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BUILDING IN THE BLOOD

Last year, we welcomed the third Boyd
family member to the helm at AWCI.
As we warmly thank Pat Boyd for his
leadership over the last year, we also
take great pleasure in welcoming the
third member of another AWCI committed
family to the presidency. Ken
Navratil assumed the duties of president
at the beginning of this month.
He was preceded by his brother-in-law,
Mike Chambers, who was president
from 1994 to 1995, and before
that, his father-in-law, Don Chambers,
who held the presidency from
1977 to 1978. In addition, his wife,
Elaine, has been involved with AWCI
for 35 years— 12 years longer than her
husband!



While Navratil will be telling us in this
interview how AWCI looks to him, the
state of the industry, and what he
intends to do over the next year, it would
be a mistake not to let you in on what
kind of a man Navratil is. So we have
included comments from people who
have known him over the decades. As
one of them said, Navratil may be of
small physical stature, but he stands
head and shoulders above most of his
peers. To find out why, read their comments
in the boxes.




Perhaps a telling point about this man is
that his love and passion is construction.
He started as a 14-year-old painting for
a developer of tract homes. “I don’t
know if he just needed extra bodies,”
jokes Navratil, “or whether he saw that
I enjoyed working, but after we reduced
the number of days it took to paint each
house by 30 percent, I ended up on a
framing crew, which helped me through
high school and college.” At college,
Navratil took engineering classes because
he figured it would help him
become more professional at carpentry
and as a builder.



Navratil has spent more than quarter of
a century working with great success in
the building trade since college, and
what does he have to say about it? “During
the week, I’m a frustrated carpenter.
Sitting behind a desk all day long, my
mind sometimes wanders to the next little
detail on a piece of furniture or a wall
detail I am working on at home. I spend
a lot of time in my favorite part of the
house, my fully-equipped 1,000-square-foot
workshop.” Navratil has lived in
nine homes in the last 29 years of marriage to Elaine, three of which he built
and the rest that he completely renovated,
oftentimes making some of the furniture,
as well. When not building
something, he tries to do something he
is admittedly not very good at: relax!
Boating on the Gulf of Mexico is as close
as he gets. Ken has two boys, Aaron, a
24-year old fashion designer and Adam,
a 26-year old estimator/project manager
who works with Ken, who is the vice
president, at J&B Acoustical, in Mansfield,
Ohio. His extended family at J&B
includes nephews Jonathan Chambers,
part of the office staff, and Joel Chambers,
a journeyman and carpenter.




I’ve known Ken for 10 years as a customer. He’s a very fair man and true to his
word and although I’ve dealt with him on a professional basis, we’ve often sat down
and talked about our lives. He’s almost been a mentor for me and is a strong leader
in his business as well as in the community helping build the soccer stadium, for
instance. Ken is the kind of person you want to be associated with, a go-getter who
is not afraid to give his time to something he believes in. He has the industry’s
interests at heart and as a business owner is very much on top of industry changes.
He’ll bring the same interests and skills, integrity and business sense to AWCI.

—Wayne Lloyd, Regional Manager, ACD Distributors





CD: Welcome to your new post during
what can only be described as challenging times. How would you describe the state of the industry at present?


KN: Competitive! The market today is
much tighter because of the struggling
economy In our company, we’re dealing
with this by focusing on customer satisfaction and service because that is about
the only thing we have to offer that can
make a difference.




CD: Very sensible. What areas do you
see as pivotal for the future welfare of the
industry?



KN: The industry is undergoing a series
of insurance crises capturing insurance
for the different business segments
and/or having a competitive insurance
market. Some of our members are not
even able to get coverage to perform
work they have always done. So, we have
addressed this issue over the last year,
aligning ourselves with an insurance
company called Acordia that is going to
be our underwriter. Together with
AWCI Executive Vice President Steve
Etkin, they are setting up an offshore
captive insurance company. This project
is supported and backed financially by
about 10 of the major EIFS manufacturers
and AWCI. As soon as it comes
through in the next two to three months, those contractors who
have been holding off projects will be able to obtain insurance
and produce again.





Ken was what you might call my apprentice
for almost five years after he left
school. He was a very determined young
man who was able to bring profit to the
bottom line within three years. He is very
honest, caring and open about his feelings,
particularly for a man—most of us tend to
be cautious at first, but Ken is strikingly
forthright. If he likes you, he makes it very
clear. He tells you, “You’re really important
to me! How often does one hear that, man
to man? He’s just a guy full of heart! He is
also willing to devote the time that it takes
to be president. Most of us know that if
we’re going to get something out of an
organization, we have to put a lot of time
and effort into it. He has done both. J&B
has a history of being active in the industry
There are a number of ways to be
active and they have chosen AWCI as their
way to contribute two generations right
now and maybe not too long down the
road, three because both Mike and Ken
have a son involved in the business.

