Leadership is a challenge at the best of times.
Pile on the strain of heading an organization whose membership thrives on in-person networking events that have suddenly come to a screeching halt due to a global pandemic.
Add in a to-do list full of things that end up taking years to check off instead of just days.
And just to make things interesting, sprinkle on top the trials that come with being a female frontrunner in a male-dominated industry, and “challenge” starts to feel like a little bit of an understatement.
Leadership is not without its difficulties, but in pandemic times, it’s been downright hard.
But somehow, through all of that and more, Sherry Claybourn, has proven that with determination, humour, and the right support network behind you, it’s entirely possible to navigate the ups and downs of such a role, and still come out on top.
In a retrospect interview, Sherry spoke about the ups and downs she went through during her term, and what it was like to be the Provincial President of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick (CHBA-NB) during a global pandemic and a housing boom.
“Covid certainly was… a challenge,” she chuckled before continuing, “especially where membership retention and growth were concerned. It’s hard to get members out for great networking opportunities when you can’t host in-person events. Keeping members engaged and excited about the Association in an online space was very difficult,” she recalled. “It just wasn’t the same. You could feel it… and understand it, too. I find it hard to stay focused on a ZOOM meeting after 30 minutes myself,” she empathized.
Not only was reinforcing membership value to existing members difficult, but recruiting new members seemed impossible, given that builders were busier than ever.
“The surprising thing about the pandemic was how much the construction industry took off – it was a boom that caught everyone off guard. With so much growth in builders’ businesses, it was a difficult time to convince them there was value in membership beyond promotion. They thought, ‘If I have work, why promote?’ But there’s so much more to our membership than just that. It’s the ongoing training and education, and access to a network of builders who can rely on one another and turn to each other for advice,” she reinforced.
Now having come through the worst of the pandemic, Sherry said that the Association is seeing a rise in membership numbers again.
“In the last month, we’ve had 3 or 4 new member applications come through, so things are certainly picking up again and we’re moving in the right direction.”
Tackling these membership issues came with lessons about adapting to overcome obstacles. But it was the lessons in patience that came from managing expectations related to achieving long-term goals that were the most impactful on Sherry’s journey.
“I’ve learned a lot about patience in this role. Everything takes time. Nothing happens overnight. Like Contractor Licensing to regulate the industry in our Province – we’ve been lobbying for Contractor Licensing for years now,” she noted, a major goal for the Association that could still take years to realize.
But on the heels of those hitches came some amazing wins.
“The Province of New Brunswick now has a Minister of Housing, Jill Green, which we’d also been lobbying hard for. It’s a big win for our industry because it means the Association has the ear of someone within government, someone we can communicate with and share our ideas and challenges with. Someone to help get us to get our voices out there. And when it comes to housing availability and new builds, we hope she’ll want to work closely with us and builders in to fulfilling those housing needs.”
Sherry was also particularly proud of the fact that the Association’s vision for a training space and centre of building excellence is on track to become a reality.
“The Centre for Residential Construction Excellence is something else we’ve been working towards. Now that piece of land and the building that will eventually be constructed there belongs to our members and our Association. It will be a place where we can offer education to our members and the public; we can assist homeowners in finding builders and the resources they need; and even possibly rent it out to other businesses for their events. It’ll be a proud moment for us all once it opens,” she reported.
In all, Sherry shared that her experience as CHBA-NB President was very positive and contributed a lot to her professional and personal growth.
“While the role came with a lot of responsibilities, the opportunities to travel, network, and gain access to ongoing education were worthwhile perks. The position allowed me to form better relationships with the builders in the province and beyond, which is great for business, and I got to meet a lot of folks in government, some I might not have met otherwise had it not been for the Association,” she said.
But now, Sherry must pass the torch to a successor and leave the role behind.
“I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity and to have earned the respect and support of those within the Association. I’ve enjoyed being the President for the past few years, but I look forward to giving someone else the opportunity now.”
Rising to the occasion is fellow CBHA-NB member, Brad McLaughlin, who Sherry believes is a great fit.
“I’ve always believed the role of President should be held by a builder. Because who better to represent other builders than a builder?”
When asked if she had any advice for the incoming President, she suggested simply, “Listen to as many people as you can. Hear them out when they speak to you. Be patient. Some ideas might not make sense at first but often when you hear the entire story, it can change your way of thinking or give you a new perspective.”
Over the past 3 years, the Association and industry have witnessed some big challenges and changes. And while at times success felt slow in coming, our wins were hard-fought and will have an impact for years to come. We’d like to thank Sherry for her dedication and hard work during those wild years, and for guiding us to where we are today. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed and have made us all better.
Sherry Claybourn will continue to serve on the Canadian Home Builder’s Association – New Brunswick’s Board of Directors for the next two years while maintaining her full-time role as Sales Manager for Artiza Stone by Stone Clad Exteriors located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.