I have to admit I’m a newbie to the AMD annual convention, though I’ve been with this company for 14 years, and have served as editor of DWM/Shelter since DWM was formed ten years ago.

Samantha Carpenter, former editor of Shelter, was lucky enough to go to AMD each year, and this year I took over that role and learned what I’ve been missing. I attended today’s opening session and heard outgoing president Dan Warren introduce incoming president Audrey Dyer and heard them both speak highly of the AMD staff, including chief executive officer Rosalie Leone. I heard them talk of family and although it sounds cliché, AMD really does seem like one.

When Audrey Dyer took over the reins today as the association’s president, the first female one at that, she recounted what she once told Leone, “I told Rosalie I was too much of a rebel for this association.”

But she then spoke from the heart. “I’m not a college grad … This group gave me my college degree. I love this association.”

That was followed by at least a dozen of her employees at ECMD, her unpredictable Generation Xers as she playfully referred to them later, engaging in an ECMD chant in honor of their boss.

And when outgoing president Dan Warren spoke to attendees he addressed the fact that the association is going through an unprecedented time, which presents challenges.

“We have adapted and changed,” said Warren. “Moving forward AMD may not be known as an association of quantity but it will always be known as an association of quality.”

I also witnessed Warren bow his head this morning during the opening ceremony and lead the group in a heartfelt prayer. And Larry Ray, currently of LER Millwork Services, and also a past president of AMD, also spoke of his strong faith while accepting AMD’s Ron Taylor award.

So by the time Jason Jennings, keynote speaker, came to the podium and captivated attendees’ attention for the next hour, I knew I was hooked on this association, which is committed to helping its members succeed.

Jennings, a noted author on business topics, and an in-demand speaker, did his homework before addressing AMD attendees, something I have to bet most speakers of his caliber don’t do. He interviewed ten AMD attendees prior to the event and asked them a variety of questions, including, “What keeps you up at night?” Some of the answers included: staying alive, the need to turn on a dime and a set of rules for making hard decisions.

If his speech didn’t answer some of those questions, then attendees were sleeping, and from his dynamic presentation I knew they weren’t.

Jennings profiled some of the most successful companies, IKEA, Smuckers, Staples, Koch Industries and Newcor Steel. The latter’s story is particularly appealing to our industry. Why? According to Jennings, it’s the number-one performer in the S&P 500 and all its competitors are going broke. How are they doing it? Through five secrets that are found in all of the above mentioned companies:

Secret number one: Companies that survive and prosper turn what they do into a higher purpose and cause. Jennings was clear that this is not a mission statement, rather something that is big and bold. “What’s the big ad bold reason for your existence?” Jennings asked attendees.

At Smuckers, the company hires for attitude rather than aptitude saying, “People have to want to be with us.”

Jennings then reported that 73 percent of workers have no emotional attachment to their jobs. “That’s a comment on uninspired leaders,” he said.

Secret number two: Companies that survive and prosper have mastered the art of letting go. This means letting go of the saying, “same old, same old” as well as conventional wisdom.

“When you let go you are better able to deal with change,” says Jennings. “You must stay more focused than your rivals.”

Secret number three: Companies that survive and prosper make certain that everyone in the company knows the strategy. At Smuckers, all employees read the company’s strategy, as do vendors.

Secret number four: Companies that survive and prosper have staffs where everyone thinks and acts like an owner. At Koch Industries new employees go to school for a month and learn how what they do creates economic value for the company and how it is measured.

Secret number five. Companies that survive and prosper are led by good stewards. They are good stewards of capital, of people, of customers and of natural and human resources. Jennings says a good steward also shares information and has the capacity to change. “Stewards are not called to keep things the same,” he says.

I challenge you to heed these secrets and applaud AMD for adding Jennings to the AMD line-up and hopefully many of its members were inspired to make changes at their respective companies if needed.

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