While many dealers are still trying to manage current payrolls by running lean and mean, others are enjoying some modest growth opportunities and find themselves in the enviable position of needing to hire new people. Let me state the obvious: If you have laid off personnel that you can bring back, please do, but if not, then let's look at how you can fill the new slots with people that will consider the building materials industry a viable career opportunity.
Before you run the help wanted ad, you should do a self-assessment of the industry and your business. Regardless of the position you are hiring for, don't make the ad sound like you want to fill a boring, unimportant, insignificant position in an industry that is dead. Take a hint from 84 Lumber. They do a pretty good job of bringing in fresh talent by advertising for management trainees. I realize that the term "management trainee" has been worked to death, but I want you to consider the concept, not necessarily the words.
Let's paint a little picture. You are a young person reading your local newspaper's help wanted section and you come across two ads for an industry that you are interested in as a career. One ad reads, "Lumber yard needs help. Must be experienced with forklift and have a clean driving record." The other reads, "Growing building materials retailer seeks quality-minded individual to help grow our business into the future. Opportunity galore for the right person."
Both ads are for the same position. I may only need a forklift driver right now, but if I only ask for a forklift driver, I'm not going to have someone apply who is looking for a career in management. However, an ambitious young person that is career-oriented will certainly understand the need to be familiar with all aspects of your operation and gladly start out in the yard driving a forklift.
As we look to the future, we need to remember that that though our industry will go through many changes in the days and years to come, the need for high-caliber individuals to help run our companies will remain the same. Let's start thinking as a potential employee and not as a bottom line driven owner. Perception is everything!
Walter Roderick is operations and purchasing manager of Appalachian Supply in Ellijay, Ga. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.