As president of the LBM & Hardlines Group at ECi Software Solutions, John Maiuri is responsible for the vision, guidance and strategic growth of his team within the Building and Construction Division. With more than 30 years of experience in the lumber and hardware industry, John understands the importance of leveraging technology to remain competitive.
Q: With new construction and remodeling still strong in most markets, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for LBM dealers?
A: One opportunity is the ability to scale the business through aggressive outside sales teams. These teams can concentrate on interacting with potential customers, while in-store employees can focus on direct interactions with their in-store customers. A seamless way for LBM dealers to manage these sales operations is to implement new software using a cloud delivery model, allowing for connectivity to outside sales staff from virtually anywhere. Owners and other key stakeholders can also be connected when out of the office, allowing for far more control than ever before.
Q: The flipside of that question, the biggest challenge?
A: Dwindling numbers of young workers going into the trades has led to a large shortage of craftsmen and, in busy markets, lumberyards are even competing with their own customers for staff. I have heard speculation that the lack of tradespeople could lead to greater innovation in manufacturing pre-built or component-built housing. If that is the case, movement in that direction could thin the number of outlets that provide materials for site and/or stick built projects.
Further investment in technology-based solutions is virtually everywhere we look today. However, many dealers spend more time deliberating on next steps rather than advancing their operations by investing in technology. Too often we see many with that “deer in the headlights” approach to reinvestment, which limits opportunities and creates a significant challenge in competing with the big boxes and market leaders.
Q: Many LBM companies rely on computer systems that are more than a decade old—including some that are more than 30 years old. What would you say to dealers who haven’t upgraded because their existing systems work fine?
A: First and foremost, it is very likely these LBM companies don’t know what they don’t know. The changes in technology just in the last 10 years have been so dramatic that companies operating on older systems have very little perspective on the improvements seen in the processes that have been enabled by modern solutions. For example, in some older solutions, the end-of-month billing cycle and statement distribution processes took one to two days to complete. In modern systems, these processes can be reduced to a couple of hours or minutes. In addition, modern relational database architecture combined with business analytics can provide near limitless real-time data awareness, allowing both preventative forecasting and up-to-the-minute corrections to minimize lost sales, weak margins and costly errors.
Q: Given the rapid advancements in technology, what new features and capabilities should LBM Journal readers watch for in the coming years?
A: As a leading cloud software provider in the LBM and hardlines space, ECi has invested heavily in an infra- structure that allows for a more controlled distribution of software solutions with more emphasis on features and less focus on keeping our solutions backward compatible with older operating systems. We are continuously developing more unique payment processing features, loyalty programs, e-commerce features and much more as we further reduce the distraction of on-premise deployments and third-party hosting. As the very first company in LBM to transition to this model, we have a home field advantage and get stronger every day.
Q: Today’s ERP systems go far beyond POS technology. How do you suggest that LBM dealers view the role of their ERP system in their overall operation?
A:Today, it is all about providing information to the end customer on a 24/7/365 basis. For the LBM dealer, it is all about collecting that customer data from those interactions and using it to learn more about their needs and their wants. Real-time awareness and easier data consumption allow for users to foster far deeper relationships with their customers. Our goal is to provide a solution delivered to the user and their customers with the least amount of oversight necessary.