People meeting people
The CFA summer ball reminded Richard Catt about all the ways in which the CFA now helps the industry and members interact, person-to-person
D O you, like me, sometimes forget to celebrate success? Something you (or even worse your team) have been working on comes to fruition and without stopping to reflect you move on to the next thing.
Probably because that’s the nature and pace of business these days and there is always something pressing to do. Plus, doing something well is part of the job – isn’t it? But in reality, celebrating when something significant goes well, is of course important for all sorts of obvious reasons.
However, it’s almost impossible not to pause and reflect on the CFA summer ball. Simply because the feedback is usually instant and equally because it takes quite a lot of organising and then happens in such a relatively short period of time.
After this year’s event, we did, I have to say, pat ourselves on the back. I say ‘we’ but most of the credit needs to go to Helen Tidmarsh, our operations manager, who we all know and respect for her ability to organise this type of event. She has it down to a fine art.
This year’s summer ball was held at the Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club between Birmingham and Coventry - a really nice venue that also includes a championship golf course. As well as the good company of more than 200 guests, who share a joint interest or two, the food was great, the band had the dance floor full and the sun even shone on Saturday for the golfers.
As you might have guessed, the CFA summer ball is essentially a social event for CFA members and their guests to get together and let their hair down - metaphorically speaking in my case. But of course, inevitably the industry is discussed and relationships forged, which all help to facilitate good business long after everyone heads home.
For the purposes of writing this article, it also made me think about all the other ways in which the CFA now helps the industry and members interact, person-to-person.
Naturally for most things you have to join and for the sake of transparency let’s be clear how much that costs: for contractors, it’s £601 plus VAT, for a distributor it’s £739 plus VAT and for manufacturers it’s £997 plus VAT.
We always make it clear that our focus, our reason for being, is essentially contractors and as well as the use of the CFA brand (logo - assuming you meet the CFA membership criteria), you get a fantastic array of member benefits straight out of the box.
We’ll promote you to potential clients through the CFA handbook and online directory, and then of course offer a whole host of member benefit helplines all for the fixed fee quoted above.
A legal helpline, a health and safety helpline, Tax and VAT as well as employment advice all come as a package. Legally tested disclaimer templates for when you are approached to fit on a damp floor or in poor site conditions, as well as standard terms and conditions templates can alone pay for a year’s subscription.
A dispute resolution service, technical support and free credit checks are all easily available through one membership fee and save time and money sourcing them elsewhere.
And while I probably could (and have) written more about what we offer as part of our membership package, if I am simply writing a short list, I have to mention discounted training through Fita - 15% off courses for members.
Other training support comes through our training manager Mick O’Flynn for apprenticeships and questions such as ‘How do I get an NVQ and a CSCS card?’
But that isn’t really the intended purpose of this article. I was more intending to focus on the opportunity to actually get together and either swap good practice, keep up-to-date with technical developments, network with the best in the industry or sometimes, like the summer ball, simply kick back with those you work with and whose company you enjoy.
When you join the CFA, one of the things we immediately do is invite you to nominate someone as your primary contact. This will usually be the person who you also want listed in the directory. But you can also specify an unlimited number of people to receive our monthly email update and newsletter.
Packed with important updates and industry intelligence, the email update also keeps you abreast of CFA and industry events, where you can meet and interact with people. Yes – real people!
Here’s a quick list of the opportunities the CFA offers members or supports during any typical year;
Exhibitions – Our year starts with Domotex, where we’re now seeing an increasing number of UK companies using the CFA meeting facilities and stand. A good opportunity for all members to see products and manufacturers who don’t necessarily exhibit in the UK.
In September, we share a stand at Harrogate with CFJ, which this year has a commercial zone and boasts a return for some commercial manufacturers.
The Fita demo zones show domestic and commercial floor finishes, tools and techniques and provide a unique insight into some things we teach at Fita. You also get to see everything ‘live’ and the promise of what can be achieved unfold before you. A different experience to a YouTube video - you can’t ask a video a question!
Through Fita, we’ve also started to offer a similar demo experience at the Surface and Material Show held at the NEC every October. When we first attended, I was amazed at how different the audience was and to whom we were able to demonstrate sponsors’ materials and best practice. Builders, designers, architects and other specifiers all being pointed towards CFA members.
Committee meetings – During the year we hold many manufacturers and distributor meetings, where the focus is often technical and where speakers provide interesting content that informs or assists in developing British Standards and documents such as the CFA Guide to Contract Flooring.
Consultants have regular meetings and CPD that’s focused on their specific expertise as does our Scottish committee where we ensure we provide the slightly different support those members need. Training, qualifications, legal etc.
Social events – The opportunity for members to get together socially isn’t missed, and as previously mentioned, the CFA summer ball is our headline event every year. But we also run two very popular golf days, one in Scotland and one at the Belfry, that now sell out well in advance. A day at the races is held in Scotland and we have plans to try similar events elsewhere in future.
The AGM and other CFA business – The CFA AGM is another important date on our calendar when we invite members to vote for their council, present the accounts and finances and generally report on the activity of the association.
Held in June, we try to move the AGM around the country, hold it at an interesting venue and invite supporting speakers. Thus, it becomes more attractive to attend.
Council members meet four times a year to review projects, governance and offer the wider team and I strategic direction.
Regional events – Historically, the CFA ran regional committees who’d meet to update members on the activity of the association, perhaps provide a technical demonstration and discuss industry issues.
But that was before the world became a 24/7 environment, before smartphones, the internet and emails and possibly more technical and sales representatives on the road.
My perception is that these factors are why, when in recent years we’ve run regional events with that mix of content, they’ve been poorly attended.
Our response has therefore been to improve all the other communication channels we offer including social media. As a development of the regional event and to provide face-to-face access, we also sometimes partner with distributor members and attend their events and mini-exhibitions when invited.
I’m positively a fan of the digital age and the opportunities it brings. The earliest smartphones were around in 1992, but the revolution really hit with the launch of the iPhone in 2007. But I think it’s interesting how last year saw a resurgence in the sales of paper books and my son, a person very firmly of the digital age, still prefers a book to a kindle.
We still offer our publications in paper form and there’s a good chance you’ll be reading this article in a physical copy of CFJ.
People like to interact in different ways and while Skype and Facetime offer alternatives, there’s actually still nothing like meeting or speaking to someone.
Ever spent 15 minutes trying to write an email you realise actually needs a call to ensure the right tone? – me too! The CFA caters for all and for me, importantly, includes a lot of opportunity for person-to-person interaction.
Richard Catt is ceo of the CFA
Richard has emphasised that this year the president’s charity was McMillan Cancer Support and, through the generosity of attendees, £1,305 was raised