We have all made significant investments in our business over the years. Whether it be in machinery, infrastructure, or training; none of this investment comes without a significant cost. This is quite obviously all done to increase our capabilities and knowledge so that we can eventually get a return from our investment. No one in their right mind would make an investment in their business to then give that product or service away. That would not be a logical deployment of our hard-earned capital.
Over the last few months, I have begun to think of investments I have made in my business over the years. Besides hard investments like the aforementioned machinery and infrastructure, I began to analyze the soft investments like training. I then began to think about my NARSA/IDEA membership and perform some quick back-of-the-napkin calculations. I started to add up not only my membership dues but airfare, hotels, meals, and various other miscellaneous travel expenses and quickly realized that the cost was probably something close to $100K over 15 years. This would be only hard costs and does not consider the cost of my time which would be significant. When taken in aggregate, the investment I have in NARSA/IDEA rivals any investment I have made in my business besides inventory.
I then started to reflect on what kind of return I have received from my investment. I have attended various training events ranging from how to accurately measure and spec a fan to calculating the proper allowances when bending sheet metal to make radiator tanks. Some have been valuable and have been lucrative additions to our capabilities and others not directly related to my business. Some, like sessions I attended in 2008 regarding the new emissions technology and DPF cleaning have been not only extraordinarily profitable for my business but transformative.
Upon further reflection, I realized that the single biggest benefit of my investment was the network that NARSA/IDEA has afforded me. Through my investment over the years and participating in events, I have made contacts with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry. We are fortunate to be in an industry where people are usually quite happy to share information. While NARSA/IDEA offers many benefits and we continue to develop more, the single greatest benefit I utilize is the network I developed over the years. I communicate with various members for tips and advice nearly every weekday and sometimes on weekends.
Through my investment over the years and participating in events, I have made contacts with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry. We are fortunate to be in an industry where people are usually quite happy to share information.
Earlier in my career, it was mostly me as a young radiator/emissions professional calling various members around the country for technical advice. As my career evolved, I began to ask for advice on everything from human resources to expanding my business. Usually people were happy to generously share their time and expertise with me. Over the last couple of years, I have derived great satisfaction from other members calling me and asking for my advice. The ability to be able to help others just like I had been helped and pay it forward is quite rewarding. I particularly enjoy it when a member like David Bienvenu, who I have called for advice MANY times over the years, calls me with a question about something that I have in depth knowledge of. That being said, I think my technical support account with David will remain firmly overdrawn for some time to come!
What is your investment worth?
This question led me to a conundrum that I had experienced recently. A former member reached out to the home office with a very specific question that only a few people in the industry would know. We are lucky enough to have an Executive Director like Mark Taylor who has decades of experience running a radiator shop, and he knew the members who would know the answer. One of those members happened to be me. I agreed to contact him, and I told him I would do my best to get him the answer. Over the next week or so, I was able to find the overseas contact he needed. However, I found myself conflicted about giving this information to someone who was no longer a member. After some discussions with other members, I thought that it was only fair that we ask him to become a member. The former member felt that since he did not attend events much anymore, that he was not getting value from his membership. When it was explained that the real value was in the network and the ability to get an answer to the question he had now, he quickly agreed and became a member again. Perception is reality, and we are cognizant that we need to do a better job of letting people know that NARSA/IDEA offers much more value than just the events.
As members of NARSA/IDEA, you make a significant investment both money and time to belong. And with the challenging business environments we are all facing, every expense line item needs to be scrutinized. With this fact in mind, it is even more imperative that we keep in mind this investment when we are networking with our colleagues. While I enjoy helping those that reach out for assistance, I now politely remind them that a much wider network would be open to them if they were a NARSA/IDEA member. This organization was here for me because of all the dues paying members that were there before me. I ask that you encourage not only nonmembers that seek advice to join NARSA/IDEA, but also vendors that many in the radiator industry support. It is only through member support that we can continue to provide a forum for networking in the heat transfer/emissions industry that exists nowhere else.
If you are not yet a member of NARSA/IDEA, you can find a member application on our website http://narsa-idea.org/join
This editorial was originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of The Cooling Journal.