Industry Beginning To Think Together
The masonry industry has long suffered through diverse interests that has kept our industry splintered. Those self-serving interests have diverted our attention while our competitors have quietly stripped us of much of our market share. As an industry, we have grappled with this issue for decades. But it seemed that no matter how hard we tried, we never could get past the gigantic egos that have keep our industry separated and ineffective.
But quietly and unassumingly, the masonry industry has begun to put past our differences and begin to look to the long-term interests of our industry. Slowly but surely, the industry is beginning to put aside our differences and act in the long-term best interests of the industry. Several years ago at the urging of the MCAA, the industry's associations came together and formed an industry Board of Directors called the Masonry Industry Council. This Council has brought our diverse interests together and has facilitated dialogue in the areas of market development, codes & standard development, workforce development and public affairs. Although funding for the MIC is at an extreme minimum, the Council has been able to work together on jointly exhibiting at customer trade shows, placed pro-industry ads in Architecture Magazine, facilitated research to advance the use of masonry and influence code development. But as important as all of this is, the MIC can be so much more. It must become a driving force to advance the masonry industry and all of its diverse interests.
Looking to the future
Next month, the volunteer leadership of each industry association and the principle staff of each association will meet in Baltimore to develop a long-range strategic plan for the masonry industry. The Mason Contractors Association of America has spent the past several years working on our Long Range Strategic Plan which has helped to guide the decision making process for the association Board. It has been through this plan that the MCAA has been able to think and act strategically in affecting the associations future and effectiveness. We are hopeful that the experience that the MIC will undertake will pay dividends in years to come for the benefit of the entire industry. We believe that the result of the this two day session will assist the industry in being able to focus each association's resources in a more effective and efficient way. The MCAA deeply believes in the power of planning, which is what has been missing in the masonry industry for decades. This lack of effective planning has resulted in our ineffectiveness in responding to competitors. How effective would tilt-up, EFIS and precast be if the entire masonry industry was working cooperatively and effectively together. I don't believe that these competitive systems ever would have gained a foothold in our markets had we all been working together, which is easier said than done. As mason contractors we can install these competitive materials and in fact, roughly two-thirds of all masonry contractors have installed one or more of these products. But our true interest lies in the expansion and promotion of masonry.
As exciting as this news is that the masonry industry is finally coming to grips with our diversification, we must be realistic enough to have patience in the process. The MCAA has been working for several years at developing our Strategic Plan which is a living document, changing with the changing business environment. Each MCAA meeting has become a virtual planning session where Board members debate the association direction and effectiveness. Having years of experience with developing our own strategic plan, we realize that it will take more than just the one meeting in Baltimore to solve our problems. It will take years of continual focus and effort to move the industry collectively forward in the same direction with the same interests...the interest of building a stronger masonry industry. As industry leaders, we must not leave any issues off the table when we are discussing the future of our industry. Trade shows, promotion, workforce and code issues will all need to be open for discussion. It's our pledge to come to this meeting with an open mind and a desire to make the hard decisions to bring us together as an industry.
It's reassuring to us that the masonry industry is finally beginning to think together.
About the Author
William McConnell is the owner of Architectural Paving & Stone, Inc. He has served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America and on the Board of Trustees for the International Masonry Institute. McConnell was a recipient of the 2005 C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award.