“WE DON'T MAKE A LOT OF the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better,” says the slogan for the well-known BASF television ad campaign. With a little retooling, that motto works perfectly for the NAHB's incoming president, Dave Wilson. He's going to unearth, polish, and promote the benefit gems the NAHB already has, instead of trot out a new agenda for his year in office.
“[All presidents] have a theme they want to accomplish. But introducing a new direction is like trying to turn a battleship—it takes two miles to turn it around,” says Wilson. Instead, the new president wants to drive the association's momentum by dusting off the best member benefits of the NAHB and aggressively marketing them.
Members Only A major goal of the NAHB in past years has been to grow membership. “It's an issue we've been concerned about but haven't focused on,” Wilson laments. To solve the problem, Wilson believes the association needs to strengthen and highlight its core offerings.
Of the benefits the NAHB boasts, Wilson thinks the Builder 20 clubs can put names on the association's roster faster than any other idea. The Builder 20 clubs are self-supporting groups in which the members analyze each other's businesses and offer ideas to improve operations.
Wilson plans to increase the number of clubs from 47 to 72. He also intends to expand the types of clubs to include multifamily, land development, and others.
“Members of the NAHB think the Builder 20 clubs are the best business asset,” says Wilson. “Having people who do what you do look over your business helps increase the bottom line,” he says. Today, more than 200 people are on a waiting list to join a club, Wilson notes. “You know, we talk about growing membership at the NAHB, and here is a business model that has people just waiting to get in.”
Home-Grown Leader Wilson's pragmatic approach to bettering the NAHB comes from his decades-long experience at the helm of Wilson Construction in Ketchum, Idaho. A high-end builder, Wilson keeps about two to four jobs going at once, with a typical job being an 8,000-square-foot second home in the multimillion-dollar range.
Running big jobs (such as 17,000-square-foot homes and six-figure decks) and dealing with big people (famous clients whom he declines to name) has taught Wilson important lessons in diplomacy, task tackling, and patience—all traits that jibe with the job description of the leader of the 215,000-member NAHB.
It was in Seattle in 1978 that Wilson started on the home building path by buying houses, fixing them up, and flipping them during the boom years. In 1980, when a friend asked him to build a house in Idaho, he did. He liked the quality of life in Idaho compared with Seattle's “crowds,” so in 1982, he settled in the picturesque Sun Valley area.
Wilson built his own house, which became a calling card for his building company. Today, his homes remain his calling cards and can be thanked for the 100 percent word-of-mouth referral rate his company enjoys.