There’s a hidden thread of collegiality that runs through several of our articles this month. Our cover profile of Zeeland Lumber’s A.J. Konynenbelt originally was meant to announce columnist Rick Davis’ pick for the best sales manager in America. But Davis eventually decided that great managers lead teams of salespeople who in turn are part of bigger teams of branch managers, back-office folks, yard staff, and execs. A great sales manager succeeds, Davis ultimately concluded, because he or she is part of a top-notch team.
Then there’s Buzick Lumber, where Susan Elmore has created some of the industry’s most memorable commercials in large part by creating an atmosphere in which staffers expect they’ll be dragooned into playing roles in her ads. Shakespeare it’s not, but what Elmore achieves works well for the Bardstown, Ky., yard.
We finish in Tahlequah, Okla., where so many of Randy Skinner’s relatives work at Tahlequah Lumber that family gatherings are a daily occurrence. Skinner’s tribe doesn’t set the record for family members working at the same store—Randall Lumber in Taos, N.M., probably still claims that status (see our story from 2007)—but it is an example of how relatives can work together closely and not kill each other.
What these companies all have in common is a clear notion of who they are and what they’re about. Can you say the same? I ask in part because for the past month I’ve been collecting want ads that dealers from across the country have posted. We all have heard about—and complained about—our troubles finding good workers. But the overwhelming majority of want ads that I reviewed tell the prospect nothing about what kind of company it is and what the LBM operation can give that potential employee. Instead, the ads are all about the skills you want, the hours you require, and the wage you’ll pay. Most of the ads are scant, despite this being an age in which services like Craigslist let you write as much as you want. About the only signs of company culture I saw were a yard that featured a “dog-friendly environment” and several that touted “No background check! No drug test!”
Then I saw a careers page from the website for Drexel Building Supply in Campbellsport, Wis. It urges people to read the company’s core values before applying—qualities like ethics, respect, balance, communication, and having fun. It pushes an easy-to-remember mission: “Supply. Happiness.” It stresses what it offers: “service and professionalism that is fun, unique, and creative to the building industry.” And it celebrates being part of its team. In a summer in which so many people are so focused on themselves, it’s a joy to write about great groups.