Editor’s Note: Making Hay

Having grown up in South Dakota, and spent most of my adult life in Minnesota, I have no illusions about Midwestern winters. They can be brutal…and usually are. There’s no other way to describe interminable stretches of gray, sub-zero days. People who don’t experience our winters often question why someone would voluntarily live here. To be sure, it’s a valid question, and there is no one right answer. But it is undisputable that, after a long brutal winter, the first warm, sunny 70 degree day in spring brings us Midwesterners a joy that those who live in warmer climates can’t even imagine. There’s something to be said for the change of seasons.

For the LBM industry, the seasons cycle as well—though thankfully, not every single year. With final housing start numbers for 2016 comfortably more than double what they were at their low point in 2009 (1.17 million vs. 554,000), and 2017 off to a good start, our industry does seem to be in the heart of a healthy growing season. By “healthy,” I mean modest, sustainable and bubble- free. Contrast that with 2003, the year that LBM Journal launched, when total housing starts hit 1.848 million units, two years before peaking at just over 2 million then crashing hard. I’ll take slow, steady and healthy growth every time.

The decisions we make now will determine how well our companies are positioned the next time sales cool. And this issue of LBM Journal, which happens to be the biggest March issue in our history, is packed with insights to help you and your company do as the proverb says, and “make hay while the sun shines.” Be sure to check out these highlights:

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Real Issues. Real Answers. Managing Generational Transitions. One of the signature issues facing our industry is navigating the transition from mature and aging companies to the next generation of workers and leaders. This is an especially sensitive issue, and the thoughtful answers submitted by hundreds of readers are a testament to our industry’s desire to do right by their company and their people.

Digital Case Studies. The importance of social media continues to grow, yet many LBM dealers wrestle with how exactly to put it to work for optimal effect in their business. That’s why, in each issue, Managing Editor James Anderson connects with a member of the LBM community who is doing an especially good job with social media. I strongly encourage you to read this page—and reach out to James if you’re interested in sharing your strategies.

Hot Products from IBS. The International Builders Show has earned a reputation as the place to see the latest/greatest products from many leading manufacturers. This roundup from 50 companies is far from exhaustive, but will give you a flavor of the trends shaping our industry. Who knows…maybe you’ll find your next hot product in these pages?