Photo By All: CMA
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Cabinet Makers Association (CMA) reached a major milestone this year and so they celebrated their two and a half decades of service to the industry with a national conference.
Held March 8-10, 2023 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville, the 25th Anniversary National Conference was packed with enticing speakers, local plant tours, and plenty of networking opportunities.
Over the past quarter of a century, the CMA has grown to include hundreds of small- to medium-sized cabinet, millwork, and furniture shops across the U.S. and Canada. One hundred and fifty of those members converged in Nashville for this celebratory event.
Amanda Conger, the organization’s Executive Director, summed up the experience by saying, “When woodworkers all over the country come together as a group, each one becomes stronger.”
The experience kicked off with a welcome reception at the hotel on Wednesday evening. It was a great time to meet new people and catch up with CMA friends, she said.
Thursday’s lineup was varied and inspiring. The opening keynote came from Kevin McNulty, an internationally recognized leadership strategist and coach with three decades of experience advising major organizations such as Jack Daniel’s, NASA, and the Department of Defense. McNulty’s area of expertise is helping clients work on the mindset side of their personal and professional life, and so his presentation was entitled “Future-Proofing Your Mindset.”
After a break, McNulty took the stage once again for a “mastermind” interactive session for attendees to apply what he shared. One attendee commented that “Kevin did a great job giving practical experience for how to solve a range of challenges we all face and manage.”
Tim Coleman then followed with his “Magic Numbers” talk about what he has learned about maximizing the bottom line in his more than three decades in the home storage business. Tim currently serves as division manager of the Chicago location of SCE Unlimited. An attendee shared that Tim “did a great job bringing engagement while presenting financials and great applicable resources for future use.”
Thursday afternoon featured three plant tours—California Closets Tennessee, Cumberland Architectural Millwork, and Hartert Russell—followed by a networking reception back at the hotel. Each tour offered a unique perspective on the different facets of the industry. Conference-goers were able to learn from what they observed at each stop; major improvements and minor changes highlighted by these companies will have a big impact in attendees’ shops as they return home and implement what they saw. An attendee remarked that “it was awesome to see three different companies. I loved the tours. Each was different and great in their own way.”
Friday’s lineup started with Paul Downs, owner of Paul Downs Custom Conference Tables. Downs shared his story of how he successfully cultivated his company culture. Downs admitted that for many years, his team operated with the goals of being good ad its craft and getting along with each other, but there was no formalization of those goals. He has since written it down, told his employees about it, and began living by it. An attendee stated that this was the “best presentation I've heard in a long time!”
Kelly Victor-Burke (Burke Architectural Millwork) and Lois Snyder (Periwinklers) followed with a talk about “Finding Your Niche.” Victor-Burke has been in the industry for just six years, while Snyder started a woodworking business in the early 1980s. They shared their experiences, rethinking what works best for their markets and their companies. Victor-Burke’s millwork business primarily does commercial projects, but its new venture, Bespoke Closets, will cater to owners of luxury homes.
Meanwhile, Snyder shared that residential work isn’t “worth it” for her, and has chosen to focus exclusively on commercial project. A doting attendee shared that Victor-Burke and Snyder are “my favorite ladies of the CMA! Always relatable and helpful information.”
Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land: Where Growing Companies Fail, gave the closing keynote and asked the audience to consider how much and in what ways do they want their companies to grow. Tatum is Chairman of Newport LLC, a national partnership of CEOs and senior executives who advise emerging middle market companies and assist private equity firms as they invest in and grow portfolio companies. An attendee commented that they “especially liked [how Doug shared] that you don't have to grow to be successful.”
The conference wrapped-up with lunch and a special pricing workshop on Friday afternoon. The workshop, led by Ken Kumph (Premier Builders) and Matt Wehner (Concepts by Design), took a deep dive into pricing strategies by encouraging an open dialogue between the presenters and the participants. One attendee commented, “I really enjoyed the pricing session. It was very informative and helpful.”
The CMA would like to extend special appreciation to the event sponsors: Blum, CCF Industries, Crow's Nest Software, DC Distributing, Federated Insurance, Hafele, Lockdowel, Original Saw, Rehau, Rev-A-Shelf, Renovar, Richelieu, ShopBot, Stiles, Weinig Holz-Her USA, and Williams & Hussey.
For more information on the CMA, visit www.cabinetmakers.org.
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