Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association
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Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association

Annual Conference Speakers

Christopher Ramey - Affluent Insights

Chris Ramey specializes in helping retailers, manufacturers and service providers penetrate affluent shelter/design markets.  Ramey‘s consultancy is Affluent Insights and he is president of The Home Trust International, a digital design center for home brands that serve affluent consumers.

Ramey’s passion is helping independent businesses compete more effectively.  His speaking engagements on selling, serving and marketing to best prospects have taken him to South America, Europe and throughout North America.  His current clients have a presence in over 15 countries.

Mr. Ramey will be participating throughout our conference to draw first hand parallels with a real time focus on our attendees and industry.  He will provide both opening and closing Keynotes invoking  strategies to differentiate and to employ the customers perspective.  His high energy, fast paced closing will wrap up the richness of the entire conference experience, leaving you excited to use new tools, apply all you have learned, and ready for success.

Opening Keynote - ‘Creating Long Term Success by Differentiating Your Firm’

Success in business depends upon being distinct.  Without differentiation, every sale is about price.  We’ll explore different marketing and selling strategies, case studies and forum to ensure you elevate and separate yourself from competitors.

Closing Keynote
- ‘Commandments to Build a Customer Centric Business’

This presentation will address the intangibles that clients' value, and how they relate to your stair and architectural businesses. We’ll discuss how matching values trumps matching price, how to leverage intangibles and how to create messages that resonate.  Our case study will demonstrate how you can grow your margins, share of market and revenue by rethinking who you are, what you do and what you sell.

 Andy Hamilton, Staircraft Ltd. - Stairbuilding Technology and Product Development in the United Kingdom

Andy is a member of the SMA, a member of the British Woodworking Federation, (BWF) and the founder and technical chair of the UK Timber Stair Association.   Andy sees the unique way SMA members interact and share, as a huge advantage in addressing industry wide issues.  His company, Staircraft Ltd, is among the top 50 fastest growing businesses in the UK,and  the top 500 fastest growing businesses in Europe (31 countries) for the last 3 years, as measured across all business sectors.  Staircraft is now the largest staircase company in Europe with a capacity to produce up to 1,600 stairways each week forecasting $70 million in revenue for 2018.


Andy Chatman, Crown Heritage -  'Residential Balustrade Design Using Common Stair Parts' and 'Architectural Educator Certification'

Andy is the Director of Customer Support for Crown Heritage.  As well as developing customer education for Crown Heritage he and has been actively involved in the development of SMA education programs including "Residential Balustrade Design Using Common Stair Parts" the SMA-102 continuing education course for design professionals that he will present during the design symposium. 

Dave Cooper, SMA Code Development Representative - 'Designing Safe, Code-Compliant Residential Stairways' & 'Level II Code Certification'

With 45 years in the stair industry David has had the opportunity to work with the finest people in our industry many of them are part of the SMA.  His representation of the SMA in the ICC Code Development process and ANSI Standard Development  has given him opportunities to work together with Architects, Builders and Contractors, Industry interests, Advocacy groups, and Regulators to define the Stairway Aesthetic while perpetuating our craft and the most robust and resilient modality of human transport since man first realized the advantage of ascent.

Gayla D. Bechtol, AIA , Gayla Bechtol Architect, Santa Fe

Panelist - Case Study: Loretto Staircase - "How Would it be Built Today?"

Gayla Bechtol started her eponymous architecture firm located in Santa Fe, New Mexico by way of Los Angeles, New York and Maxwell, New Mexico from her native Texas. She gained her formal education at University of Texas, Southern California and Harvard University Graduate School of Design and continues to pursue knowledge and creativity every day in the context of the beauty of the built and natural world. Gayla has participated in several community ventures contributing architectural skills to the process: leader in the development of the Railyard planning process, member of the Trust for Public Land Advisory council, member of the Board of Directors of Tierra Contenta, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing within a new-urbanist context in southwest Santa Fe and is the Immediate Past President of AIA Santa Fe.

She was awarded a State of New Mexico Historic Preservation Award for her work with the Santa Fe Railyard. She became a qualified New Mexico Historic Architect in 2007.

She also received an Architecture Preservation Award from the City of Santa Fe Historic Design Review Board. She enjoys the challenge and complexities of working within the constraints and political environment of the Historic Districts and New Mexico.

Erik W. Farrington, P.E. (MA, CT, NY, RI) Associate Principal, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Boston, MA Panelist - Case Study: Loretto Staircase - "How Would it be Built Today?"

Erik Farrington is an Associate Principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger in Waltham, MA. He is a P.E. with over 20 years of experience in the structural design of new construction and the repair and rehabilitation of numerous buildings. He has been involved in renovation design projects for buildings ranging from nineteenth-century masonry buildings to twentieth-century concrete and steel buildings. He has been involved with the design of stair structures constructed of wood, steel, glass, and concrete for use in both renovation and new construction of single family residences and commercial buildings.

Steven Guenzel - President SMA, President Advanced Stair Systems                                                                  Panelist - Case Study: Loretto Staircase - "How Would it be Built Today?"

