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4 Questions with 40 Under 40: Sallie Keene Denton

In June, LBM Journal introduced its 40 Under 40 awards. Now we’d like to introduce you to the members of the class. Our interviews spotlight the 40 Under 40 members’ LBM experience, thoughts on attracting young people to the industry, and visions for the future.

Sallie Keene Denton, Business Development Representative, Wilson Lumber Company

During her tenure at Wilson Lumber Company, Sallie Keene Denton has designed and overseen the company’s ongoing showroom redesign, which will transform it from a traditional lumberyard interior to one of the largest design centers in northern Alabama. Keene Denton said she saw an opportunity to better utilize her interior design background to introduce the Wilson Lumber brand, products, and experience earlier in the building process to designers and architects making key decisions and specifications before construction. Her efforts are helping to close the gap between designer, builder, and supplier all while providing the design community with solutions for building materials.

How did you become involved in the LBM industry?
In 2011, I began working in the construction industry. Though it was in a less traditional sense after earning my Interior Design degree from Auburn University. Practicing design at high-end firms gave me a firsthand look at project management and construction. After a decade in the field as a designer, I joined Wilson Lumber in 2021 and began my career in the LBM industry.

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What is your favorite part of your job?
People. My favorite part of the job is interacting with people. Interior designers, architects, builders, Realtors, homeowners. Every day is different but involves helping people find solutions for their projects. I also work with an incredible team of people who are dedicated to our customers.

What advice would you give to companies looking to attract young professionals like yourself?
Look past the resume. Don’t discount someone coming from outside the LBM industry. My resume consisted of interior design jobs, but I’d spent the better part of a decade selling designs to my clients, that included architectural millwork, furniture, and soft goods, plus managing the construction of those designs in the field.

What is your personal mission statement?
“The most damaging phrase in the language is: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” In 2019, I adopted this quote by Grace Hopper as my guidepost. I was unknowingly on the cusp of gigantic personal and professional changes that would occur over the next three years. Throughout those difficult years, I learned that growth is good, change is only scary if you let it be, and that uncertainty is full of possibility.

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Just because, “we’ve always done it this way,” doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do, and it may hurt you further. Growth won’t happen in the comfort zone—so I use this as my gut check. Am I, or are we, continuing to do something because it’s comfortable or because it’s the right thing to do? I certainly have my moments of wanting to stay complacent, but knowing that growth happens when I’m uncomfortable enables me to make the leaps when challenged to do so.

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