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The Importance of Associations in the Metal Industry and How to Get Involved - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

The Importance of Associations in the Metal Industry and How to Get Involved - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
May 14, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with  Lee Ann Slattery of Metal Construction Association (MCA). You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast or watch the video!

Karen Edwards: Hello everyone and welcome to this MetalTalk by MetalCoffeeShop. My name's Karen Edwards and I'm going to be your host today. And we have a really cool topic that we're going to be talking about today, and it's related to the importance of associations, but specifically for the metal industry. And we're going to talk about why they exist, how they can help you in your career, how to get involved and I am just thrilled to welcome Lee Ann Slattery. She is a board member with the Metal Construction Association and she also works for ATAS International. So Lee Ann, welcome. Thank you for being here.

Lee Ann Slattery: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Karen Edwards: Would you just please tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Lee Ann Slattery: Sure. As Karen mentioned, I am the current treasurer of the MCA, the Metal Construction Association. I've been involved with them for about five and a half years now. I started as the vice chair of the Market Development Committee, moved into the chair of that committee and then for the past year and a half I have been acting as the treasurer of the association. And in addition to that with ATAS, I've been with them for 18 years this year and am their sales support manager there. And I've actually been in the industry as far as the metal industry goes, the whole 18 years I was with ATAS and prior to that I had experience with architectural product sales. So over 30 years in the architectural product sales as a whole. In addition to the MCA, I've been involved in a lot of other associations, been very involved with the Construction Specifications Institute.

I was elevated to fellow back in 2020, it's kind of a joke. There was five of us that were elevated and as you know what happened in 2020 with COVID, we didn't get the great big celebration and everything that typically goes on when that happens. So we're affectionately called the COVID Class of Fellows for CSI. And in addition to that, a lot of other associations currently on the education committee for National Women and Roofing and have been on the planning committee for the Let's Build Construction Camp for girls for the past eight years. So evidently you can see that I value and like participating in all the different association work.

Karen Edwards: You sure do. I don't even know how you have time to work because of all your involvement, but yeah. So let's dive in. I see everybody telling us where they're from. Welcome. It's great to see you all here. If you do have questions while we're talking, go ahead and drop them in the chat. We did open it so everyone can talk to each other. But let's talk a little bit about... Did I skip a slide there? I think I might have. Nope, we're good. Okay. We'll talk a little bit about industry association involvement and that's kind of like why, why does it matter for your company? What kind of things could you get out of it and why should you consider being a member? Lee Ann?

Lee Ann Slattery: Sure. When it comes to company branding, I think it's really important for companies to let their customers and prospective customers know the different associations that they're involved in and what they support. I know ATAS is a member of many different associations and we even have all of those association logos on our website as affiliates is what we like to call them. But it really, I think, makes a difference in your customer's mind to know that it's not just about selling our products and making a profit, even though that's important. It's also becoming entrenched in the industry as a whole and trying to better the industry. So I think the branding side of things is pretty important.

Karen Edwards: And share, we always tell people, if you are a member of an organization, share that because it does raise that level of professionalism. And one thing that our associations are very... And we'll dive a little bit deeper into this, but the educational opportunities and the learning opportunities are fantastic through your associations. And I know you've been in, well, you're here right now doing this educational webinar about getting involved and why you should be. So if you want to touch on that just a little bit about what goes into that for education from associations.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, that's a big part of what an association has to offer is ongoing education for their members. The MCA has a lot of different resources in that regard and they kind of, as far as online goes on demand type resources, you can find that on the MCA website under the Metal University, which was introduced a few years ago. And then there's a whole lot that falls under that, whether it's technical white papers or on demand webinars that we have, live webinars that the MCA host as well as our partner with PSMJ Resources, they host the Metal Con Show and we're equal partners with that. So they have their own line of webinars as well. So we get involved in that with the metal online program. So just a lot of different resources there. That is a great member benefit.

