Posted by Justin Zeller, CR, Red House Custom Building, President of EM NARI and Chair of Marketing/PR Committee

I spent a couple of days this past week in Chicago, invited to judge the National CotY Awards. It was a remarkable experience to review submissions of the best remodeling projects from across the country. It was an honor to be a part of such a unique award that puts as much emphasis on the difficulties of the project as it does the aesthetic impact of the work. This was the second time I’ve been asked to judge, but last year it was a remote experience. Last year all judges worked from their home city and then compared notes over conference calls. It was so much better to judge in person, talking and working with a team to hear diverse opinions and points-of-view. 

Beyond the judging itself, the experience of being in the company of members of our national organization from across the US was humbling. The panel of judges was made of architect-led design-builders, cabinet suppliers, interior designers, bid remodelers, publishers, editors, and builder-led design-builders. The sizes of companies represented by the judges might have ranged from $300K per year to $20MM per year. Yet as we all sat and examined projects, we talked like old friends picking up a conversation that started years ago.

This reminded me and drove home for me that one of the advantages of being part of a national organization resides in the facility of connecting across the boundaries of distance. While sometimes we can get restricted in our own enclaves, with the common thread of our passion for professional remodeling, a national organization gives us the opportunity to go beyond the borders of our state or territory. For me, it was rewarding and refreshing to see that the values I appreciate in our local EM NARI chapter are values that are shared nationally by members from all over. As a national organization, we are enthusiasts for professional development. We are an organization of people who want to help each other succeed. 

It was reaffirming to know that the culture and values we so highly regard in our own chapter were reflected in the open and candid conversations I had with members from across the nation. What I found in getting to know members from Missouri, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Texas is that remodelers who choose NARI end up embracing it for the same reasons. They are all on a similarly difficult journey, and they find that journey eased through the helpful and honest community of travelers on the same path. Through community, we find success collectively. I come away from this week seeing how important it is to take advantage of these opportunities where we can network and connect with members across the country.

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