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Business Skills v. Trade Competency from Doug Bracken
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1/25/2016 at 2:55:04 PM GMT
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Business Skills v. Trade Competency from Doug Bracken

I see certification/accreditation can be approached from two distinctly different angles:

1.       Business Competency

2.       Trade Competency

3.      A combination of 1 and 2.

NOMMA’s core members are mostly tradesmen/women first and business people second so when you ask a tradesman how to create a certification program, the answers will certainly lean towards how to weld, instead of how to run a business.  I feel strongly that NOMMA can do the most good for the least effort by focusing entirely on Business Competency and allowing the individual businesses to demonstrate their own Trade Competency to their clients. Trade Competency changes daily  we learn everyday from our successes and mistakes, therefore, trying to benchmark that knowledge will only lead to frustration and animosity over even a short period of time.


Certification will be a tool for the Fabricator Member to use to differentiate his/her business from non-accredited or certified firms doing similar work much like a trade specific BBB stamp of approval. Therefore the persons who will recognize certification for our benefit will be homeowners, contractors, architects, landscape architects. In this manner, certification is a way for the client or client prospect  to know that they are doing business with a reputable business (which is at least half the battle of hiring a competent contractor in any field), which is allied with a national trade organization. Whether that shop builds fire stairs, monumental stairs, railings or fences, gates or lights, structural or misc. or all or just one of those, the NOMMA brand is here to say with basic business competency certification that the firms which qualify are reputable and responsible businesses whatever they are doing. In other words,  the NOMMA certified business understands the risk and responsibilities of their business activities which is a huge advantage for the consumer.


Therefore, the first level and the most important level of accreditation needs to focus on the business ; Have you been in business for more than (___3?__) years performing the same type of work, do you carry insurance appropriate for your business, have you been bankrupt, are you bondable, what is your Work Comp Insurance Modifier, do you have a safety program in place for shop and field workers, have you ever been sued for non-performance, do you have relationship with a Professional Engineer, what is your business credit score or D+B rating, Can you offer professional and trade references, what is the average size job for the last 3 years, what are your trade specialties or specialized tooling, how many years have you been a member in good standing with NOMMA,  etc etc.??


Quantifying the trade competency as I see in some of the lines below, is very risky, very subjective and does not  appeal to the target market of architects and builders etc. For example, I know a guy who makes the most beautiful French scrolls with a cutting torch and a welder and I know another guy who produces similar work with a waterjet machine and a welder and we can make a similar product with hammer and anvil. How do you create a trade competency evaluation that addresses all three conditions equally? Worse still – imagine we failed the gate construction test and then lost a job because of it, then I studied my failure but and the next exam was months away so now I am not sure if I should  bid on gates or not or maybe the specter of failure follows my business? How about a certification where the gate builder was certified but the gate failed and hurt someone, now how is NOMMA liable for the injury since we certified the firms abilities in these areas? Trade competency is best left for the client to decide. NOMMA can assist him/her with the credentials that support that they have basic business knowledge and risk management through certification.


The catch is that there will need to be some way for customers to file complaints, like the BBB, to NOMMA if a firm fails to perform or perhaps if they misrepresent themselves or their financial or insurance situation. This is why you will need an annual fee to manage the certification program. This would also be the case if we were to certify trade competency, except that the trade side is MUCH more subjective and more prone to miscommunication and upset as a result.


Respectfully Yours,


Doug Bracken


Utah Contractor Application -  All of the essential, basic, “do you understand what it means to operate a business” questions are listed here on this sample application form – this may be  more than enough to certify a firm for our purposes, if they can answer most of these questions in the positive. I am not sure an additional exam is needed.


PSI Testing Service


This is the firm that administers the exams and certifications for loads of associations including the State of Utah Contractor Lic exams. They are probably a good resource as well as DASMA  


Last edited Monday, January 25, 2016
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