Karen Edwards: Yeah. And the next two bullet points, personal growth and networking. I feel that they go so strongly together and I know Lee Ann because of being involved in associations, right? National Women in Roofing and going to events and otherwise I wouldn't know you or know much about you and I've been to some of your events. So talk a little bit about those kind of options for personal growth and expanding your network that exists by being an association member.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, I really attribute a lot of my success, I think in my career because of the industry association involvement. I'm a social person and as much as the virtual stuff is here to stay, I am so much a fan of in person face-to-face. And that's kind of how I got involved first with local CSI chapter is where I started with that. And then it just blew up from there as far as the different associations and the different roles that I played in them. I do think that it's a great place to help develop leadership skills outside of your company and that's really important. It's sometimes a lot easier to talk to others that you don't work with and learn from others outside of the work environment. So I find that valuable and just expanding your professional network. LinkedIn is a great tool and we all use it, but just in person getting to know people and not just expanding your professional network, but a lot of those people over the years have also become personal friends.

So it really helps as far as having somebody to call upon if you need an answer to a question. And even if they don't have the answer because of the relationships you built, they might know somebody who knows the answer. And it is just those resources that are really invaluable. And that just ties hand in hand with networking. All the different associations have many different events. When it comes to the MCA, we have a summer and a winter meeting and those are in-person meetings that we hold. Metal Con is the big annual trade show and conference, so there's another opportunity for networking, but even networking a bit on events such as this, there's the chat feature, you get to know who's involved if questions are being asked. So that's just one other component of networking as well.

Karen Edwards: Nice, nice. So, in looking beyond just being a member, there's other ways to be involved in the association and these are some of the ways, and the first one is committee involvement. And you mentioned, I mean you've been on several committees through associations. What does that look like? What kind of committees exist, especially in the Metal Construction Association that people might want to be part of?

Lee Ann Slattery: Right. Well, when it comes to association involvement, you're only going to get out of it what you put into it. You can pay your membership dues, but if you don't sit back and somehow become involved and to different extents, you're really not going to see the full value of becoming a member of an association. When it comes to the MCA, we have many different councils and committees that people can get involved in. And it's not like when you first join, you automatically have to become a chair of a counsel or committee, but you can help out on a particular one that might grab your interest.

Because I'm in marketing here at ATAS, the Market Development Committee was appealing to me and they needed a vice chair, so that's kind of how I got involved in that. But there's other councils that focus on different products, whether it's roofing or single skin wall panels or the IMPs or metal composite material, accessories. There's a lot of different things that you can choose to be involved in and make a little bit of difference. So you don't have to be a chair or jump right onto at the board level, but it takes a lot of hands to make this a success, so every little bit helps.

Karen Edwards: Yeah. And someone put in the chat MCA Future Leaders, and we're seeing this a lot more with associations because it can be intimidating, especially being a younger professional, going to a meeting for the first time and you've got people who have been doing it for 30 years and you know everybody in the room. So, we're seeing a lot of associations put these young professionals together or future leaders and that's a way that someone can really go and feel welcomed like they fit in. And to take that first step. And I know MCA has this, I don't know how long you've had it, but it's definitely something to think about.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, it's just a few years with the Future Leaders Program. It was something that I think was kicked off at Metal Con a couple years ago, and they've been having meetings and having webinars and such, trying to get younger people involved in the association. In addition to that, with the Future Leaders Program, last year we had our first Metal And Mimosas event right before a kickoff prior to the opening day of Metal Con, and that was really focused towards women in metal construction and we had a great group there. We brought in a speaker to share her story of how she became president of her company and that's something that we're going to repeat again this year. So it's nice to see these new programs popping up within MCA.

