Shifting into growth mode presents challenges—particularly for an industry tight on cash, short on labor, and pressed for time to begin scaling operations to meet growing demand. Day One of the ProSales 100 Conference program sought on March 7 to set the stage for discussions among dealers, distributors, and builders and contractors about how to address a changing marketplace. Here’s what they said that you should know:
"You’re not going to walk away from a good idea. It’s going to hammer you. So you have to have all these experiments going on." -– Dr. Robert Ballard, ocean explorer
He may have been referring to his search for shipwrecks on sea floors across the globe, but the lesson carries. Oceanographer and explorer Ballard kicked off Thursday morning’s session with a talk that combined the merits of adopting new technology with a call to action for dealers to create a career-oriented value proposition for new hires and younger employees. Ballard, who runs the non-profit science education program the JASON Project as well as a team of university researchers at the University of Rhode Island and on his exploration vessel Nautilus, explained that his initiatives to equalize gender ratios and offer mentoring opportunities were key to recruiting in the traditionally male-dominated hard sciences. “You don’t sell science, you sell scientists,” he said. “You sell the role models and they’ve got to reflect the demographics of the country.”
"Life goes on and life [now] is different than life before the recession. All of you in this room wish you would have controlled costs as much as you did pre-recession as you did after the recession" -– Dennis Stine, president, Stine Lumber
Stine shared how the economic downturn halted his company's three years of rapid expansion, forcing it to re-evaluate its market approach. From 2003 to 2005, the company sought to grow by introducing new stores that combined big-box retail with a drive-through lumberyard and a showroom. By 2009, the market had turned and Stine’s model was no longer sustainable. “We cut and we cut and we cut,” Stine told dealers. The cuts were paired with a shift in the company's corporate culture, designed to get employees on board with the new culture while finding ways to get current customers to buy more using tenants from the McDonald's corporate Plan to Win. Read more about how Stine Lumber shifted operations to improve employee and customer engagement.
“We are in a service business, and if we let it turn into a commodity business, customers will be glad to let that happen. Usually the more you sell the more you make. In our industry, that’s upside down.” -– Jeff Rea, CEO, Stock Building Supply.
Rea was joined by BMC CEO Peter Alexander and ABC Supply president and CEO David Luck to discuss advice received and other lessons learned while progressing to their roles as heads of leading LBM firms. Alexander, Luck, and Rea discussed how they’re choosing to implement those techniques and strategies within each of their firms. They all agree: LBM leadership must take up a new commitment to capitalizing on the value of product knowledge, customer service, and local availability brought by lumberyards compared to the value proposition of other sale and distribution points throughout the supply chain. “You can get rid of us but you can’t get rid of what we do,” Luck said. “Our right to exist is because we do these things more efficiently than [a manufacturer or a two-stepper]. I am the channel captain.” Download a copy of Luck's portion of the presentation here .
“We need to train ourselves to believe there isn’t a generation gap. There isn’t a difference in generations.” Doug Wirges, sales and personnel development director, The Parr Company
Digging deep into the topic of hiring in the wake of a forced exodus of LBM talent during the recession, Wirges, whose company is based just outside Portland in Hillsboro, Ore., LBM consultant Bill Tucker, and Beaufort, N.C.-based 2013 ProSales Dealer of the Year Leonard Safrit discussed the technical hurdles and age-oriented knowledge gaps that arise when hiring on “Millennials.” They all agreed that new hires would need to be more tech savvy than the majority of their predecessors as dealers begin to revamp their resource management systems. But many of the employees cut during the downturn were in their 30s and 40s and were in managerial roles or were on track to holding one. They've since moved elsewhere, forcing dealers looking to hire to choose from among a younger talent pool while investing in cashflow and training to bring them on board. Safrit also explained his process of evaluating the cost of a customer. Download a copy of his presentation here .