Building Business Connections
This year’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) marks the first year for the revitalized IBS Ambassador program – a local association volunteer network that assists members with Builders’ Show-related issues. Ambassadors help members navigate through the registration process and answer questions pertaining to hotel arrangements and education sessions. This year, NAHB has revived the program and a number of members throughout the country have been named as IBS Ambassadors.
While the Ambassador program is new this year for many, it is actually “old hat” for HBA of Southeastern Michigan member, John Bollan, Jr. John has spent the last two decades promoting the Builders’ Show and assisting fellow members plan their itineraries.
John and the other Ambassadors begin their duties months in advance of the Show; their goal is consistent: Provide valuable Show information to fellow members. John explains: “I write articles about the Show that are published in our local association magazine or email newsletter on topics such as hotel choices, educational offerings, and this year I wrote an article about the co-location of KBIS.”
One area John works diligently on is showing his local Associate members that there are many benefits to attending for them too, and that the Show isn’t just for builders. “I’ll talk about the many networking opportunities that are available during the Show and recommend events that they should attend,” says John.
He also recommends scheduling meet-and-greets while at the Show. “There are a lot of distractions when you are in your hometown, but when people are at a Show, they are focused on making business connections. Members are more open to scheduling a coffee or lunch meeting to talk shop, so I help people make those connections.”
For first-time attendees, the Show can be overwhelming because there is so much to do and many don’t know where to begin. “This is why the IBS Ambassador program is so important,” says John. “It is my job to help in whatever capacity is needed – from hotel arrangements to making recommendations of what events to attend. I try to offer them whatever help they need so they can have a successful show experience.”
For his local membership, John pulls together his version of a Show guide that is sent out 3-4 weeks in advance of IBS. It notes dates, times and locations of all the important events and any local or state-sponsored receptions that have been organized.
“Our state HBA hosts a member reception which is a wonderful networking opportunity for all of us across Michigan,” explains John. “Part of my duties as a local IBS Ambassador is to notify my local members of this type of event.”
In the early ’90s, John was named his association’s local Convention Ambassador at the invitation of then-future NAHB President and fellow local association member Bob Jones. At that time, the HBA of Southeastern Michigan was one of the largest local associations in the nation, and the NAHB Convention department was looking to establish a local convention Ambassador volunteer position to help promote attendance to the annual Builders’ Convention – now called the International Builders’ Show.
John served in that capacity for a number of years, but when the official program was disbanded, he continued helping his fellow members as chairperson of his local association’s Convention Connection Committee. “For many years, I was a committee of one,” chuckles John. “Of course, I worked with a local Association staff member and the NAHB /IBS staff to get the information I needed to assist our local members.”
John’s ambassador responsibilities don’t end with the Show. “After the Show, I write an article to give the members a flavor of what took place – including a fun story or two – which includes lots of photos taken by our HBA staff.” John notes that the post-Show promotion often draws people into making the decision to attend next year’s Show because they don’t want to miss out.
Why does he do it? “I really enjoy assisting the members,” says John. “I’ve found that there are some members who regularly attend IBS and rely on me to disseminate the information. Before they decide to go to the Show, they’ll call me and ask, ‘What do you think?’ That’s when I know that what I am doing as an IBS Ambassador is working.”