Karen Edwards: Definitely. And thank you, Peggy, she's posting lots of information in the chat for everyone about meeting dates and where to find information. But I want to move on to the next bullet point because our industry associations are non-profit associations, right? They are supported by their members, but also by their sponsors. So maybe you could just touch on a few of the opportunities that companies may have to be a sponsor and support their association.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, there's a lot of sponsorship opportunities, whether it's for our summer or winter meetings, Metal Con, there's a lot of different opportunities there. This year we just introduced a scholarship program and there was sponsors for that as well, so that was pretty exciting to see. So the committee involvement is the manpower and the sponsorships are typically the money behind making events happen. So both are needed and both are appreciated.

Karen Edwards: And then I think when we talk about sharing knowledge, there are many opportunities to not only share knowledge that you have, but to also learn from others. At these meetings, at Metal Con, there's educational sessions. How does one go about becoming a speaker at one of these events?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, definitely you can reach out to the folks at Metal Con. Metal Con does have their own website, so you can reach out there as well. I can put you in touch with their appropriate people as well. My contact information will be at the end of this presentation. But yeah, if you're interested in presenting on a topic, they're always seeking speakers, not only for Metal Con, but also the MCA summer and winter meetings, as well as the MCA webinars and also the Metal Con online webinars that used to be known as Metal Con Live and they just recently changed their name to Metal Con Online. So there's a lot of opportunities to share your knowledge with others in the industry.

Karen Edwards: Excellent, excellent. I know I get the emails from Metal Con and they do have a lot of educational opportunities and I think you can just sign up on their website to stay up to date on everything that's happening. Also, one of the things that our associations do for us is keep us educated about what's happening, what's happening in government, what's happening with codes, what does that look like? I mean, these are usually committees as well that work on these things. And how often are we getting updates and what kind of information are they giving us, Lee Ann?

Lee Ann Slattery: There are committees that focus on these topics as well. There are a couple staff members with MCA that really focus on the codes and standards part of the business, the technical end of things and they keep us updated. They would update us either by the monthly newsletters that go out. There's an MCA membership newsletter that goes out, also at our summer and winter meetings. There's always updates in that. And a lot of the codes and standards information might result in the creation of a new white paper too. So that's another way that they can communicate information. So they've been really good as far as keeping all the members up to date. It's one of the important benefits of being a member is having access to all that information.

Karen Edwards: Right. And then the associations have pretty good relationships with... I always think of it as the elusive design community because sometimes it's really hard to make those connections in relationships. How can MCA help with that?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, the MCA has done a good job of trying to get to more architects involved and interested in what we have to offer. There's two MCA newsletters that go out every month. One is geared for members and the other is more of an architectural focused newsletter, put some case studies and project photos and updates of what's going on in the industry. That goes out to over 15,000 architects every month. So they really have been reaching out. They also have great partnerships with a lot of the publications and that would include metal architecture and metal construction news and design and build with metal and all of those folks. So that also helps to enforce that message as far as how metal is being used in design and construction.

Karen Edwards: Wow, that's fantastic. I did not know they had such a large database, email database with design professionals, so that is great. So we're going to move on to talk about though how MCA your company is a member, but how it can help employees within your company and with their growth? Because once your company's a member, are we limited with how many people can be involved, Lee Ann?

Lee Ann Slattery: No, you're not. And that's the great thing about this membership is it is a company membership. So once the company joins as many people that want to get involved can and that's really kind of how I got involved, is that the owners and managers that ATAS invited me to become involved. They, again, needed a vice chair for that market development committee and then it's just grown from there. But for those that are on the call and are already members, I really encourage you to try to get more people from your company to participate in some of the meetings, especially the younger folks too. It gives them a great way to learn from those that have been in the industry for quite a while. And these are our future leaders, so we have to make sure that they get included in meetings such as this.

Karen Edwards: Right. And we all are concerned about employee retention because it costs a lot to recruit and find and retain employees. And I think by providing these opportunities, they're feeling valued. They're feeling like you think that they're going to be able to contribute and they're going to learn and grow. So I think it really does help spread the feeling of goodwill throughout the team, that it's not just the leadership that's going to be able to be involved that other people can too.

Lee Ann Slattery: Right.

