Stephen Voss Jaime Villanueva

Jaime Villanueva started as a contractor’s helper in 2002. When the boss needed a tool or a 2x4, he’d fetch it. Just over a decade later, the tables have turned: Villanueva, who manages TW Perry’s Gaithersburg, Md., branch, is the guy contractors seek out for building supplies. Since joining the company as a counter sales rep in 2004, then becoming store manager in 2010, Villanueva has helped to grow his branch’s sales to $8.5 million annually, up from $5.5 million when he started. Initially, it was trial by fire. “Getting through the recession was one of the most impactful and educational processes of my career,” he says.

To succeed, he saw the need to carve out a niche among his Spanish-speaking customers. “There was a language barrier between TW Perry and some of the customers coming in,” says Villanueva, who speaks Spanish and tries to hire bilingual workers whenever possible. By speaking Spanish to those customers, he was able to explain certain building concepts that may otherwise have been lost in translation and, in turn, make them feel more comfortable in his store. When TW Perry president and CEO Michael Cassidy observed Villanueva’s commitment to the company, he knew that Villanueva was someone worth investing in. “TW Perry helped me earn my bachelor’s degree in business management,” Villanueva says. “They helped me out a lot.”

To maintain sales growth in the future, Villanueva thinks that reaching out to a wide range of customers will be essential. “That’s the essence of what keeps this business going,” he says. “We’re taking the industry in a positive direction.” Villanueva hopes that, as time goes on, more Hispanic workers will move into leadership roles. “I would like to be an example to the other Hispanics coming into this industry,” he says. “With hard work and determination, you, too, can be successful.”