If any panel could be considered star-studded at the ProSales 100 conference, it would be the Executive Panel, gathering together five LBM execs, including two prior dealers of the year:
Matt Kuiken, Kuiken Brothers
Alicia Dedman, Detering Co.
Rick Lierz, Frankliln Building Supply
LT Gibson, US LBM
Carrie Meeks, Meeks Lumber
These LBM luminaries discussed everything from staffing struggles to CRM. Tackling the issue of attracting millennials to the lumber industry head on, Carrie Meeks pointed to a very specific reason why millennials aren’t even considering lumber as a backup.
“When we look at the last 10 years, I think any sort of apprenticeship, any sort of coming up in the construction world, really sort of dried up and went away. The construction world became so tight and shrunk to the point where no young people were getting in.”
As for a solution, Meeks has found success educating millennials at the junior college level and making her lumberyards open to the public. “A lot of millennials really only know Home Depot. It’s just been a process of education.”
While millennials might not be flocking to LBM, they are slowly permeating the culture and causing a shift in the expectations that remodelers and builders have of their dealers.
“Ten years ago we actually tried to push out to our builders a lot of technology so they could access their invoices and see their open orders and get job costing reports, and about a half a percent of our customers used it,” said Alicia Dedman. “Now with millennials out there, and people who grew up with technology, its not far away that everybody’s going to want instant information.”
One technology that four of the five panelists have adopted at their companies is CRM systems. Of the panelists, only Franklin Building Supply hasn’t adopted a CRM system, but the other panelists all praised the efficiency that these tools have brought to their respective companies.
“It’s a big part of our business, a big part of our sales initiative,” said Matt Kuiken. “Our salespeople are doing everything from their car reports to leads to managing what product categories they’re selling to their customers and at what margin. It’s one of those things like a lot of technologies, you don’t really need it until you have it, and once you have it you absolutely need it.”
What Franklin Building Supply has done is take stock of its vehicles. Instead of retaining a massive fleet, they’ve started using data to cut down on trucks while retaining the same quality of business.
“We started measuring gross profit per vehicle just as metric to get our arms around what we needed,” said Rick Lierz. “That’s become very relevant now. We’ve reduced our fleet a lot and it hasn’t hurt our operations."
US LBM has grown in recent years with many acquisitions, and when asked about incorporating local culture into a corporate mindset, L.T. Gibson had a simple answer:
“We don’t do anything to try to change that; in fact, it’s the opposite. We sit down and find out what makes that local culture the best in that local market.”
Going beyond just acknowledging culture, Gibson said that part of US LBM’s success has been due to branches openly adopting what works well, whether that knowledge comes from South Dakota, New York, or Florida.
“Because of that, every metric in our company has improved over the last two years.”
The executive panel has been a crowd favorite since its inception, and this year was no different. After answering questions and discussing strategies for over an hour, there was only one conclusion to come to about the state of the LBM industry looking forward.
“It’s a great time to be in this business,” said Gibson. “We should all be very happy to be part of this because it is a sexy industry for the first time in a long time.”