Inside Track: Siebert’s heart is in homes and people who build them
A family legacy in home construction put Emily Siebert on the path toward leading the home builders association.
She is perfectly at home with residential construction. It’s in her blood, having been handed down to her from her family.
Emily Siebert is the executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, and it’s her ideal job because, as she said, “I have been tied to the home and building industry my whole life.”
Siebert grew up in Holland surrounded by close relatives involved in home construction. Her grandfather and uncle were builders, and her grandmother designed the interiors of the homes her grandfather built.
“So it was something I grew up around and we were always a part of it,” she said. “A person’s home is so important, and I think those who are a part of the industry create that. They are great, down-to-earth, passionate people. I am fortunate to work for the association in that industry.”
Siebert actually began working at the Home Builders Association as a college intern; at the same time, she also was doing an internship at a marketing research and consulting firm.
About a year later, she was working full time at that firm when she received a phone call from the Kalamazoo office of HBA offering her a position that had just become vacant. It was early 2007.
“I started as the education director, technically, and then about a month into my position, another staff member left. So my boss sat me down and asked me if I would be able to take over the biggest event of the year — the Home Expo — and run it,” she said.
Siebert accepted his offer. “It was about a month after that conversation that I ran a very successful show and basically had taken on the prior staff person’s job. So I was able to do a variety of jobs at the Kalamazoo chapter, which gave me a well-rounded opportunity for the job I have now.”
That opportunity led Siebert to what would become her biggest career break just about two years down the road.
While she was working full time in Kalamazoo, her boss began splitting his time between that office and the one in Grand Rapids, where an opening for a vice president surfaced. She applied for it and he brought her here to learn about filling that role.
“Since he was part time, I was able to take on a number of the leadership tasks on a day-to-day basis. When his contract expired and he went back to full-time status in Kalamazoo, our board began a search for his replacement,” she said.
The board offered her the job of executive officer, and she has held the position ever since. At the top of her list of reasons for loving the job are the people she regularly encounters and the busy pace.
“I have great members, wonderful staff, and very supportive, smart leadership working with me. I also love the variety of the job and the pace of my position. I thrive on being very busy and having a lot going on,” she said.
“Plus in the ‘association’ world, I have the benefit of working for a nonprofit whose mission I can stand behind 100 percent, but then also have the ‘business’ side of it, as well. Associations are run a bit differently than a charitable nonprofit, so I like the balance of that.”
Siebert is a member of both the American and Michigan societies of association executives, which are groups made up of professionals who have one foot in the nonprofit world and sometimes the other one straddling the for-profit border.
“We’re kind of in the middle there, and that makes it a little bit of a unique animal,” she said.
Being involved with both societies is helpful, she said.
“They have books and they have education. For example, I’m pursuing my CAE, which is certified association executive. I’m actually hoping to take the test yet this year or early next year, and they do all the credits for that,” she said.
Gaining her CAE would put Siebert in a higher professional bracket in the association realm and has the potential to open up additional opportunities for her.
“It would make me more marketable is how I would summarize that.”
Siebert serves on the advisory board for the Academy of Construction and Design at Grand Rapids Public Schools and on the advisory council for the GRCC M-TEC Residential Construction Program. She also contributes her time to the Kent County Land Bank Authority as a member of its Advisory Council, which has a fairly broad-based membership.
She said she has learned a few things about the local housing market from being a part of it. “I think it’s interesting to hear from all the people at the table about what they’re dealing with and what is going on in their worlds — from the nonprofit-developers’ side to the realtors’ side and to the municipalities,” she said.
“There is always something there to be learned, whether it’s directly related to the land bank or just about what is going on in the community. It gives you a little bit more perspective. It’s all about that kind of networking and forming those partnerships. That’s a good thing and it’s good for our association to be at the table, also.”
Siebert earned what she called a “great combination degree” from Western Michigan University, where she graduated with a B.A. in business marketing and a minor in psychology. She said there are a lot of interesting reasons why people buy and why they become a member of an association. Having that knowledge can help with marketing on the business end of things.
“In a broad sense, I think it’s an interesting tie-in.”
Although Siebert said she isn’t sure whether she qualifies as an official “foodie,” she admits the food channel is almost always on in her house and she loves to cook and eat. Her favorite foods to prepare are Mexican and Italian goodies, like enchiladas and pasta dishes. “I wouldn’t say I’m a total foodie, but I’m on my way to that.”
She also has an interest in interior design but has limited her work in that field so far to her own home.
“And, of course, the nerd that I am, I also love to read.” She mostly reads business books, especially those on women’s leadership in the world of commerce. But she also likes to read what she called “mindless mysteries” that she can blast through while relaxing on the beach.
Siebert said the only known change on her horizon is she’ll be moving soon into a new home. Other than that, she said she is happy to be in the world she currently occupies.
“I’ve learned that it’s kind of funny to plan out my life, but I think right now I’m very happy with my current position. I don’t foresee any immediate changes. We’re finally growing again and implementing some new programs so I’m real pleased with that and I’m hoping to carry through some of that,” she said.
“I don’t think there are any earth-shattering changes coming about. But you never know.”