Get Re-Energized at the 2009 Custom Builder Symposium

Take it from Tom Stephani -- the Symposium is a great way for custom-home builders to recharge their batteries.

September 01, 2009

Tom Stephani
[email protected]

Stephen R. Covey's iconic book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change," is a must-read for anyone who is in business for themselves, especially in these trying times. To me, Covey's seventh habit, "Sharpening the Saw," is one of the most important. It stresses personal renewal, exercise and relaxation. Without time off from the daily grind, you can get stale, cynical and lethargic.

One of the ways I "sharpen my saw" is to attend the NAHB Custom Builder Symposium + Design Institute every fall. This year, it's being held in San Diego Nov. 6–8. In the last 20 years I have missed only one symposium. Each time I go I bring back at least three ideas that make the trip worth the time and money.

But the most important thing I take away is a sense of renewal and inclusion. I'm renewed because I am re-energized and excited about applying what I've learned to my business. The inclusion part comes from the networking and socializing with small-volume and custom builders, some struggling, some surviving and some, believe it or not, prospering. At every symposium, I have the opportunity to help builders, learn from others and share experiences, whether they are good or bad.

If you've never been to the Custom Builder Symposium or haven't been for a while, here are five things you can expect:

  • Education. There are more educational sessions than one person can cover alone. Carefully review the seminar materials beforehand.
  • Networking. Year after year, attendees say the No. 1 benefit is the discussions and connections that are made during the conference. The coffee breaks, receptions and meals offer an opportunity to share experiences with your fellow builders.
  • Keynotes and general sessions. Each year, the Symposium Committee works hard to bring in speakers who will motivate, inspire and entertain you.
  • Pre-Symposium Courses. Take advantage of four different NAHB courses — Green Building, Business Management, Home Technology Integration and Design/Build — just before the start of the Symposium (Nov. 3–5).
  • Home Tour. The Home Tour on Nov. 6 offers the opportunity to see custom homes under construction and completed. This is a great way to get fresh ideas and a jump on your competitors.

I bring back at least three ideas that make the custom builder symposium worth
the time and money.

I attended the very first symposium in 1989 in Orlando, Fla. At the time, Colorado Springs, Colo., where I built custom homes from 1984–1996, was suffering through a regional recession/depression that rivaled what we are going through today, and I was desperate for help. Although I couldn't really afford it, my project manager and I decided that we had to go to the symposium. When we got there, first we found that we were not alone; second, we realized we knew a lot more about the business than we thought we did; and third, we recognized we still had a lot more to learn. The learning process continues to this day.

Join me in San Diego Nov. 6–8 to sharpen your saw. I look forward to seeing you.

Author Information
Nationally recognized speaker and trainer Tom Stephani, MIRM, GMB, MCSP and CAPS, specializes in custom homes; infill housing; light commercial projects; and developing commercial and residential land. You can reach him at [email protected].

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