I recently wrapped up a series of interviews for a client during which we were looking for a qualified installed-sales manager for his newly launched initiative. Nothing special about this, except this particular client isn't a traditional LBM dealer–this is a manufacturing facility. That's right: a truss and panel plant. This organization happens to be an independent operation, and it, like you, is trying to remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape.

Mike Butts It seems that one of the facility's major competitors is a large regional truss manufacturer, and the competition as a whole has been offering trusses, panels, and engineered floor systems installed for a while. My client was fielding calls every day from builders and contractors asking, "When are you going to offer installed?" and "We need this service to stay competitive." Sound familiar?

So, my client contacted me and, after a series of calls and meetings, we kicked off its installed-sales program. Simultaneously, I had a revelation.

There were several issues–production scheduling in the manufacturing plant, product flow from plant to jobsite, logistics–that I hadn't thought about much until this assignment. We also had to deal with training estimators and help them understand a rough lumber takeoff. The estimators were well-versed in engineering a truss package and laying out a panel package, but they hadn't been called upon to pull a complete takeoff for the rough package and the loose lumber needed to complete the shell.

One of the young men I interviewed brought the production scheduling issue to mind when he began discussing some of the challenges he faced with his then-employer. For example, some of his salespeople would jump the gun when ordering components and rush the order through the plant, resulting in a backlog of product or in excessive overtime for production employees. Imagine that: a salesperson who jumps too soon ordering product.

Anyway, one strong attribute of this particular position was finding someone who understands not only the importance of installed service, jobsite scheduling, subcontractor negotiations, preparing scope of work documents, and sound contract management techniques, but who also thoroughly understands production scheduling in the plant, logistics control, and product scheduling.

Sound interesting? It is, believe me. The constant evolution of the installed-sales landscape amazes me. This is one segment of our industry that is never boring, never the same day to day. I can assure you it's becoming an increasingly important segment of our industry.

My crystal ball tells me that when the industry comes back (and it will), those LBM dealers that took the time to prepare a solid, professional installation services team will be poised to dominate their respective markets.

–Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.?based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail: mike@lbmsolutions.biz