I’m tired of hearing our industry leaders complain about getting young people into the LBM business. They often lament that our industry isn’t sexy. I disagree. I think that we offer one of the most exciting places to work, along with a career path that provides long-term security. You must proactively recruit young people—or face future consequences.

The builders of tomorrow are the younger generation of today. Needless to say, they are more tethered to technology and have different values than our current leaders. This younger generation provides fresh marketing and communication ideas while questioning the way we’ve always done things. And let’s face it: Younger people have energy and enthusiasm to bring to your team.  

The LBM industry offers a career path like no other. Show me an industry where hundreds of high-level executives started as line workers, drivers, or counter sales representatives. Show me an industry that promises to keep the manufacturing of our primary product here in the U.S. Show me an industry that promises unique challenges on a daily basis. Show me the LBM industry.

It’s like the roach motel of business. Once you’re in, you never get out. You’re either born into it or fall into our glorious industry by accident. It just grows on you. Here is my advice to bring in fresh talent. 

  1. Prospect proactively. Dealers tell me that they successfully recruit at job fairs. They also provide incentives to employees to recruit friends and family members. Good hiring is good prospecting.
  2. Sell a growth path. The reason young people might resist the industry is for its lack of vision. If you can’t see a future growth path, then they won’t either. Recognize the long-term opportunity that our industry provides and then sell it. 
  3. Allow time for knowledge accumulation. This is an industry in which you know you’ve learned a lot when you suddenly realize how much you don’t know. Be patient and allow new hires time to learn. They might not be profitable short-term employees, but they will be tremendous long-term investments.
  4. Accept attrition. This industry, like any, isn’t for everyone. Successful human resource development means accepting attrition. Some hires won’t work out. That’s OK. Focus on the ones who stick. 
  5. Believe in kids. Stop saying that kids “don’t want to work today.”  That’s silly. Our parents said that about us; our grandparents said it about our parents. Kids need to be inspired. That’s our responsibility. Some kids are more mature than others. Find the kids who want to work.

In a world in which college graduates are struggling to find jobs and high school graduates are struggling to discover a personal identity, this is the place to start. It might not be a place that offers a fancy office or a particularly calm environment, but that’s part of the charm. It might not be a place that offers instant riches, but it does offer great wealth to those who last. Mostly, for a younger generation struggling to do something meaningful, this is the industry that builds the American Dream. Sell that when looking for new recruits to our industry. It’s a very sexy place to work.