Building a strong network with trade associations

In the zone

By Leslie T. Snadowsky

As the owner of Hackett Homes & Construction, Cameron Hackett hung up his shingle in Bluffton in January 2022, and is building his business foundation with the help of local industry association Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association (HHAHBA).

“It’s the best $650 I have ever spent,” Hackett, a 30-year-old Charleston native, said of his membership dues. “Coming into a new area, you need to have connections. You’re not going to succeed in this business on your own. I was skeptical at first because there are a lot of these organizations that say they’re here to help, but some of them don’t. But this one, in particular, is just incredible. It’s really been the best thing for my business.”

After earning his degree from The Citadel, Hackett worked for David Weekley Homes, where he received the Builder of the Year award for five consecutive years. He said he combines his love of coastal architecture and the laid-back lifestyle of the Lowcountry in all of his projects. After joining the HHAHBA, a nonprofit professional trade association, Hackett was floored by the supportive community, the productive networking events and how everyone is willing to help one another. Hackett said he found his footing as a new business owner when receiving referrals from other HHAHBA members.

Cameron Hackett of Hackett Homes & Construction, seen here with wife, Lauren, and son, Jameson, said his family business has benefited from his membership with the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association. ©Scott Langel

“The value I’m getting out of my association with the HHAHBA is tremendous,” Hackett said. “They host many events, and when you’re shaking hands with people, some are new like me, but some have been down here for decades and are very established and highly respected builders and tradesmen. Just getting to commingle with those guys, I have never experienced it anywhere else. They’re falling over themselves to help you. That’s just the culture down here, doing everything you can for the next guy because it may be you tomorrow who needs the help.”

According to Dun & Bradstreet, the U.S. business and professional associations industry includes more than 23,000 organizations. The local HHAHBA is one of 15 homebuilder associations in South Carolina.

HHAHBA’s Executive Officer Meg James comes from a long line of builders and craftsmen and said her association has 525 members who are architects, builders,  remodelers, plumbers, electricians, mortgage lenders and Realtors throughout Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties.

“For a builder who’s starting off on their own, we help them navigate the Lowcountry,” she said. “From education, to government affairs, to advocacy and networking, we help create their team of subcontractors and connect consumers with the right professionals. From an associate standpoint, they want to join specifically to meet those other builders. We create that environment where they can make those connections.”

HHAHBA’s Executive Officer, Meg James, said through networking events, she helps connect her 525 members who are local architects, builders, remodelers, plumbers, electricians, mortgage lenders and realtors throughout Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper Counties. ©Oceano Blue

James said HHAHBA bolsters new members by matching them with a “buddy” or mentor who helps them deep dive into the different county rules and permit processes so they don’t have to figure out everything on their own. “It’s almost like they can skip a lot of mistakes because we’re putting them together with the right people,” James said, “so they’re getting the right information before they even start.”

HHAHBA members get to network at general membership meetings, fishing trips, corn-hole tournaments, clay shoots, holiday hoedowns, annual oyster roasts, compete in its annual LightHouse Awards and participate in its Builders Cup golf tournament, the biggest building industry golf tournament in the state. James said one of her favorite events is the HHAHBA’s monthly builder breakfast where builders and tradesmen drill down to talk about their businesses and projects. From budding builders to old-guard fixtures, members get to float their ideas, elevate their businesses and exchange contact information.

“Knowing exactly where they’re doing projects, what price point they build in, what square footage they work with, getting as much detail from those builders as possible is what I find out to become the best liaison for the consumer when they call looking for a builder or a remodeler for a project that they have,” James said.

The HHAHBA membership fee also includes getting members’ information on an online directory, in a printed directory and the LowCountry Home Magazine. Plus, members automatically become members of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina and the National Association of Home Builders.

“Even if you don’t have a website, you’re going to pop up on our website, so you’ll have that web presence,” James said. “I think that’s helpful, especially for the smaller guys who are just starting out. We give them that platform to kick start their business.”

“We want to build relationships,” she said. “I think everybody agrees they want to work with people that they enjoy and that they like. So getting to know each other and building that relationship is important. At our events we encourage that.”

“Take these opportunities, and don’t let them pass you by,” builder Hackett said. “Don’t ever close a door that opens for you without stepping through it first, and always see things through. Even things I didn’t have high hopes for have turned out to be great successes.”

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