The word passion denotes a powerful, intense emotion, likened to fervor, zeal, or fire. This intensity and commitment often can be seen played out in the faces and actions of many members of our industry.
Unfortunately, I realized recently that it is this passion that has been missing in my professional life for the past few years. We've got great companies up and down the industry from big to small, but for me, I could always find the passion easiest when I was out among the smaller, independent operators. Although I appreciated the time I spent working with UBC, I've found that, ultimately, being involved with only a single company (and a large one to boot) wasn't for me.
Thankfully, this void is beginning to fill. I've become re-involved with the independent side of our industry for several months as I've launched my LBM consulting business, conducting education programs and working with owners on the state of their individual businesses and specific growth opportunities. We work feverishly into the evening in many cases, poring over financials, efficiency reports, and purchase histories of key accounts, all in an effort to look for ways to grow business based on proven, quantified data. Why the intense activity? I believe these owners have a passion for their businesses and for the industry as a whole, a powerful inner force that propels them to do whatever it takes to move their organizations ahead.
When individual owners wake up in the morning and drive to work, it's to their business, to their buildings, trucks, people, land, inventory; it's their personal investment in a future for themselves and their family. Many of you face that reality every day: When sales are down, you write the check to cover expenses; when sales are up, you cash the check and bank it for a rainy day. Your passion for the lumber and building material business, your involvement in the daily lives of your customers and employees, means everything to you.
As this is being written, I have just finished the first of what I hope will be many visits with a successful and proactive yard owner in the Heartland. The owner has a nice business, with strong sales and an extremely strong P&L. Yet he is always searching for ways to improve his operation, looking to expand market niches and prepare himself for the eventual day that a Goliath comes to town and threatens his business. He is taking all of the necessary actions now to shore up his accounts, improve his efficiencies, provide excellent execution in the service arena, and ensure that his customers won't even consider switching loyalties to another supplier—regardless of how big they are or how many stores they have behind them.
As just one example of this dealer's efforts, when a national production builder moved into his area and began to quietly buy up parcels of prime land around the community, the dealer took action by investigating who was buying lots and by speaking at the local HBA to urge local builders to secure property for future projects. His efforts were not just to help his customers protect their future, but also to maintain his own company's security because he knows that where the big builders go, the national supply players soon follow. He can't prevent the trend, but he can certainly watch for it and do everything he can to help his customers and protect his business by being aggressive, proactive, and ready to face the challenge.
That's passion—and I love it.
This type of passion is what has been missing for me. The personal connection that drives others to put their whole heart into their work. Now that I'm working for myself, pouring my heart and soul into building my business through helping others grow theirs, that fire is returning for me. I hope to continue to give back to the family of independents that color our industry with that fervor, zeal, and fire, and I want to thank you for welcoming me back into your family.