The Importance of Connections

Ed Sellers / September 2017

One of the many things I’m passionate about is staying in front of the competition—being innovative and keeping our company cost effective. When you read this statement you might think, “That’s also what we want in our business.” The question is, how I do I achieve the edge to keep a step ahead of the competition?
One of the answers comes from being in a forum group here at the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. I realize many people reading this are not familiar with what that is. At AWCI we formed groups—made up of business owners and decision makers of companies who do not compete regionally—to share business information. The forum I am in is comprised of various size companies that geographically touch coast to coast.
The members include five past AWCI presidents, AWCI Vice President Jerry Smith, two AWCI Pinnacle Award recipients and three other successful business owners. Kicking ideas around with these individuals and learning from their expertise and experience is invaluable.
Each year one forum member hosts a meeting, and I just returned from our annual trip to one of our members’ offices in Rochester, N.Y. We see financials, setups, meet employees and have an open forum meeting to discuss everything. We update each other on the pluses and minuses we experience, and we look at market factors impacting our world. Our sharing is done in confidence.  We, I’m sure, have helped each other save or make more margin.
What this trip showed me was a company that has succession planning in the works and a cutting edge delivery system for prefabrication. Its production tracking is ingrained in the daily business, and the company employs current technology many companies are still learning to use.  Of course we all made notes, took pictures and looked at improvements we could incorporate into our businesses.
Our forum groups include our spouses, giving us opportunities to catch a great dinner and relax over a round of golf. By the coming business week we are recharged with new ideas—and we have established friendships that extend beyond our business.
The forum groups—which include “specialty” forums for women business owners, young members and others—are a key connection here at AWCI and a prime example of the value of membership in this association. If you are an AWCI member who would like to join a forum, contact AWCI Executive Vice President & CEO Steve Etkin at

In addition to being 2017–2018 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Sellers is president of OCP Contractors, which has offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, Ohio.