— J.D. Flaherty, President,

Construction Systems Inc.







I have known Ken almost four years through AWCI. He is very enthusiastic, always looking for new and creative solutions, but at the same time, he’s very practical about what it’s going to take to get things done. These three things are a powerful combination. He’s clearly accomplished, building a thriving
business with his brother-in-law AWCI is an organization that places great value on beginning one’s involvement with the association at the grassroots level and then working one’s way up in a way that meets the needs of the association while also being rewarding personally Ken being president not only shows his strong desire to give back to the industry that has given him so much, but also the AWCI membership’s willingness
to embrace his leadership style because it’s a two-way
street.

—Rob Waterhouse, Vice President, Sales Ceilings, USG




CD: That’s excellent. How should the membership best proceed?



KN: Become more involved, either with AWCI directly, through our Web site or the monthly publication,
so as to stay informed of progress.





I’ve known Ken for quarter of a century I
am a lawyer and have worked on labor
negotiations with him negotiating very
favorable labor contracts with the United
Brotherhood of Carpenters. Ken is an intelligent
guy, very deliberate and thorough,
and he knows when to dodge and leave,
what’s important and what he can give
up-vital in labor negotiations. His background,
including his family history in
AWCI, and longevity in the association and
industry make him an excellent fit for
AWCI. He has a substantial company and is
probably able to devote a significant
amount of his energy and time to AWCI one
of the biggest requirements for being
president, On a personal level, he is a very
affable guy, easy to get along with. I have
never seen him in a situation where he
doesn’t make you comfortable. Many
times, we would be butting heads with the
unions and he would come in and calm the
waters. I think they made a terrific choice
for the AWCI president.

—Donald E. Morrice, Executive Director of and Counsel
for Drywall & Interior Systems Contractors
Association (DISCA) in New Jersey





CD: Good. How do you feel AWCI has
evolved over the years?



KN: In the mid 1990s, because of very
tight financial constraints on the association,
we focused on recruiting members.
We now have a good member
base our membership has grown from
800 then to nearly 1,900 today and
have been able to spend the last four
years concentrating on listening to and
serving the members, many of whom
have become involved in a lot of committees
and said, “Here’s what we need!”
It’s interesting that this in itself is growing
the membership even further.



CD: Good point. How does AWCI
itself look to you?



KN: If the membership reads the financial
statements and some of our highlights,
they’ll be very pleased because we
are fiscally strong, serving the membership
and in touch with the different
technical committees that are on board.
I would say that we’re much more technically
capable at this point and well
positioned for the turn in the economy.



CD: Thank you. What value do you see
AWCI bringing to its membership?








I’ve
known Ken since the late 1980s,
mostly through his volunteer work on
either the apprenticeship committee or
labor/management drywall committees.
He has taken a big and effective lead in
making sure we have skilled craftsmen
for the industry Beyond that, Ken is a
conscientious, hard working and
focused man: when there is a problem,
he goes to it like a laser and gets the
job done right. He is an accomplished
businessman in the drywall industry,
very well respected by our unions, He
cares about the industry and the
association will benefit with him as
president.

—Douglas McCarron, General President, United Brotherhood
of Carpenters & Joiners of America




KN: Bottom line, apart from all the services we offer, is the opportunity to
interact with other members, which
allows us all to stay abreast of what is
happening in the industry across the
country. The success of our own family
business is due in large part to the commitment
we’ve made to AWCI, and the
things we have learned through the relationships
developed in AWCI.



CD: How do you see the members best
enhancing AWCI’s growth?



KN: At this point, the membership and
their financial backing are key, We are
currently in an expansion and building
mode. We are having discussions with
other smaller associations to align their
programs with ours. It’s membership
driving the association and vice versa
a nice two-way street.



CD: What are your objectives for the
association during the next
year?



KN: We have quite a broad
base of areas we have been
addressing over the last couple
of years: fire safety, mold and
insurance. We are not going
to take on any major new
issues, but focus on what we
have on our plate right now
and make sure the results
work for our members.



CD: Good idea. Do you have
any particular message you
would like to communicate to
the membership?



KN: As someone who is
strongly involved in the association, I
urge members who aren’t involved, to
become involved. We are a great group
of industry leaders, and I promise that
you’ll not only receive back more than
you give out, but you will also have a
great time and build some strong and
lasting relationships.



I’d like to conclude by thanking a great
group of individuals who make it possi-ble
for me to be involved in AWCI the
men and women of J&B Acoustical. I’d
also like to thank the AWCI membership
for allowing my wife, Elaine, and I to represent
the association membership in the
year ahead. We are proud and honored to
have the support not only of the AWCI
staff but also the membership.


About the Author

Steven Ferry is a freelance writer based
in Clearwater, Fla.

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