The May 2018 print issue of ProSales devotes a page to a start-up lumberyard, a page to three different acquisitions, and four pages to a list of dealers whose ranks include roofing stores, truss suppliers, lumber wholesalers, a fence specialist, drywall dealers, framing contractors, ag suppliers, product installers, and, oh yes, a few dozen “traditional” lumberyards.

Such diversity helps explain why we also dedicated 12 other pages this month to parsing the 2018 ProSales 100 membership. Construction supply is a complicated business. The route that goods take from factory to jobsite isn’t the simple, direct supply chain that most folks imagine. It’s as intricate and danger-ridden as the Mekong Delta, and the companies on the ProSales 100 vary so dramatically because they’ve found different parts of the delta in which to thrive.

Part of the fun of covering LBM is seeing how people sort through the various parts of construction supply as if they were LEGO blocks and then build a unique company. It’s fun, too, to see people add new blocks when opportunities arise, such as Parks Building Supply’s entry into appliance sales when Sears began to fade. I’ve visited dealers that sold Boy Scouts uniforms, buffalo steaks, and fishing rods.

This mosaic of styles and specialties is easily visible from my coast-to-coast perspective. But I also can see you have more in common than you might think. All but about a dozen of you would be regarded by Wall Street as small fry. Only a couple of you can be considered international, and that’s because of operations in Canada. You all care about buying and selling and logistics. Your headaches are similar: labor shortages, price gyrations, the economy, and pesky regulations.

All those things in common leave me feeling that a lot of dealers would benefit if they expanded their notions of who is in the dealer community. Take LBM associations: Why are they so often exclusive to lumberyards? Leaving out roofing, drywall, insulation, and other specialty suppliers reduces an organization’s ability to fight common threats, such as the never-ending attempts in state governments to change lien laws.

The same holds true with who’s in roundtables: The trucks you drive might differ, but your core issues are largely the same. There’s much to learn.

Perhaps these ideological fences are relics from the ire caused when specialty dealers did so well selling certain products that traditional lumberyards had to drop those lines. Younger lumberyard people who have always worked in towns with specialty shops seem to be more open to the specialists’ presence. I’ve also seen many of them seek advice from people outside of LBM entirely. Some call fellow business school alumni. Others are in general business roundtables. They don’t get fenced in by antiquated notions of what a dealer looks like.