Steve began his career in Stairbuilding as a youth in an after school job that became a lifetime passion.  Steve maintains a collection of 18 & 19th century Stairbuilding and Handrailing volumes that would rival any museum.  He has studied them to gain the lost ability to plot arcs across oblique spatial planes that define the complex geometry of curved handrails and understand the techniques used in stairbuilding long ago that CADD and CAM solutions in some cases still struggle to rival.  As president of the SMA Steve has demonstrated by exampled participation in 8  - 10 SMA workshops a year that there is much more to learn than there is to loose in sharing knowledge of our craft and industry.  Steve is currently concluding his second term as President of the SMA.

Michael Ritter, Assistant Director, USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory

Michael Ritter is the Assistant Director for Wood Products Research at the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, Wisconsin.  In this position, Mike provides program leadership and oversight for several units conducting research in the areas of wood anatomy, wood engineering and properties, biodeterioration of wood, protection from decay, fire engineering, building sciences, statistics and the evaluation of life cycle assessments and the economics of wood utilization.  Mike attended California Polytechnic State University, the University of Alaska and the University of Wisconsin, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Alaska and Wisconsin.

Innovations In Wood Products Research (Ritter, Senalik, Ross)

From Sky Scraping high rise structures to CLT technology to structural elements such as Stairs, Handrails and Guards (Balustrades) wood shines as a resilient, low cost, low carbon footprint, structural material outperforming steel concrete and glass in new and innovative solutions for our built environment. 

Dr Rubin Shmulsky, Head,  Sustainable Bio Products, Mississippi State University

Rubin Shmulsky is professor and head of the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts (formerly Forest Products) at Mississippi State University. In that role he provides leadership for the department’s comprehensive teaching, research, and Extension/outreach mission. His research and teaching program focuses on production methods and applications for wood products. Of particular consequence to the SMA is his interest in the structural performance of the materials used and the products manufactured by the Stair Industry. Prior to working at MSU, he served on the graduate faculty at the University of Minnesota, Department of Wood and Paper Science. He earned his degrees at University of Massachusetts, Amherst and MSU.

Design Values for Domestic Wood Species Used in Stairway Construction—A Cooperative Research Effort by Mississippi State University, Forest Products Laboratory, and Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association (Shmulsky, Seale, Lim, Franca).

A building inspectors jump and bump evaluation of how a stairway or guard complies with code is loosing favor. Technology and litigation is pushing building officials to require a better understanding of how stairs, handrails, grab bars, and guards comply with the structural requirements of the building code.  Wood is the most popular and economical structural material used in these applications but design values only exist for lower grade materials that are typically not used for interior applications.  A review of this study underway at MSU will be provided.


Three of the TOP TEN non-compliance issues cited by OSHA are related to FALL SAFETY!  The issue of Fall Safety was first brought to the attention of our members at the  2011 Fall Education workshop in Indianapolis.  The construction industry danced with OSHA for several years over how to educate, implement, and regulate compliance.  Well the regulation are here now and the question of non-compliance is being answered by imposed fines.  How will your procedures be sized up by OSHA.  In this breakout we will learn what is expected, methods used to comply in the shop, in the field, valuable solutions relevant to the stair industry, and related resources that will be shared and discussed.

Presented by Jeff Davis - Industrial Products

Jeff Davis has 25 years of experience in the climbing equipment, access equipment, safety, and fall protection industries.  He has worked extensively with companies such as Werner Ladder, Werner Fall Protection, Little Giant Ladder Systems, Miller Fall Protection, and various manufacturers of guardrail and other passive fall protection solutions.  Jeff has several training designations, including Fall Protection Competent Person and Aerial Work Platform Train the Trainer.  For the past seven years, Jeff has worked for Industrial Products & The Stairway Shop.  Industrial Products is a division of the company that focuses on a contractor, commercial, and industrial customer base, addressing their requirements for access equipment and fall protection as well as safety training. 


In this Breakout session, we will talk about the Buyer Journey or Buyer Process in 2017.... In a world where information is available at everyone's fingertips but where artistry and relationships still matter.  In this session we will apply what you already know about Baseball to help you build a Sales process that leads to accurate forecasts of work and revenue.  We will look at simple visual pipeline tools that can keep the deals flowing for you.  As a bonus you learn how these tools can be applied to applied to recruiting Top Employees for trade and sales talents as well. 

Presented by Wayne Herring – Herring Coach LLC

Wayne Herring is a Business Coach, Consultant and Trainer who teaches good old blue collar smarts and hard work.  He specializes in helping grow sales in small to medium size businesses that sell to other businesses.  Wayne has been a Civil Engineer, a specialty Subcontractor and a VP of Sales in a family business.  He combines these experiences to develop and execute Business to Business Sales Plans, selecting the tools to fit.  When a company is ready to hire Salespeople, Wayne helps the Owner make the transition from salesperson to Sales Manager.


Solve your hiring dilemmas by tapping into America's most educated workforce ever. Discover the nearly universal doubt young people have about their future and the power you have to solve it. 

Learn the one thing you must always do when hiring and discover this tried and true secret weapon for hiring and breathing new life into your business and the future: Getting College Grads to fall in love with dust and noise and thank you for the privilege!

Presented by Shawn Christman, Founder Seattle Stair and Design -'Hiring your Dream Team', Breakout 3

Shawn founded Seattle Stair & Design in 1978, has been a SMA member for 11 years, and has won six SMA StairCraft awards. He sold his business in 2013 and is now a stair design consultant and SMA board member. His projects can be found from Disney World to the Northwest, to Hawaii and as far away as Japan.  His company was often commended for the caliber of its employees, many of them college graduates.

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