The next person you meet, could be your next big break.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, is an age-old proverb usually inserted alongside a great success story. This is not to say that knowledge and experience is irrelevant, but the opportunity of networking with like-minded peers is invaluable to a business. At ABC Carolinas, the values of their foundation are built upon merit. They believe that every person should have the opportunity for their voice to be heard, and everyone deserves a seat at the table. But the question is, how do you get an invite to sit at that table in the first place? Well, the answer is simple: Through the networking magic of ABC Carolinas, of course.
ABC Carolinas is a trade association that supports the construction industry. They are the voice of merit shop and free enterprise for North and South Carolina, and one of 69 chapters across the country. The association works endlessly to bring together different types of companies — whether it be contractors, trade partners, suppliers, or vendors — through a number of events and educational resources.
CEO of ABC Carolinas, Amy Sullivan Hicks, is a vital part of the association and is certainly kept busy. Amy was selected as one of the Charlotte Business Journal’s 2022 class of the Most Admired CEOs in the category of government, civic and business advocacy organizations. With a background in business development, Amy is well aware of the importance of networking. “I’m a firm believer that it’s about the experiences you have with an organization. If you can create a really good experience where people can network and truly bring about valuable relationships, then that’s what we’re going to focus on. I hope people can create those true connections so that they can then reach out outside of that event and say, hey, I want to get together and grab a cup of coffee. And then business can be evolved out of that.”
ABC Carolinas is made up of seven Councils and hosts seven networking events each month throughout the Carolinas. While this means there are numerous gatherings to attend, there are some stand outs. Their Excellence in Construction Awards program is one of their most popular, with Amy referring to it as “the Oscars of the construction industry”. Members can submit projects that have been carried out in the Carolinas throughout the year, with the hopes of winning an award in their relevant categories. This is a great opportunity for members of the industry to get together and become recognized for their hard work. Members are also entitled to bring whoever they like, whether that be the architect, the civil engineer, or even a partner.
“ABC Carolinas is made up of seven Councils and hosts seven networking events each month throughout the Carolinas.”
Another big event is their marquee summer construction convention. This summer, it’s going to be in Wilmington, North Carolina between August 3rd and August 5th, and it rotates to different cities each year. This is one of their biggest events where all councils and member companies congregate, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The events organized range from the highly attended golf tournaments to bourbon and bacon events.
Outside of the fun networking events, ABC Carolinas does so much more. The trade association is highly involved with the political advocacy side of construction, allowing for members voices to be heard. “The way that we work our government affairs angle here in the Carolinas is, we have a North Carolina Government Affairs Committee, and then we have a South Carolina Government Affairs Committee. Our Director of Government Affairs, Chris Bullard, heads up those efforts. If there are any type of bills or legislation coming across that would directly impact our members, then we would lobby for or against on behalf of our members. If an individual member sees something that’s getting ready to pass or go through, they could bring it to our attention and the committee will look over it and decide if it’s something that we want to go after. Then we would make that call and take action”.
Having political support on both a state and national level is a huge advantage for any industry, not just the construction industry. Other than political support, ABC Carolinas has also developed community support by creating relationships within local communities. The trade association has a partnership with ACE Mentor Program Charlotte, and as a result of this, they contribute and participate in their ACE Trades Day. This involves going into a local community college, bringing in the high school students, and talking to them about careers.
ABC Carolinas also works with the Boy Scouts through their Explorers Club program in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Charleston. Middle school students are brought in and taught by members of ABC Carolinas. The members create a program designed for one Saturday a month in different markets. The students experience an educational part of the business in the morning, and then the afternoon will typically be spent building or creating something.
ABC Carolinas are also in the process of rolling out a program with one of their members called PACE (Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Experience). The program is a new initiative that will be rolled out in the coming months and is expected to last between six to eight weeks. Participants will learn the fundamentals of construction, OSHA 10 certification and go through the basics of total usage. They will then be sent out into the field with some of the member companies where they will work for two weeks. At the end of the program, the companies can decide to hire them. Participants can decide to be hired, or they can move on to something else.
While ABC Carolinas is the driving force behind a number of these programs, none of this would be possible without the groups of volunteers who continuously help them to achieve their goals. “Our volunteers help us get sponsors, we get sponsors and then we move forward. They will come up with the events and then if we think it’s a great idea, we’ll back it and we’ll organize it. We really rely on our volunteers, and we’ve got an amazing, a truly amazing group of volunteers that help us.”
Many new members join ABC Carolinas for a variety of reasons, and I’m sure a lot of them are linked to the topics discussed in this article: Political Advocacy, Education, Events. But Amy has assured me she knows the main reason. According to a collection of data retrieved from surveys issued on behalf of ABC Carolinas to its members, the overall reason for joining was the networking capacity. So next time you want to feel heard and are looking for a seat at the table, reach out to ABC Carolinas for an invite. Who knows, that invisible string they have created to link the construction industry together could be the string that links you to something truly amazing.