Fast approaching its 10-year anniversary in 2005, the Mt. Pleasant, S.C.–based Select Independent Distributors of America (S.I.D.A.) has transformed over the past decade from a small roundtable group in the Southeast to a national alliance of independent roofing and siding distributors wielding impressive purchasing power. With specialty distribution continuing to gain clout in the building supply channel, Billy Cannon, S.I.D.A. president and president of Cannon Supply in Greenville, S.C., offers these comments on the independent short-line distributor's unique and growing role:

ProSales: Currently, what is the most dominant value-added service trend developing in the roofing and siding specialty distribution arena?

Cannon:Installed sales. I was hesitant about getting started with it because I was afraid of the perception that I was competing with my customers. But I've been convinced that you can overcome that perception. The only people I have employed in the installed division are salesmen—I don't have any roofers per se, so I'm basically acting as a sales arm for my own customers. What we do is sell the job and end up turning the [labor] over to many of our customers. It works out great for contractors who are having a slow period because they can approach us and [inquire] about any jobs that we have sold.

ProSales: Recruitment and retention of quality labor continues to be a major challenge for home builders and traditional lumberyards. From your company's perspective, how has the siding and roofing distribution arena fared in the quest for great personnel?

Cannon:I like to pass a lot of responsibility on to my employees [so] they have a real role in the success of the company and it's not just like they are punching a clock. Everyone wants to make money, but with increased responsibilities that they might not get at a larger lumberyard or a big box; they also want to see the company succeed, too. In turn, management can then really depend on them for a lot of different factors.

ProSales: What is the one thing that you think is vitally important for others involved in residential construction supply to recognize and appreciate about the independent distribution market?

Cannon:More and more builders are becoming land developers, so my customer increasingly is becoming the roofer and not the builder. When your relationship is more with the contractor rather than the home builder, it emphasizes the importance of your knowledge of the product. I think that's when niche [distributors] like ourselves have been able to be successful. Most people see an opportunity to offer a broader mix of material to the customer. That's basic business—you've got a customer, now sell him more. We're different in the sense that we stay the course within focused [short-line] distribution and perfect our business for our customers.

According to S.I.D.A. executive director David O'Donnell, alliance members are looking forward to growth and expansion over the next three to five years. In addition to rebates, group purchasing opportunities, marketing and advertising programs, and scheduled meetings with manufacturer executive management teams, members still benefit from regular best-practice roundtables. Distributors interested in joining S.I.D.A. can visit the alliance's Web site at or call the main S.I.D.A. office at 843.388.9939.