May 2023 From the President’s Keyboard: Show-Your-Appreciation-for-Affiliates Month

Let me apologize in advance if I come off as having some attitude this month. The NFL Draft just concluded, and somehow my phone did not ring once through all seven rounds. When Bryce Young went No. 1 to Carolina, I was encouraged. He is not the prototypical size for the NFL, so I thought maybe one GM would take a shot on a smaller, slightly slower, slightly older wide receiver. I thought my 40 time was respectable at 6.41—heck, Bryce Young didn’t even run a 40 at the Combine. According to my agent, Billy Smith, word of my recent knee surgery may have scared off some teams. (Note to self: I am going to suggest to Billy that he stick to his day job as ASPE’s Executive Director/CEO.) I suppose there’s always a chance of getting signed as an undrafted free agent. Now that’s what I call “fantasy football.”

I will get past this. Maybe refocus on ASPE?

It is now May, and as everyone knows, May is Show-Your-Appreciation-for-Affiliates Month. Okay, maybe it’s not really a thing, but I am hoping no one will fact-check it. So, just for our purposes, let’s say that it is. And why not? Those of you who are Affiliate members of ASPE, you know who you are. Feel free to excuse yourself from this report and read another article on ASPE Pipeline. For all other ASPE members, please read on.

By the definition in our Bylaws, Affiliate members are those who are involved in producing or marketing a plumbing product. That category includes manufacturers, manufacturer representative, and suppliers. Their involvement in our industry is vital. Their contributions to our organization are immeasurable, at both the National and Chapter levels. They are in the business of making money, but aren’t we all?

Think about a current project on which you are working. You have to make equipment selections. Which manufacturers produce the fixtures, pumps, piping, and fittings that you need to specify? Is one product better than another for a particular application? Ask a manufacturer or one of their sales reps. They are always happy to tell you. How do I size my pumps or select roof drains? Technical reps will be more than willing to help verify your calculations or provide experience-based direction. If you need pricing estimates or project quotations, they are the ones you want to call.

The business profiles for manufacturers and rep agencies show that reasonable amounts budgeted to expense accounts provide a healthy return on investment in the bottom line. Sales reps are happy to stop by an engineering office and provide lunch while they present their product. Manufacturers and their rep agencies also support ASPE Chapter technical meetings. They may take a display table or may even pick up the entire tab for dinner. If you go to our Speaker Directory, you can search for presenters by area or by topic. If you’re looking to fulfill CEU requirements through webinars or workshops, visit our Approved CEU Provider List. A good number of those presenters are manufacturers.

When your Chapter is hosting a Region Meeting or celebrating an anniversary and your finances are a little tight, how do you fund it? It’s a reasonable bet that your local sales rep or a manufacturer will step up and offer to help sponsor that special event. A polite phone call or email will get things started and help keep your Chapter Treasurer happy.

You may have heard that ASPE is holding its Tech Symposium in Bellevue, Washington in September. We will have 2.5 days of technical sessions during which attendees can earn up to 1.2 CEUs. You guessed it: A number of the speakers are from our Affiliate member ranks. We also will have a Product Show spanning two days with 70 sold-out booth spaces. The manufacturers involved know that getting their products in front of specifying engineers offers a hands-on facet to their marketing and sales. It’s a significant investment for travel, shipping, and staff. The Tech Symposium is an expensive undertaking, and our Affiliates are there again helping with sponsorships—two at Platinum, 11 at Gold, 13 at Silver, and 29 at Bronze levels. All of the above holds true for Convention & Expo. Without question, our Affiliate members are vital to ASPE’s health and success. How do we show our appreciation?

I have a feeling that my Show-Your-Appreciation-for-Affiliates Month idea won’t catch on, at least not immediately, but we can celebrate them in other ways year-round. Make time for your local sales reps when they call; don’t just call them when you need something. Their job is to keep you updated on the state-of-the-art in all things plumbing, and they want to get out and talk with you.

Here’s a novel idea: Take a sales rep to lunch. We may not have expense accounts like they do, but if you can afford it, it’s a gesture they will remember.

If a manufacturer has a product that is perfect for your application, write it into your specifications. If your project is for a private owner, you can flat spec the product. If it’s a publicly funded project, you may not have that luxury. Just make sure your spec is tightly written so the contractor will find it easy to purchase your preferred product. We all know that value engineering can derail your best intentions, but push back and make your point to keep that preferred product in the project. You may not be able to do that on every project, but let those manufacturers know that you are fighting for them.

The tabletop displays at Chapter monthly meetings are an investment of both money and time for the presenter. At your next meeting, spend some time to stop by the tabletop, take some literature, and speak to the host. For the larger Chapter product shows, the investment is greater. Your sales reps would love to have you visit their booths. For Society’s events, the Tech Symposium and Convention & Expo, the time and money spent by manufacturers is exponentially larger. If you can make it to those events, we can keep our Affiliate members smiling all year, every year.

Stop and think about it. What would it be like without our Affiliate members? Our industry would be severely compromised. We wouldn’t have anyone to call for advice on sizing equipment or a product specification. No one to call for a budget estimate. No hands-on learning experiences. No one to take you to lunch or golfing. Without those manufacturers, their sales reps, and the suppliers, the design side of the plumbing industry would also grind to a halt.

So, please get out there today and shake an Affiliate’s hand. Go to a product show. Thank them for all they do. Let them know they are appreciated.

Thanks to all of you for stopping by to read this.

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