Big Doors, Pastel Commodes, and a Need For More Education

Our takeaways from the International Builders Show 2023

Last week, we flew to Las Vegas to check out the 2023 International Builders Show. Unlike the times I’ve attended in the past where the air was heavy with uncertainty about trade shows fading into obscurity, this year was supercharged with positive energy, packed with record attendance and a variety of exhibitors bringing their all.

3 days wasn’t enough to take it all in and we had that panic attack on the last afternoon realizing we hadn’t even scratched the surface of absorbing all the great ideas, products and companies from around the world. When we finally got a chance to sit down at the barbecue tent, rest our feet and compare notes, we agreed on the following trends extrapolated out of the enormousness.

As new home footprints get smaller you can only go up, so the first noteworthy stand out was the mega door displays. We were mightily impressed by PVT Doors, who can construct and install front doors up to 23 feet in height. That’s right, over 2 stories tall, and can be opened as effortlessly as if it were only a standard size. Talk about being the most envied neighbor in the subdivision…

And it goes without saying that the Kohler booth, its block-long palace and its awesome display of pastel toilets was an exhibit not to be missed. Their presentation was next level, mixing just the right amount of innovation, elegance, culture and style into a visual masterpiece that was ready to inspire builders and designers alike.

But throughout the whole show, we heard one theme that resonated with us the most. Everyone - from celebrity speakers to those demonstrating new products and technologies - shared their frustration about the need for education and training.

The building industry is notorious for lagging behind the times and sticking to the old ways of doing things. Not adopting a new technology or methodology sometimes comes down to simple ignorance of its benefits, or sticking to familiar processes out of fear of something new, or laziness to give new ideas a chance.

We talked with Build Block, a manufacturer of insulating concrete forms (ICF’s) who shared a long list of benefits in using their products, including speed, efficiency, durability and cost effectiveness. However their sales team fights an uphill battle educating construction companies against outdated stigmas about the technology that haven't been relevant for decades.

We also met with Tuf-N-Lite who gave a mind-blowing demonstration of the difference between their corrosion free composite rebar and its standard steel counterpart. Their concrete reinforcement products are light, bendable, durable, safe and dependable, however they say it's difficult to convince contractors to forgo the age-old industry standard and put their innovative alternatives to the test.

We sat in on a conversation with Jonathen and Drew Scott also known as HGTV’s Property Brothers who expressed the need to educate the public about the fight over solar energy in order for them to take action and make it a global reality. They recently filmed a documentary called “Power Trip” to champion the innovators moving it forward and confront the stigmas that are intentionally being perpetuated to keep certain people in control. 

Politics aside, the main takeaway is that builders should rethink the way they do business development and incorporate education into your process. No, this doesn’t mean going back to school and getting a new degree, but as developers and buyers get younger and more dependent on digital research, they are more likely to trust building partners who can provide reliable and relevant information specific to their information gathering. And its trusted partners that edge out the competition to get awarded work. 

Capitalize on your specific abilities to answer their questions from your unique perspective. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share your insights and encourage conversation. Don’t just report what you did in the next case study you produce, but share what you learned from the project and provide smart wisdom that can benefit them as they plan their next project.

In the end, we saw the IBS show as a microcosm of the crowded landscape of the building industry as a whole. Even in the B2B space, your success depends on how memorable an experience you can provide your audiences, be it a gorgeous new building, an inventive trade show exhibit, or meaningful education about your products or services. If you are cluttered and unclear in your presentation you’re just another vendor in a vast sea of replaceable vendors. We found the exhibitors who clearly communicated their competitive advantage with passion and originality were the ones that left the most memorable impression when we left the show.

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