Rich and Randy Mahaffey normally are pretty astute fellows, but they gave me a befuddled look during my interview with them for this month's profile of their company, Ply Mart, recipient of the 2006 ProSales Dealer of the Year award. They were confused because I had asked them what they thought of a few dealer execs who told me they weren't much interested in growth. That was an overstatement, actually; what those other dealers really meant was that they weren't interested in the kind of rapid expansion that produces giants like Pro-Build or Stock Building Supply. But the story did succeed in prompting a discussion about growth, and it yielded a surprising answer.
Ply Mart is close to 75% bigger today than it was three years ago, so clearly it's not averse to growth. I had expected the Mahaffeys would say they care about getting bigger because standing still means you're falling behind the competition, or that focusing on growth shows you're dissatisfied with the status quo. Instead, Rich and Randy said they like to regard growth as an indicator–a sign that employees are in an environment that enables them to achieve success. In other words, a company's growth isn't so much a reflection of you and your ability to run a business as it is the result of what your workers have achieved after you created the right culture.
And boy does that culture matter now. Slowing sales and price-slashing competition for bids can easily put your workers in a deep blue funk unless you can instill the right attitude. That's one reason why so many of the suggestions in our second major feature this month, on how to fight the effects of the housing slump (see page 66), address corporate culture. As columnist Mike Butts notes (see page 38), your staffers as well as your contractors are counting on you to act.
I suspect that the companies that never applied the brakes to growth during the boom years will be better able to weather these hard times than will their more measured, conservative cousins. Entrepreneurial, growth-minded employers hire similarly minded employees–folks who see in go-go companies a chance for them to make their mark. Their corporate culture encourages people to try new things and not get despondent when an initiative sputters. Ply Mart is such a business–unafraid of failure and always eager to get up and try again.
You can learn about the culture Ply Mart created in the feature story beginning on page 54. After that, plan on joining us during the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 8 for the fifth annual ProSales Excellence Awards Breakfast. There we'll honor Ply Mart and the talented companies that won 2006 Excellence Awards (see page 95 for registration information). It's not too soon to think about competing to become one of the 2007 winners. For information on participating in this year's awards, contact ProSales managing editor Katy Tomasulo at 202.736.3303 or [email protected].
Outside the magazine, we also intend during 2007 to deliver more ideas you can use by converting our currently biweekly e-mail newsletter, ProSales Business Update, into a weekly publication. The newsletter already features a new "blog"-style column by me called WebbLog that gives perspective on the latest news and reports on what I'm hearing from you. Expect also to hear soon about some new Internet-based ventures we're planning–initiatives like podcasts and Webinars that deliver information in useful ways.
New initiatives, yes, but they reflect a continuing desire: The ProSales staff shares your eagerness to grow.