The 2016 conference voices industry finance trends & educates hundreds

The Construction Financial Management Association’s (CFMA) 2016 Annual Conference & Exhibition was held June 25-29 at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas. Every year, the conference provides attendees with varied educational sessions, technology solutions, networking opportunities and awareness about current trends in construction accounting and finance. For the first time in the history of the conference, total attendance exceeded 1,300. This year, over 400 of those people were first-time attendees, which speaks to CFMA growth and significance in the construction industry.

“I am leading a technology charter within our company, so I attended to get exposed to other companies’ technology implementation strategies and scout emerging technologies in the construction industry,” said Jason Miranda, senior project manager at the Lemoine Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and first-time conference attendee.

In search of a solution to the problem of real-time collaboration and dissemination of information on the jobsite, Miranda came with goals. “We wanted to get a lead on at least two software platforms that we could explore as a potential replacement platforms for our current PM software,” said Miranda. There were many cutting-edge software and technology options to choose from in the exhibitor hall, which housed over 100 exhibitors. “In terms of number of exhibitors, we had an increase of over 30 percent,” said CFMA president and CEO Stuart Binstock.

As an exhibitor and presenter at the conference, B2W Software, provider of estimating and construction operations software to heavy, civil construction companies, took the opportunity to gauge and discuss emerging market requirements that help shape its software development efforts. B2W’s CEO Paul McKeon also presented a session with Brian Cooney from Barriere Construction focused on leveraging mobile technology for data capture and analysis and a more cohesive, enterprise-wide system to turn it into actionable intelligence.

Some of the most popular sessions focused on finance and technology. However, diversity in session topics was apparent, with sessions ranging from leadership and women in construction to cybersecurity and suicide prevention.

Lakeside Industries Inc.’s Director of Risk Management and CBO Editorial Advisory Board Member Cal Beyer presented a session with Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas on suicide prevention. “Construction is a high-risk industry for suicide among our vulnerable employees,” said Beyer. Beyer encouraged attendees to recognize that suicide prevention can be woven into the safety/health and wellness culture in construction companies. Beyer was also the recipient of this year’s Danny B. Parrish Outstanding Leadership award.

Conference sessions this year were built around six different tracks, which touched on virtually every area of a construction financial manager’s position, including Accounting & Finance, Benefits & Human Resources, Heavy/Highway and Sub-Specialty, Leadership & Management, Risk Management & Surety and Technology. This year, for the first time, CFMA also designated some courses as “advanced,” acknowledging its diverse membership comprised of beginner, intermediate and advanced expertise in construction finance. Also new to the conference this year was a feature called “Ask the Expert.” This gave attendees the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an expert in the field and discuss the impact a particular issue may have on their company’s particular set of circumstances.

CFMA meeting photo

The theme of this year’s conference, “Building it Forward,” was centered on using the knowledge and skills from membership and involvement in CFMA to improve construction companies, personal lives and the industry as a whole.

As CFMA 2016-17 Executive Chairman Ken Chiccotella said, “Don’t just put your conference notes in a drawer when you get back to the office, or sign out of a webinar and get right back to work. Instead, think about what you have learned that might improve your company or your personal life and commit to implementing it with your boss, a family member or a friend.” Chiccotella said, “We owe it to the people in our lives who support us to keep building it forward.” In his speech, Chiccotella shared his passion for photography and asked attendees to remember that life is “like a camera.” Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t turn out—take another shot. With that, he challenged attendees to find one way to build it forward—choose one thing that will improve their current situations and commit it in writing to hold themselves accountable.

Sessions provided diverse education and highlighted a number of current industry trends at different levels of expertise. John Rogoz, CPA, CMA, CCIFP, is the vice president of finance at Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, and has attended the conference nine times. According to Rogoz, Kraus-Anderson encourages its employees to seek out external resources and opportunities for professional career development. Rogoz reported that this year’s sessions exceeded his expectations, stating, “The professionals that spoke about changes to financial reporting are ingrained in the details. They are not merely observers on the sideline restating information I can otherwise easily pick up. Tim Wilson and Anthony Hakes’ discussion of leases and revenue recognition changes provided an in-depth knowledge of how upcoming changes in these areas will affect the industry and my company. Their high level of knowledge and top-notch professionalism brought credibility to the session and insights you can’t find anywhere else.”

According to Rogoz, one pain point in his role is the adoption of technology. “As an industry, construction lags behind others in the average percent businesses spend on technology. We can close that gap and become more innovative in the way we operate,” said Rogoz. “The CFMA conference provided a great opportunity to hear James Benham speak about new and developing technologies that can be used in the construction industry.”

Benham is the CEO of JBKnowledge Inc., makers of technology solutions for construction and insurance. Benham has attended the conference eight times and has been a presenter to the local, regional and national conferences four times. “After I gave the presentation on security, I received lots of questions, concerns and comments about technology security and how they can improve—there’s a big need for data security,” said Benham.

Other areas of concern included worker shortages, employee engagement and the future of the industry under new presidential leadership.

“These are relatively strong business markets for the construction industry in the United States. Our members worry about future years to come and what the markets will look like. The current elections seem to have members concerned, given the uncertainty over our future leadership and uncertainty is never perceived positively by our members,” said Binstock.

The 2017 conference will be held June 3-7 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona. Visit cfma.org to register and get more information.