Beyond the money

Each month, when we read over the business challenges that readers share as part of our “Real Issues” surveys, there’s one issue that consistently stands out above all others. The challenge of finding, hiring and retaining good people. There’s no shortage of reasons why that’s the case, but there are seven pages in this issue that tell a story that might surprise some young pros choosing a career path: the lumber/building material industry can be very lucrative.

The pages I refer to share many of the topline details from the just-completed LBM Sales Compensation + Benefits Survey. Sometimes numbers speak for themselves—and there are plenty of numbers and charts in those seven pages. But we asked our contributing sales editor Rick Davis to read over a draft of the report and let us know his thoughts. His take on the results was so compelling, and so rich with context, that we decided to use that as the introduction to this feature.

As the survey results show, the LBM industry clearly offers an opportunity to earn a healthy living. What the survey results don’t show, but that you and I know to be true, is that the LBM industry offers an opportunity to build a lifelong, enriching career. While the opportunity to earn a six-figure income is attractive, and the percentage of salespeople who do just that will likely surprise many and hopefully intrigue some future leaders to explore the LBM industry, there’s more to our story. Much more.

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Case in point: Kodiak Building Partners. In the excellent profile by senior editor James Anderson beginning on page 40, we learn about a company that’s less than a decade old which generates more than $1.1 billion in revenues. While CEO Steve Swinney and his team clearly know a lot about acquiring and growing companies, read what Swinney has to say about his company’s culture. “We want to serve our employees, support them, be a blessing to them, and create an environment where they can then do those same things for their customers and vendor partners. When we engage our employees that way, good things have happened. Why would we ever change that?”

Kodiak is like so many other companies whose stories we’ve been fortunate to share in our pages. They understand that creating and nurturing a positive company culture is not only a key to happy employees and satisfied customers, it’s also the key to attracting good people who are looking for the right kind of company to invest their career with. As Parker Palmer writes in his book, On the Brink of Everything: “We all want our work to make a difference. But if we take on the big jobs and our only measure of success is the next quarter’s bottom line, we’ll end up disappointed, dropping out, and in despair.” My point, and the point of the dealer stories we share in each issue, is that our industry has a tremendously powerful story to share. Our companies do important work providing a fundamental human need. Our people have the opportunity to build a career doing honest work, helping others, and earning a good living while they’re at it. Our job, yours and mine, is to make sure our story is not the tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear it. It’s our job to share our story and make some noise.

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