Karen Edwards: All right. So let's talk a little bit about brand ambassadors. And I think that by being involved, your employees become brand ambassadors not only for the association, but they are kind of brand ambassadors because they're the face of your company as a member. I'm involved in association, I know Lee Ann, I know Lee Ann is ATAS, so I have a good brand association right there. So do you see a lot of that, Lee Ann?

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, I do. I think it's a great way to keep your company front and center within the association, but then also being an ambassador for the association itself is really important. Again, we're all kind of working together towards the same goals. We all want to see the increase of metal in design and construction, but working for a company too, you also want to see growth in that area. So it really affects both.

Karen Edwards: Yeah. And I think what's great about what I see with MCA is that you are developing new programs. You started the Metal And Mimosas for women who are in the industry, the MCA Future Leaders, the scholarship program. And a lot of times associations kind of might seem older and stodgy and not willing to try new things, but that's not the case here.

Lee Ann Slattery: No, we really made some headway there as far as having new programs introduced. And always at our board meetings we're talking about even different ways to get more people involved. So I think it's really been evolving and growing and we are hoping to continue that trend.

Karen Edwards: Excellent. And then the scholarship program, that was just one round of scholarships, I think that was brand new, right?

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, this was our brand-new program this year, for 2024 we awarded five scholarships. They were each for $2,000. And again, it's another MCA member benefit. You had to be a member company and then you could not just for employees within the company, but also spouses, kids, grandkids, they could apply for these scholarships. And what was really nice too, it's not just for those pursuing a career within our industry. Some of the winners this year were, I think one or two were pursuing mechanical engineering, but also one was going to be a pharmacist and one was nursing. So just any continuing education, which is really nice support for the MCA members and their employees and family members.

Karen Edwards: Sure. Yeah, that's fantastic because having a little help with the cost of higher education certainly is nice. All right, so now that we've kind of given an overview and talked about some of the ways to be involved, let's talk a little bit about the history of the association. And I mean, I don't know, how old are you? What's that look like? Why did it start, give us that little update?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, even though I've only been involved for the past five and a half years, I do know that they started in 1983, so last year they celebrated their 40th anniversary. So not a new organization. They've been around a while. But with my research for this webinar, I was not aware really how they got started. And from what I've learned is that back in 1983, there was another association called the Metal Building Component Manufacturers Association.

Karen Edwards: That's a mouthful.

Lee Ann Slattery: They wanted to create a new expanded association, and that was the birth of the MCA. So that's kind of how it started. And the goal has always been as far as the core values and its mission, they just want to advance the use of metal in all phases of construction and also to advocate for legislation and standards that also push forward the use of metal within construction. So that's been our main mission there.

Karen Edwards: Yeah, that's fantastic. And as we all know, anybody that's got any involvement in the metal industry, it just keeps growing and growing. And so there's going to be even more of a need for an association like MCA to help educate and monitor and advance the industry. And that's great segue into our next slide because one of the things that MCA does really, really well and you touched on this earlier, is provide those educational resources. So if someone sees the growth of metal and says, "Wow, I need to be a part of that," what are the ways that MCA can help them learn and grow in that industry?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, I had touched upon the Metal University, which is on the MCA website and a lot of our online technical resources fall under that umbrella, including the best practice guides and technical white papers. Again, the webinars that we do and not only our own webinars, but we also a few years back partnered with Architectural Record and there is a Metal Architecture Academy on the Architectural Record CE Center, Continuing Education Center. And that is a menu of different courses, all metal construction related that people can take online. It usually includes one webinar and then the recording of the webinar is posted on the site. I think there's a total of eight courses of webinars under the academy. So somebody could go on there and take all of those and actually earn a little digital badge if they're into that, but get eight hours of learning units, which are very important for the architects and other people that have to have those continuing education credits. So that was something that we've started and is ongoing. Every year we mix up the courses and the webinars that are offered on there.

