.”
Perennially popular symposium events include the golf tournament and awards ceremony sponsored by Pella Windows, the custom home tour sponsored by Lutron Electronics, the welcome reception, and the Custom Home Builder of the Year award sponsored by Dryvit Systems.
Networking is another valuable symposium element, and something Rinehart enjoys, and witnessing with others. “I see people meeting each other and going out to dinner or having drinks at the bar, people that didn’t know each other going into it. The next thing you know they’re exchanging business cards and staying in touch and helping each other out with business problems,” he says.
Each year, Rinehart says he wakes up the day he’s leaving for the event and wishes the event was not for another week due to the mountain of work at the office. “Then when I’m coming home from the symposium I think how lucky I am that I was there, and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.”
A custom builder attending the symposium should be willing to bring associates to give them a confidence boost and a sensational educational opportunity, he adds. Rinehart often sees architects and sales and marketing associates at the symposium, who want to sharpen their skills to better represent their builders.
A favorite: The home tour
Want a chance to wander through another custom builder’s projects during various stages of construction? The annual home tour, sponsored this year by Lutron Electronics, provides the opportunity to do this, and to walk away with ideas for finished products and a better understanding of how other builders construct homes in a different part of the country.
“Even though the architecture isn’t the same as where you might be from, you can see the technical things they’re doing and take away an idea or two. I do each time,” Rinehart says. The home tour is on Fri., Oct. 26 beginning at 7 a.m. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
“This is an opportunity to see how someone else does what you do,” he continues. “You can borrow ideas from marketing, specific products and perhaps even design. It’s a wonderful educational opportunity. It’s worth it to me to investment time and money to get out of my everyday world and to broaden my horizon. I try to keep sharpening the saw.”
For more information and to register for the symposium visit nahb.org/custom.