Consolidation and competition

Publisher Letter

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
— Henry Ford

In reading over this months’ feature, “Consolidation: Good or Bad?” the question and the comments from readers took me back to when a small team and I launched LBM Journal in 2003. Our concern wasn’t consolidation, per se, but the reality of competing against much, much larger competitors. When we launched (with no investors, no money, no office space, and no guarantee that anyone would ever get paid), we pinned the hope for our survival on being named the official magazine of a large organization. I remember learning that our much larger competitor had just received the one thing we were counting on. I shared this with Jodie Cook, our one salesperson at the time, and we just sat down and said, “Now what are we going to do?”

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After the fog of that initial shock passed, we realized that our survival wasn’t about anyone else. Our success or failure was up to us. So here’s what we did:

1.  Be different and better. When we launched LBM Journal, we knew the odds were against us, so we’d have to be measurably different and better than the other guys. We would succeed only to the extent we helped our readers and our advertisers succeed.

2.  Listen, then deliver. We were good at listening to our readers and advertisers and delivering—so that’s what we did. Back in 2011, a very sharp Texas LBM pro asked how other dealers were managing deliveries in the face of spiking fuel prices. I didn’t know the answer, but I knew who to ask: our audience. And the popular Real Issues. Real Answers. feature was born.

3.  Play your game. We never obsessed over what our competitors were doing. Instead of fretting over things beyond our control, we laser-focused on our audience. In the ultimate underdog story told in the movie “Miracle”, the young U.S. Olympic hockey team defies the odds when they play their game and beat the seemingly unbeatable Russian team.

4.  Be nice. We’ve all worked with people who are A) a real pleasure to work with, B) those who seem to go out of their way to be unpleasant, or C) who turn out to be less-than-honest. The vast majority of people I’ve worked in our industry land in the first group. Somehow, those in groups B and C always seem stunned when a bridge they’ve burned is gone forever. Being a good human being isn’t rocket science, and it makes a difference.

Consolidation is disrupting and reshaping our industry, and there’s no question that it’s daunting to compete against larger competitors. But it’s not impossible. When I joined this industry in 1990, the business press had pretty much declared that lumberyards were dead, and that Home Depot, Lowes, Builders Square, etc., were the future. Independent yards who thought they couldn’t compete proved themselves right. Many who viewed big boxes as just another challenge proved themselves right, and they’re stronger today than ever before.

I think Henry Ford was onto something. If you think you can, let’s work together to prove you right.

— Rick Schumacher
Executive Editor & Publisher

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