So that's a great way to learn more about metal in the industry. Other educational resources when it comes to marketing there, we have, let's see, under the marketing umbrella, there's a whole bunch of case studies and that's another kind of benefit for the MCA members is that you can upload case studies of your own products from your company as well as project photos to post on the photo gallery. And those case studies and project photos get used in those monthly newsletters that go out to the architects. And for all the social media postings, that's where a lot of that material comes from. So that's a great MCA member benefit right there. And then with our roofing installation manual, that is our most downloaded resource that we have. It's quite an extensive manual and they can download the whole thing, but also if they want to pay, I think it's a hundred or $125 for a... And take a little online exam, then they can actually walk away with a certificate that says that they've completed this course. So again, something that for MCA members is quite valuable.

Karen Edwards: Sure. And talk about also great marketing to get that certificate or the digital badge that you can say, "Yes, my company has earned this and we are qualified and we know what we're doing." That's really important. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about your experience in being involved with MCA and how that's helped you in your career.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, I'm really glad that I've gotten involved in the MCA. I learned a lot more outside of when you're working for a company and it's all the way the A test does things and you're kind of in your own little bubble. But being in a room with a lot of different people within the industry, you certainly do learn a lot more and how people are doing things differently, but also sharing our knowledge and sharing the resources is really important as well. So it's really helped me and my understanding or a better understanding of the industry and how they're working to grow it.

Karen Edwards: And what would you say is a return on investment for a company? Because a lot of people may say, "Well, it's this much money, I don't want to pay that much money to be a member," but let's talk about what you get back from being a member and having team members participate.

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, again, just having the access to all of the technical resources and having a couple people on staff being on top of codes and standards that affect our industry, I think is really important. For individual companies to pay for those types of resources would be I think a lot more than just paying your association dues and getting access to that. And also because it is a company-wide membership, you're not limited to the number of people within your company that can participate, come to the summer winter meetings, access the online webinars and all of that. When you add it all up, I think definitely it more than pays for itself in what you get in return.

Karen Edwards: Definitely. And we mentioned personal branding even a little bit earlier, but I think depending on what you're involved in, you become known for, maybe you're on this committee and maybe you're a great organizer or maybe you have great ideas for educational topics or maybe... So you're kind of building a personal brand of what you do well and I think that having your employees or team members be able to do that, there is a great ROI on retention and your business supporting you and your involvement is huge, I think.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, I know since I've been involved, I've had more opportunities to write articles for the industry magazines or participate on events like this for the webinars and such. And it really is not only helping me with my personal brand, but I would think it would also have a positive impact on how people see ATAS.

Karen Edwards: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Okay, let's talk about how do you participate and how do you get your employees involved? I mean, we've mentioned a few things with the meetings and stuff, but I'd like to hear from you, Lee Ann.

Lee Ann Slattery: Getting people to participate, that's always been somewhat of a challenge. I mean, it seems like we're always also busy and the business with ATAS definitely comes first and sometimes you're stretched thin, but I think more people might be willing to participate but aren't asked to come and join the party and that type of thing. Being issued an invitation, especially from your manager or the company owner or something like that, that goes a long way. So if they might actually have a strong desire to participate, but they're not inclined to ask for that, but if they were invited to come, that might be a different story.

Karen Edwards: And they might not know. Like you said, sometimes you're in your own little bubble and you're not exposed to what's out there. So maybe as a business owner or a leader in your company, if you are meeting with your team members and talking to them about the, "Where do you want to be in three years?" Or, "What are your goals, what do you want to grow to?" Maybe that's something that you could even suggest as a team leader or a business owner is, "Hey, it might be cool for you to get involved in the association and learn a little bit about that," 'cause they might not know.

Lee Ann Slattery: Right. And for those that are on the webinar today but aren't already MCA members, I did just want to mention too that you can certainly attend one of our summer or winter meetings. You don't have to be a member, so you can come and check it out if you're still not quite sure what this is all about or if it'd be worth your investment, we'd invite you to join us at one of the meetings in person and learn what it's about and meet some of us.

