Barrie Construction Association (BCA) president Katherine Van Leeuwen has discovered the incredible rewards from belonging to then association. She encourages other current and prospective members to follow her path.
Less than a decade ago, Van Leeuwen lived in the Niagara region and worked for a company that co-ordinated, designed and toured large-scale museum exhibits and attractions.
Today, she leads the BCA as her family’s business, Division 15 Plumbing Ltd. Thrives, co-ordinating mechanical work for a diversity of Simcoe County projects
Her career transition provides a success roadmap for other BCA members.
Van Leeuwen says her father invited her and her brother to purchase the family business in the early part of the last decade. Then m the plumbing contractor focused mostly on residential construction, and was not a BCA member. At her father’s encouragement, they decided to join the BCA as the family business expands its industrial, commercial and institutional(ICI) capacities. Soon, she discovered the powerful advantages of association membership that occurs when you participate beyond simply paying your dues.
I didn't know anything about construction when I started, Van Leeuwen said. "I started volunteering for some of the BCA events and that allowed me to meet a number of people in our industry."
"Then I just got involved more and more. . . and getting involved provided the biggest bang for the buck" "If you get involved in the association,(fellow members) get to know and trust you at the association events, and you open the door to business opportunities. It a heck of a lot warmer than with cold calls - that's age old networking"
How successful has this networking been for Van Leeuwen's business? "It's hard to put members on that", she said. "The business has grown significantly from last six years - and I think a large part of that growth relates to my BCA involvement" Van Leeuwen's BCA commitment has increased as well, as she joined the association's board of directors and progressed to become its president.
She and other board members are not contributing to seek out personal gain or benefit. "We want to see the industry players informed so that everyone has access to current information and developments and to open up business opportunities for all our members"
Van Leeuwen says that while these relationship-building opportunities have been her most important BCA membership reward, there are other BCA membership advantages:
The plans room
The plans room is certainly an advantage(as is) seeing all the (bidding) opportunities at a glance," she said. "Every Wednesday night, the association sends out the report on the plans on display, showing the opportunities on what to bid, and that makes your job a bit easier"
Industry knowledge and advocacy
"The BCA is my number one source for information about legislative changes, WSIB, Ministry of Labour regulations, and more," she said. "The association has been the lifeline in navigating our way through all the complexities of construction industry - safety, training, and issues like the College of trades and what that means to us."
Connections and communications
Van Leeuwen says business ownership can be solitary activity, and it can be especially challenging for owners who are tradespeople, spending much of their time working on the tools at job sites. The association, with low-cost social and community functions, provides members opportunities to build relationship, gather information and insights, and sometimes just have a little fun.
she says she has three main goals for her term as BCA president:
Elevating the BCA's Image and brand
Van Leeuwen says she wants to elevate Barrie's ICI construction industry's image, so that "When any player comes to town, for anyone building in the city, for anyone who wants to look for resources, we are the first stop."
New BCA members are vetted. "There is something to say if you have a BCA logo in your letterhead - you belong to the best in the industry."
Unifying and standing up for issues of relevance to the industry
As a group, the BCA can influence and advocate on issues of importance to the industry, especially sensitive and economically challenging issues including WSIB and the college of trades. "We can use our mass of 400 members to effect change and all our local construction associations (through the Council of Ontario Construction Associations -COCA) bonding together on initiatives, to make a larger voice," she said. "This benefits us all, not just to be subject to policies made behind closed doors by the government"
Opening local business doors
BCA members consistently wonder why they cannot access as many as local government bidding opportunities as possible. The challenge, in part is that procurement rules prohibit local preference regulations. (If local preferences were allowed, several BCA members would be harmed, especially those who work in GTA and other communities outside of Barrie.)
However, Van Leeuwen believes the association can improve communication with local officials and develop improved relationships at the country, city and township level. " I would like to find ways to allow our members to interact with people who make the decisions, the purchasers, to get to know each other better"
"This would be better than a nameless, faceless fax or tender document coming in to those decision makers," she said. "Everyone will benefit if there are opportunities for municipal officials to meet BCA members to say 'hello' and to build the trust for when it is time to do business and the bidding opportunities are presented."
StaffwritterBarrie Construction Association(2013)