Congratulations! You’ve survived. As thousands of LBM operations closed during this housing downturn, and scores more remain teetering on the edge, you have found ways to keep going. And while conditions remain precarious, all signs point to enough of an economic revival to propel you back to profit. Open up a beer, smile, and relax—for a moment.

Then ask yourself a question: What does your operation need to do to make sure it not only profits during the upturn but also steels itself for the next plunge? That’s the driving force behind this issue, which we hope will inspire you to chart your own course to a more stable, successful operation.

Among the key points we make:

Keep bearing down. Lean-and-mean practices are just as important in good times as in bad, because they generate the earnings that you can stockpile for use when trouble returns.

Explore new options, particularly in hiring. Temps, contract workers, and outsourcing agencies all might be better for you than hiring full-timers, especially as you grow.

Invest in technology. Today’s tech tools will save you time, reduce errors, and empower your sales staff. Besides, your customers expect you to be wired.

Expand your financial choices. Growth will require money and access to credit at a time when many banks remain wary about the construction sector. Shop more aggressively for lenders, including not just banks but also credit unions, government agencies, and private funds.

Double-down on player development. All the dealers that cut staff on the basis of seniority inadvertently pushed a huge number of future leaders out of LBM entirely. Now corporate recruiters say they’re hard pressed to find good people in their 30s who would be prime candidates for management. That means we must work harder at spotting and nurturing potential leaders.

Expect more change. The boom in online shopping and web-enabled buying by rivals such as The Home Depot are examples of the continued evolution of building material supply. LBM is likely to remain a relationship business, but the style and form of those relationships are changing.

We believe so strongly that it’s time to set a new direction that we’ve revived the ProSales 100 conference to provide an opportunity for you to get first-hand ideas and advice on what to do. We’ll gather March 6-8 in New Orleans. You’ll find details on page 9 and at

Ideas on how to avoid getting hurt in the future probably have been floating in your head for years, but you couldn’t do much about them when you were in survival mode. Now you can. For you and your company’s sake, don’t miss out on this second chance.