Friday, January 22, 2010
Are you on Twitter? How about Facebook? Even if you're not, you probably know people that are. Technologies that people had barely heard of two years ago are now major factors in how they communicate, how they advertise, and how they learn.
In my role here at the NGA, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people learn. Specifically, I think about how glass people learn. The challenge I have is to figure what people in the industry need to know and the most efficient way for us to help them do so. One of the things I quickly realized is that there's never a single right answer. Thus, I started reaching out to friends in the industry for help and perspective. When I did, I found that in the glass business, more so than any industry I've been a part of, relationships matter. If there's an issue in someone's glass business, they're much less likely to read for the latest business bestseller or hire a high-priced consultant. Instead, they reach out to their friends. That's one of the major factors underlying the NGA's Glazing Executives Forum. Even though we work hard to bring in quality speakers and facilitators, we always hear back that the highest value people get from the event is the ability to network with their industry peers. I'm sure other industries are similar to a degree, but in the glass business, it's definitely true that peer-to-peer learning is the most effective strategy.
We even notice this during our weekly sessions for the Glass Management Institute. For those not familiar, GMI is the NGA's professional development program. We meet via weekly Web conference with some of the brightest minds in the industry, discussing topics like sales, estimating, and project management. One of the things we've found is that our students aren't just passive observers during this process; they use technology to facilitate the learning even more. If someone has a question during our session, they raise it in our online chat room. Often, before a speaker even has a chance to read it, a fellow student will jump in with an answer or a resource to seek out more information. Students have swapped thoughts on marketing techniques, estimating software and project scheduling documents.
That's where Facebook, Twitter, and their various technological cousins come in. I'm sure you handle a lot of e-mail and you're obviously savvy enough with blogs to be reading this. But if you haven't explored these technologies, you might want to take them for a test drive. I'll confess to being a little behind the curve with Twitter (I have an account, but I haven't done much with it), but I find Facebook to be useful. At first, I mostly re-connected with friends from high school and college. Pretty soon, though, I linked up with some industry people and e-learning experts. It's become a vehicle to easily share interesting articles, exchange thoughts and ideas, and get introduced to others. There are things I learn via Facebook that I wouldn't otherwise hear about. While I may not have gotten the hang of Twitter, others have. Amazon.com uses their Twitter feed to offer special rates to their followers. Ashton Kutcher used Twitter to raise awareness of Malaria in Third World countries. During last year's protests in Iran, Twitter was the most effective way to follow the events. Sure, there's a lot of silliness, but there's a lot of powerful business activity, too.
Lest you think I'm just here to be a shill, let me assure you, I'm not. It's just that as I look more and more into how people actually learn, it's platforms like these that catch my attention. We can write hundreds training manuals or online courses, but they'll never take the place of interacting with your peers. And technology is getting better every day at facilitating these connections for all of us.
If you do decide to jump in, check out the NGA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @NatGlassAssoc. We'd love to hear from you.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Starting in April, any contractor completing work in pre-1978 homes must follow the new procedures. Not doing so could result in fines up to $37,500 per day, per violation. Some folks have told me that they don’t expect much enforcement right away. But, $37,500? That’s nothing to sneeze at.
According to the new lead paint rules, contractors working on these older homes need to be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices, and take a series of additional lead-safe steps on the job site. Download the EPA’s compliance guide to see all the new rules. For the certification applications, click here. The EPA’s Renovator and Trainer Tool Box provides additional information.
These new requirements could have a pretty major effect on some glass and window companies. If you think your company might be affected, even for just a small number of jobs every year, read a full-length article from Glass Magazine about the rules, and check out the Window & Door Dealers Alliance lead paint Webinar on Feb. 9. April is going to be here soon; make sure you don’t get caught by surprise.--By Katy Devlin, associate editor
Monday, January 11, 2010
We have just begun a new calendar year. If you have not set one or more goals for this year, do it now. Several clichés come to mind: if you don’t have a target, you can’t hit it; you can’t take a journey without a map. They go on and on. Suffice it to say that goals are mandatory, both professionally and personally, for growth and for survival. Goal setting gives meaning to everything else. A goal has to be time specific and measurable.
Can you think of anyone who has achieved anything by just showing up for work and doing what is expected? People who achieve always plan to achieve. Achievers are very specific about where they want to go and when they will get there. Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon, said she had dreams, but not well planned-out goals. Once she planned her goals, she won Wimbledon. She set her sights on a goal, planned how to get it, worked to get it and got it.
Find something you want. That will be the reward for reaching your goal. Set the goal. Once a goal is set, turn the goal into a plan. Once a plan is determined, turn the plan into action by taking whatever steps are required. Keep in mind that consistency builds momentum. I have set a personal goal to run 56 miles on my 56th birthday later this year. I have determined, with the help of others, a training program to build endurance and strength. This includes cross-training, running, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, encouragement from others, and more. I have a plan to reach my goal. I have begun turning the plan into action by running, cross-training, eating well, etc. Each little action builds confidence, which in turn builds momentum and makes it easier to take the next step toward the goal.
Our company has also set goals. One in five businesses grows during challenging economic times. We have set some growth goals and have made specific plans to achieve the goals. We are beginning to penetrate markets we have not traditionally entered. We are making new contacts with potential customers that need specialty glass items. We are breaking down revenue and profit numbers so that each of us understands how we impact them. We are working to create a “we can” attitude in lieu of a “but” attitude. We can measure our progress.
Set a goal! Set several goals. Set personal goals; set corporate goals. As we enter the new year, let’s have a specific destination. Don’t wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before beginning the trip.
A quote to remember and apply: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare,” said Juma Ikangaa, a world-class marathon runner from Tanzania.
Friday, January 1, 2010
To add to misery, in 2010, glass and glazing folks will face challenges in the form of cap and trade and health care reform. In a rare Christmas Eve vote, Senate Democrats passed the health care legislation by a 60-39 margin. The House passed its bill in November, and officials say by February the two sides will sort out its differences and pass the final version.
Some have labeled the legislation a “government takeover of health care.” Read a story on industry professionals’ concern about the matter.
Meanwhile, by brokering a climate deal in Copenhagen less than a couple of weeks ago, President Obama has committed himself to push for comprehensive climate legislation in the Senate this year. To deliver on the pledges that the president made to other world leaders, it will be essential to enact a legislation to cap the U.S. carbon dioxide output and allow polluters to trade emission permits.
Not pleasant news for the glass and glazing industry, a major emitter of greenhouse gas. Read a story on how cap and trade could hurt the industry.
In the field of codes and standards, the proposed revisions to ASHRAE 90.1 could have undesirable effects on the industry. Read story.
However, all is not gloom and doom. The bright spot is the economy finally beginning to turn. At the Outlook 2010 Executive Conference in October, economists said housing starts will expand 26 percent in 2010. While single-family housing starts will rise 30 percent, multifamily starts will advance 14 percent.
Unfortunately, the picture is not as positive in the commercial sector, the economists at the conference said. The recovery in commercial construction has been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest, assuming that credit markets continue to improve and lending conditions become more accommodative. In 2009, the decline for commercial buildings in square footage was 54 percent, and in dollars down 43 percent. For 2010, the loss of momentum will continue, though the declines will ease as contracting retreats another 7 percent.
Overall, the level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to climb 11 percent, the Outlook 2010 economists said.
What are your lessons learned from 2009? Will you apply those this year to improve your situation? Tell me how.
—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine