CARLSBAD, Calif. — The 2023 American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA) Annual Meeting served as a hub for the boiler industry’s elite to network, discuss the present and future of the trade, and much more.
The event — which featured industry-centric presentations, a casino-themed reception, hospitality events, a golf tournament, a murder-mystery closing dinner, and much more — attracted 115 registrants. In total, more than 70% of the association’s member companies were represented at the event.
“This year’s meeting was special for several reasons,” said Scott Lynch, president, and CEO, ABMA. “First, the ABMA board of directors adopted its new three-year strategic plan that will take our organization to greater heights. The meeting also included the first engagement with the manufacturer representatives from the industry to reinforce our focus on engaging the entire boiler supply chain.”
The event featured several highly focused boiler-centric presentations, including an “Overview of Advanced Nuclear Energy,” by Youssef Ballout, director, Idaho National Laboratory; “Energy Technology Investments and Evolutions to Meet a Decarbonization Agenda,” by Paul Glanville, research and development leader, Gas Technology Institute; “A Sustainability Perspective of the Drivers and Impacts on Industrial Capital Spending,” by Jason Garner, founder, and president, Clear Process Engineering; and many more.
The ABMA staff received an abundance of positive feedback regarding the event’s agenda..
“The topics were timely and informative,” said Lynch. “Many attendees stated the presenters offered action-oriented opportunities and solutions to their present-day challenges.”
Bob Langstine, regional manager power sales, eastern U.S. and Canada, Zeeco, said the event was enjoyable from start to finish.
“Besides the excellent opportunities to interact with key industry leaders, several of the presentations and discussions were really valuable, from labor and manpower management to the global economics review and predictions,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy and value the ABMA meetings.”
Perhaps the meeting’s most popular presentation was one given on the final day by Connor Lokar, senior forecaster, ITF Economics, who provided an overview of the boiler industry’s present and future.
“Connor Lokar’s economic forecast presentation from ITR on Monday morning was incredibly insightful,” said Dustin Divinia, president, Vector Systems Inc. “Outside of the meetings, I did enjoy the murder mystery dinner at the closing reception very much.”
Mastering Midsized Growth
As a mid-sized business, what is your most important asset? Is it your cashflow? Is it your inventory? Your lack of debt?
Actually, it’s your high-potential employees and their ability to move your business forward. That’s what Rob Sher, CEO, Mastering Midsized, told attendees during his opening session presentation, “How the Best Companies Develop & Retain Top Talent.”
“When your company is short on talent, or those you do have aren’t rising to their highest potential, your company simply will not grow strongly,” he said. “It's absolutely critical to develop your high-potential employees and place them in a position so that they not only they succeed, but your company does as well.”
Identifying High-Potential Employees
High-potential employees aren’t difficult to identify, said Sher. Internally, they’re the ones raising their hands during meetings, volunteering to fill in for teammates, and offering to provide assistance in any way they can.
Though, don’t mix up those who are high performing with those who are high potential, he said.
“High performers are people who are doing great at their job, but, for whatever reason, they're not really promotable,” he said. “Maybe they’ve risen as far as they can, or they just love what they’re doing. Maybe they just had triplets and don't want any extra stress or extra hours. Don’t discredit them, though, as high performers are important to every business.
“As leaders, we want to focus on high performers who are constantly looking to advance their careers,” continued Sher. “We’re looking for the elite among the elite. Those with good people skills; those who work well with all sorts of different folks, are team oriented, and don’t care about being the ‘star.’ These are the individuals we want to invest in. And, even if we only have three or four of them, it’s important we nurture them accordingly. You've got a choice, either you help them grow and show them the path to success, or they'll find success with another company.”
If you’re struggling to identify who exactly the best of the best is among your company, Sher suggests making a list. Unless you’ve identified these individuals in writing, you’re unlikely to focus on them.
And, if you currently don’t have such a list, there’s no need to worry, said Sher, as you’re in the majority.
When polled, less than 40% of ABMA Annual Meeting attendees maintained a list of high-potential employees.
“We have to look forward two or three years and imagine what our organizations are going to look like,” Sher said. “Who are the 63 year olds who are likely to retire? Are we developing the high-potential employees in our organization to fill those positions? You can't take a person and expedite them into a C-suite role in three weeks. This may take six months, a year, two years — it depends how far they want to go.”
Every Person Is Different
What piques the interest of one employee typically isn’t of importance to another. Thus, it’s important for the hiring manager to know and understand each high-potential employee.
“Learning the traits of each employee typically doesn’t happen formally,” Sher said. “You have to form a human relationship to discover what excites a person and the direction they’re headed. If they're willing to put in the work, you have to be as well.”
Without these relationships, a high-potential employee may be pushed in the wrong direction. There are different areas of leadership — technical, business, social, etc. — and each individual may not be best suited for each of these.
“What does that person really want?” asked Sher. “What does the company need? How do we make sure the person’s skills really connect? These are all questions worth considering.”
Assessments offer employers and employees an opportunity to connect and learn from each other.
“A performance review is a powerful place to guide people along in their careers,” said Sher. “It’s a great opportunity to share how an employee is progressing and a way to document their progress as well. It’s here when you can ask about their needs, desires, and wants. This is not fancy stuff — listening, understanding, and writing it down. It’s as easy as that.”
Put them to the Test
Delegation is yet another powerful tool in the retention process — one of the most underutilized, according to Sher.
“CEOs need to be focused on the company’s vision and its future,” he said. “Oftentimes, they don’t have time to do that. To clear their plates, they need to pass down some of that busy-type work to their vice presidents. Subsequently, the VP’s have to pass along some of their work to their reports.
“A quick way to the top of the organization is by demonstrating the capacity to take on your boss's work and more complex work,” he continued. “Individuals who have taken on the work of their boss have proven they have the ability to do their boss’s work. If you promote them, they’ve proven they can already do the job. The risk is a lot lower.”
In addition to testing people out on the fly, delegation also opens up bandwidth for senior leaders to focus on the future.
“If the individuals at the top of the organization don't have the time to plan for the future, who will?” asked Sher. “When only prioritizing short-term, urgent tasks, long-term considerations get overlooked. For example, a relocation into an 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility takes time. It’s not something that can be accomplished in a few weeks.”
If you haven’t focused on nurturing your high-potential employees, it’s not too late, said Sher. Identify who they are, learn what it is that drives them forward, test their abilities, and provide them a path to success.
“Yes, you can hire people in, but it’s safer, easier, and more affordable to build people up through the organization,” said Sher. “What drives growth for mid-size companies? It’s your ability to develop high-potential employees into long-term company leaders.”
With the 2023 ABMA Annual Meeting in the books, the association turns its attention to its next meeting, the 2023 Manufacturers Conference, scheduled for April 11-13 at the Hyatt Lodge Oak Brook near Chicago.
The Manufacturers Conference is focused on middle managers and those entering leadership at their companies. The event has historically provided leading-edge content designed to broaden attendees’ knowledge of the boiler industry. Members also are invited to tour local ABMA members’ facilities as part of the meeting.
“This event will bring together a diversified representation from the industry and a new emphasis on markets, worker recruitment, potential new environmental regulations, industry challenges, marketing tools, etc.,” said Lynch. “With an educational experience second to none on critical issues and concerns presently facing the boiler industry, the ABMA Manufacturers Conference promises to deliver a return on investment for all who attend.”
For more information, visit www.abma.com/manufacturers-conference.
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