Obviously, that’s why any company is in business, right? To make money. However, throughout the past several years, many moulding and millwork and door and window companies have not made money—yet still survived. So I was extremely pleased to attend the recent meeting of the Moulding and Millwork Producers Association (MMPA) and hear that things are looking up in terms of profitability.

“We are making money again,” said Ted Smith, president, Smith Millwork, based in Lexington, N.C. “We weren’t making money last year.” Hooray for Smith and others like him, and here’s hoping this continues.

Following are some other insights I took away from the conference and some questions I am posting back to you. Feel free to post a comment here or email me at ttaffera@glass.com.

Competitors Sharing Ideas. MMPA isn’t the only association that gathers competitors together to work on items such as standard development, etc., for the good of the entire industry. But if you know me, and you read my blogs, you know I attend a variety of industry events, including various association meetings. Never in my 14 years at this job, have I ever heard members be so candid as those in the MMPA’s Foreign and Domestic Committee meeting. Members literally went around the room and were brutally honest on the state of their businesses, and told how long their order files extended. It was truly remarkable. Kudos to all of you for working together and sharing ideas for the good of the industry.

Consider Exports. Throughout my years of attending various meetings, I also have listened to hundreds of presentations. The one given by Bernie Weiss of the Northern California and Sacramento Regional Center for International Trade Development, who presented the pros and cons of exporting, was one of the best I have heard. Anyone whose company is considering exporting and attended that meeting stumbled upon a gold mine of information. Weiss offered everything from how to get started to various resources available—and funding resources at that. I never knew organizations such as the U.S. Commerce Department could be such a great resource in this area. From the person who sat next to me and took pages of notes, I know many companies will put this information to good use.

Think Long-Term. I know that in this challenging market, many companies tell me they can’t think long-term, but rather have to take it month-to-month or day-by-day in many cases. But Ivan Eastin, CINTRAFOR, who presented a market outlook for wood products, said when it comes to exports, “companies are employing a reactive strategy instead of a long-term export strategy.”

That serves as a great reminder to all companies, regardless what business you are in, to not be reactive but take the time to plan out long-term strategies. Yes, you must be able to adapt as the market changes, but isn’t it better to have a plan in place?

Don’t Think in Terms of Price Only. In one session, a supplier stated that he finds that many of his customers want to take cost out of the product. I am sure many of you must deal with these price challenges as well. Do certain customers not value quality? How do you handle these situations?

Don’t Forget about Marketing. Even when Weiss was talking about exporting he told companies to not forget about their websites when trying to attract international customers. “I’ve looked at a lot of your websites and a lot of you have to come into the 21st century,” he said.

Additionally, yours truly was invited to speak to MMPA members about “how to market your company.” Everyone is busy in their respective jobs but if your company doesn’t have a person devoted to marketing, there are some simple “and free” things you can do to publicize your organization. If you would like some tips feel free to me email me and I would be happy to send you a copy of my presentation.

Kudos to those who work in standard development. I am aware that when any association takes on developing an industry standard and works with various parties to create an end result that all can live with is an arduous process. I am sure the MMPA’s work on a poly standard is no different—and the group hopes to have the document complete by the end of the year. While sitting in on their most recent meeting, I noticed that at one point everyone in the room fell silent. Yes, sometimes all you can do is take a long pause, then regroup and get back to it. Developing a standard is not easy and I applaud all those who have been through the process and who have devoted their times and energies.

Thanks to our "loyal readers" (from left to right): Al Delbridge, East Coast Mouldings; Hal Shackelford, Sherwin Williams and Paul Erickson, Williamette Valley Co.

Now for some shameless promotionalism and a photo I have to share. I promise this was not staged. Who could resist taking a photo of three MMPA members reading DWM/Shelter magazine? Not me.

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