As a newcomer to yoga, I find it unnerving when the instructor tells me to focus on my third eye as I breathe. I also can never totally clear my mind when it’s time to meditate. But that turned out to be a good thing during a recent class, because I was still thinking about ProSales and LBM dealers when the instructor read a poem from a well-thumbed book of hers by Haven Trevino called The Tao of Healing.

The opening lines were piffle, but then I heard this admonition:

Be the lump of clay
and the sculptor too.
A universe of unlimited potential.

I never expected a poetry-writing practitioner of Eastern mysticism would provide the best summary of this issue’s management advice for building material dealers, but there it is. In our cover story, we bring together leaders of five of the biggest LBM operations in America. Their companies differ in business focus, ownership structure, and recent financial performance. Yet if you ask them how to build a great team, their answers sound remarkably similar to what the poet recommends.

First, you could say that they see themselves as lumps of clay, though they prefer to describe themselves as being heavily engaged in listening, learning, and thinking. None gets shaped by tying themselves to a desk at headquarters; instead, they all travel. In fact, BMC’s Peter Alexander and Stock Building Supply’s Jeff Rea are on the road so much they both list hometowns located thousands of miles from the cities where their companies are headquartered. McCoy’s Building Supply’s Meagan McCoy Jones and Stine Lumber’s Dennis Stine also are no strangers to the road. That’s less so for David Luck of ABC Supply, but then he runs such a big, far-flung operation that even if he spent a business day at every branch, he’d need two years to complete the circuit. No matter where these five are, they’re always being reshaped by their experiences.

After that, they’re sculptors. In public and private interviews at the ProSales 100 Conference last month, these five gave numerous examples of how they were shaping their companies. All could turn a phrase. (Witness Stine’s “Sharpen the Saw” campaign and Rea’s “TIPPSS.”) All stressed the importance of building an institution with shared values, such as Luck sought when ABC Supply decided it should acquire Bradco. And all spoke up for the need to hire a new generation of workers who can envision—dare I say it?—a universe of unlimited career potential in LBM.

I think I should sign up for more yoga classes. My third eye can always benefit from a better view of our industry’s future.

-Craig Webb, editor-in-chief, 202.736.3307,

Check out our April issue story on how to build—and keep—your best team yet, featuring commentary from Alexander, Rea, Luck, McCoy Jones, and Stine.