Five Questions With: Tom Zimmerman, Boral Light Building Products

Tom Zimmerman
Tom ZimmermanTom Zimmerman is VP of Sales for Boral Light Building Products, which includes Siding, Trim, Shutters, and Accessories marketed nationally under Boral and The Tapco Group brands. He has spent nearly 15 years in the exterior building products industry, including leading sales efforts at deck and trim manufacturers. Connect with him at

Q: With housing and remodeling on a solid growth curve in most markets, what would you define as the biggest opportunity facing dealers?
A: It’s more important than ever for dealers to maintain and improve relationships with customers. Don’t simply take the order; don’t simply deliver what they’re asking for. Take the opportunity to say, “What are you trying to accomplish?” and then recommend products that better meet the builder’s individual needs and accomplish project objectives. Often, that solution is a product they didn’t know about.

I learned this early on, when I was a teen working in auto retail. We ran out of WD-40, a staple in every handyman’s toolbox. Instead of sending customers elsewhere, we seized the opportunity to add value and asked, “What are you trying to do with it? I have something that will do the job instead.” Rather than just taking the order, understand their task. It provides you the opportunity to provide more value and prove your value.

Q: On the flipside of that question, what do you view as the single biggest challenge?
A: With the frenzied pace of business right now, it’s easy to get lost in fulfilling orders and making sales. However, the importance of taking care of the customer has not changed; it’s vital that you bring value. If all you do is fill orders, someone will come along and do it for less. You need to offer value beyond dollars and be a true resource and partner in which their success is your success.

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As dealers get busier, they often lose focus on safety, growth, and improvement. No matter how busy we get, those internal best practices and forward-looking efforts must continue. This will ensure efficient operations today and stronger business relationships when the market slows down in the future.

Q: From your experience, what are some things that dealers can do to increase their value to customers?
A: Along with getting to know each customer’s specific needs, as outlined above, we’re strong advocates for positioning yourself as a resource. Grassroots education and hands-on outreach moves beyond the hard sell, offering opportunities for your customers while helping you connect more intimately. We’ve had great success partnering with dealers on customized outreach programs like ride-alongs, lunch and learns, introductory workshops, hands-on training, or exclusive dinner events with key customers. Programs such as these allow you to get to know each customer while positioning yourself as a helpful partner rather than just a salesperson.

Q: As an exterior products manufacturer, what are some of the key trends you’re seeing that dealers should watch for?
A: First and foremost, low-maintenance continues to be key. Homeowners desire a natural, authentic look, but without the associated hassles. They’re also differentiating their facades with contrasting colors (such as dark trim framing neutral siding), by adding more trim, by combining textures (mixing siding materials, for example, or combining traditional lap siding with a cedar shake or board-and-batten gable), and by incorporating stone accents on columns or below the windows.

Q: Boral is one of the largest suppliers of building materials in Australia and, with the recent acquisition of Headwaters, is growing its footprint in the U.S. What should our readers look for from Boral in the coming years?
A: Innovation. Where some are focused on building up profit to sell, we are zeroed in on forming partnerships for the sole purpose of bringing innovative and unique solutions to the marketplace. Our Boral TruExterior® Siding & Trim is a perfect example of that. Completely new to the market, the poly-ash technology was developed by the scientists and engineers in our Innovation Factory. The physical culmination of that collaborative can be found at our Discovery Center in San Antonio, where our mission is, literally, to discover and invent the next big thing in the building materials space.

This mission is only enhanced by the Headwaters acquisition. The influx of new products entering the Boral portfolio opens up countless new opportunities for our Discovery Center scientists to explore possible innovations. The acquisition doesn’t change our commitment to value and innovation— it deepens it.

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