Karen Edwards: Yeah, that's a great idea. And these meetings move, so not everybody is able to fly or travel, but every winter, every summer it's kind of a fresh location and there may be one that's within driving distance that would be much more affordable to attend. Okay, so we talked about this, how to start. Nice little transition here. You mentioned the winter, the summer meeting's coming up really fast. It's June 10th through 12th at the Hilton Rosemont in Chicago. It's a beautiful time of year in June in Chicago, so definitely mark your calendar for that. Information is on MCA's website regarding that event. And then following that in October is Metal Con, and that's going to be in Atlanta this year. So do you have any sneak peeks of some exciting things to look forward to at Metal Con this year?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, yeah, in Atlanta we are going to continue with the architect's experience. That's something they introduced a few years ago to try to entice more architects to come to the show. There's a lot of special education sessions that are geared towards the architects. I'm sure we'll continue with the Oktoberfest theme throughout the three days of the conference. I know they've got some great keynote speakers lined up. We're going to do the Metal And Mimosas event again in the morning, I think opening day in the morning with a speaker for that. So a lot of on-floor education and also on-floor demonstration with metal roofing. So there's a lot going on.

Karen Edwards: Look, I love Peggy's comment. She said, "Anyone within driving distance to Chicago or Atlanta should attend the MCA summer meeting or Metal Con because your supervisor will be impressed that you want to attend." So true. Yeah, that's a very good point. I have been to Metal Con several times. It is a great show. There's always lots of equipment in action. There's always great educational sessions on the floor. There's top products, new products that are coming out. So I recommend it. And then the winter meeting in January is in Cape Coral, Florida, January 20th through 22nd. So who doesn't want to go to Florida in the middle of January when it's cold, everywhere else in the country and maybe even snowy. And then tell me about the MCA app.

Lee Ann Slattery: Yeah, there was an MCA app that was introduced a couple years ago, and we had first begun using it at our summer and winter meetings, so you could see the list of attendees and what the agenda was. You could figure out which sessions you wanted to attend or not attend. But now it's being kept open all the time for a lot of information having to do with the MCA. So I would encourage everybody to download that and check it out.

Karen Edwards: Another opportunity for networking, right? So see who's there, see what's going on, and then you can follow along year round. Jennifer [inaudible 00:34:00], thank you. She's looking forward to attending the summer meeting and Metal Con, another person that we know through being involved in associations and networking and attending. So this has been a really great conversation. We've been following questions along as we go. If you have any, go ahead and drop them in the chat here before we wrap up. But I want to advance to this next slide because this is Lee Ann's contact information, her email address and her cell phone. If you're thinking about it, I really want to get involved. Maybe I don't know how to ask. I don't know how to talk to my supervisor. I don't know what to say or I just need some talking points. Feel free to reach out to Lee Ann.

Peggy, who is behind the scenes is the director over there at MCA, and you can contact her through the website as well because the more the merrier, right? And we want to ensure that the metal industry thrives and continues to grow, and we do that through the help of our associations like MCA. Lee Ann, this was great. I want to thank you so much for being here today and sharing all this wonderful information on MCA. And you all want to go to the summer meeting and Metal Con, just so you can meet Lee Ann in person and connect with her on LinkedIn, right?

Lee Ann Slattery: Well, thank you very much.

Karen Edwards: Yeah, so this is going to be on demand on metalcoffeeshop.com within 24 hours. So, if you want to share this information with somebody\ or maybe you even have some folks in your company who are next generation and they might want to get involved, share this recording with them because then they can see what it's all about. And maybe it won't be such a scary thing. It'll be like, yes, this sounds great, and I can't wait to take advantage of the networking and other opportunities that are out there for personal and professional. Lee Ann, thank you again for being here today. Thank you, Metal Construction Association, and hopefully we'll see you all next time on a future episode of MetalTalk. Take care. Bye-bye.

Lee Ann Slattery: Thank you.

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