John Perna
General Manager

Hamilton Building Supply, Hamilton Township, N.J.

John Perna was never supposed to stay in the LBM industry. After graduating in 2009, the economy wasn’t doing so well, and he was offered a position at his stepfather’s company, Hamilton Building Supply. He was only supposed to stay on until he “figured out what [he] wanted to do.” Seven years later, Perna is the general sales manager for Hamilton and is constantly looking for ways to improve the business that he stumbled into.

“In order to improve our company, I had to look outside the industry,” Perna tells ProSales. “I always keep that as a good frame of reference. What are other companies doing? How can I incorporate some of their tactics?” He’s not just adapting outside strategies, he’s adapting people, too. Hiring only the best people limits the pool of candidates, but the best can show up from any industry. “We have a former restaurant manager,” says Perna. “Teaching him about lumber is the easy part!”

Perna knows that to attract top talent, Hamilton needs to stay on the cutting edge. “We’re willing to communicate in the way customers want to communicate. Whatever new technology arises, we always give it a good look,” he says. “I feel like that’s part of the education process. Are we acting like dinosaurs?”

Ultimately, people are key to LBM’s success, according to Perna. “Every now and then, even our big customers come in and get some caulk or place a small order so they can have that face-to-face conversation—learn from each other, hear about what’s new in the business. That personal touch? That makes our industry unique. It’s always going to be like that.”