A trade partner council can do a lot to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with your trades. For tips on how to run an effective council, we spoke to Chip Merlin, vice president of operations for K. Hovnanian in Chantilly, Va.; K. Hovnanian's trade partner council president at this location, David Scott, vice president of sales for Fireside Hearth and Homes, Manassas, Va.; and Bryan Binney, vice president of operations for Shea Homes San Diego. These National Housing Quality Award winners have great trade partner councils, and their examples are worth following.
1. Be open to partnering. “It's key to have a champion both on the builder side and the trade partner side,” says Merlin.
2. Choose members wisely. Consider:
- Diversity — Trades who represent all the major stages of construction
- Quality — Trades who set a high bar for other trades who will eventually join
- Leadership — They are professional and successful; can lead by example; and can be energetic and engaged in their participation.
- Uniqueness — The best electrician is a member instead of three “OK” electricians.
3. Develop a charter outlining the council's goals. This helps members understand the commitment. “This isn't a social organization,” says Scott. “It's a heavy lifting group.”
4. Institute bylaws clarifying roles and responsibilities; membership rotation; how to censure or eject members; etc.
5. Have written agendas distributed before meetings. This will make them more focused and productive.
6. Ensure builder staff represent a fraction of membership. “The builder must be careful to not over-dominate meetings,” says Binney. “It will stifle group interaction.”