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Tough Call: The temptation of Paul

Your top sales rep has an aggressive job offer from a competitor. Do you attempt to match it and keep him on board, or let him go?

November/December Tough CallYou’ll never forget your first day at your first job at the local lumberyard. From doing projects with your dad, you knew a thing or two about building things with lumber, but you didn’t know the first thing about how a lumberyard operated. The skills you gained were important, but the real lesson you learned was that lumberyards attract good, hardworking people.

And here you are, 40 years later, as general manager of the lumberyard that gave you your start. No doubt about it, the people are genuine and the relationships are real. While that’s a good thing, it’s a reality that has the potential to work against you with a decision you’re facing. Here’s the story.

Month after month, and year after year, Paul has consistently been your top-performing salesperson. In his 12 years with your company, Paul’s sales and margin numbers set the bar for the rest of your team.

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A key reason for his success is his ability to transform a prospect into a loyal customer. The relationships he’s established are rock-solid, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by a large national company that’s set to open in your market.

You’ve got to hand it to them. They did their homework, interviewing area builders to find out who they buy from and why. When the answers kept pointing to Paul, it wasn’t long until they made him an aggressive offer, including generous pay and perks. That’s when Paul asked for a closed-door meeting with you.

“Jim, this is a hard conversation for me, so I’ll get right to the point. That new yard coming to town contacted me and they’ve offered me a job. I wouldn’t even consider it—you know how much I enjoy working here with you—but they’re offering a strong salary and commission package, and great benefits. Plus, they say that I’d have a strong future with their company, and would likely move up in their organization. I trust and value your opinion. What do you think I should do?”

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After he left, you did the math, and the offer on the table would bump his income just over 20% above what he’s earning now. That’s a healthy increase, but it’s not that simple. The much-larger competitor is growing fast. Maybe too fast. They did this once before, in the early 2000s, then had to close stores when the recession hit.

Bottom line: if you lose Paul to the competitor, you’ve no doubt some of his loyal customers would follow, which would hurt your business. Then again, you can’t match the offer without cutting your already lean staff. With you, he has a stable, secure position with a rock-solid company. With them, there’s the promise of more money today…but his future with them means rolling the dice. He’s asked for your advice. What would you do?

1. Wish Him Well. You can’t match the offer and, while he will be tough or impossible to replace, this looks like a great opportunity for him.

2. Go to Bat. You can’t match the money, but they can’t match your track record in this market, and your history with Paul. He knows you. He doesn’t know them.

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3. Meet Halfway. While you can’t do a dollar-for-dollar match, you can manage an increase—especially one based on performance. Ask Paul if he’d be willing to stay if you can meet him halfway.

4. Fire Back. There’s been plenty of negative headlines about this company, especially during the recession. Print a bunch up, present it to Paul, and explain that this is who they really are.

If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you a LBM Journal mug.

What would you do?

See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the February 2018 issue.

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