shannonaffholterHeadquartered in Bellevue, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties is one of the oldest and largest local homebuilders association in the United States. With a more than 100-year history, the association has deep roots in the region.

But that’s not to say the organization hasn’t seen hard times. Just a few years ago, it began to lose sight of its focus and struggled to meet the needs of its members. The recession of 2008 didn’t help either. From 2008 to 2013, membership dropped 36 percent.

In 2013, then-board president Brian Ross recognized the association was stumbling off course. Ross acted quickly and was instrumental in setting the Master Builders Association on a new, clearer path. His first order of business was shrinking the size of the board of directors from 37 down to a more manageable 15. Next, he and the rest of the board appointed Shannon Affholter as executive director. That’s when real change started to take shape.

When Affholter joined the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, the country was just starting to come out of the recession. It was a great time to restructure and make substantial changes that would reinvigorate the association and its members.

With his background as a business-development executive and experience as both the vice president of business and economic development for Economic Alliance Snohomish County and councilmember for Everett, Affholter was no stranger to helping organizations, both public and private, get back on track.

The first thing Affholter noticed upon assuming his position was the association didn’t have a clear focus of its clientele and its core values. “We were trying to be all things to all people,” he said. Which is why one of his first goals was to better define the association’s customer: the residential building professional. Next, he and the board worked to identify the association’s four core values: government advocacy, industry image, membership value, and financial stewardship. “In that first year, those were two big steps that we made,” Affholter said.

Change is never easy, but it’s often necessary to ensure the health and future of a large association. Due to the association’s rich history, change proved especially difficult in this case. “Everyone has those sacred cows,” Affholter said. “But you have to be willing to say, ‘We’re going to have to move on from the past. We’re going to respect the past, but move into the future.’”

In the past three years, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties has made substantial changes. From restructuring its staff to refocusing its framework goals, the changes the association has made have yielded positive results, including an increase in membership.

With membership up 11 percent since 2014 and a focus on improving member products and enhancing outreach efforts moving forward, the association has strengthened itself from the inside out. “If you’re healthy on the inside, you’re going to present a healthy organization on the outside,” said Affholter.
The healthy changes Affholter has implemented have put the association on a new trajectory — one that may withstand the next 100 years.