Jennifer Coats

What does it take to be a leader in the LBM business? Justin Ellis, corporate sales manager of Builders Do it Center’s two New Mexico locations, says that it takes the financial savvy of a banker, the building science knowledge of an engineer, and the “psychological analysis skills of Freud.” Though Ellis, 28, is the youngest of the Four Under 40 crowd, he’s possibly the most optimistic of the bunch. “No matter the type of project at Builders Do it Center … we get to be part of something incredible,” he says.

Ellis, who lands squarely in the millennial generation, scoffs at the assumption that there are no future leaders among his peers. “I believe there are a lot of leaders within the millennial generation,” he says. According to Ellis, the problem lies not in the fact that millennials aren’t willing to lead, but in the fact that LBM doesn’t always appeal to younger businesspeople. “It isn’t a sexy business,” he says. “But it’s really a pretty great industry.”

The problem, Ellis says, is not so much the difficulty of finding millennial leaders, but that “a lot of people are looking for leaders in my generation who look like leaders from other generations.” 

Ellis’ advice? Instead of looking for someone who fits the classic LBM mold, look for employees who stand out from the pack. “As a business, we tend to do things the same way, and we then wonder why we get beat up,” he says. Sure, doing things a new, unfamiliar way can produce mistakes. But if you aren’t willing to change, you’re going to lose out to someone who does. “Change is generally good,” Ellis believes. “Change is better than the status quo.”