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Thinking local

BY HBSDEALER Staff

US LBM Holdings will accept the HCN 2013 Pro Dealer of the Year award at the Oct. 23-25 ProDealer Industry Summit in Nashville, Tenn. 

Exceptionalism, as pertains to US LBM Holdings, begins with its growth. As one of the fastest-growing building materials distributors in the country, HCN’s 2013 Pro Dealer of the Year boasts year-over-year revenue growth of 15.7%, stands tall at 55 locations nationwide, and ranks 14th in sales on the HCN Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard — all just four years after its inception.

There’s no secret, but there are principals. US LBM’s growth runs on the combined strength of eight autonomous companies, a focus on local knowledge and the ability to provide speed in the marketplace. And, most importantly, according to executives, it’s the people.

“We try to keep it very simple,” said CEO L.T. Gibson, describing his company’s structure. “There are synergies on the administrative side. And we have a local market focus. We think that local brands are very important. At the same time, we’re very disciplined as a group.”

Gibson, a former Stock Building Supply VP, oversees a culture that some might call the anti-corporate corporate culture. US LBM Holdings has 16 employees, while some 2,000 handle the day-to-day as employees of the various operating companies.

Karen Charielle, VP human resources at US LBM Holdings, added: “We have a wonderful team. We’re great partners together. Our success is driven by our employees, and showing that on the executive level drives [that ethic] down through the organization.”

The company has a healthy appetite for new acquisitions, associates and customers, said Charielle. And so far, the divergent identities of its individual yards seem to be a source of positive development.

“I don’t see it as a challenge — I see it as an opportunity,” she added. “Each company may have different customers and markets, but we all have the same philosophies and take part in a strategic plan we develop each year. We share best practices, and that creates synergy.”

The company has its sights set on paving the way for sustained progress in its company culture. Specifically, this means strengthening its human capital through a new in-house training and development program by the name of US LBM University. Charielle and her team will identify key successors and take them through the curriculum, taught by executives at the company. At the moment, they’re looking to partner with universities that stand out for their Lean, distribution, sales and leadership training.

“We’re passionate about our associates,” said Charielle. “If we’re giving them respect and guidance, that’ll return back to our customers.” 

EIGHT AND GROWING

US LBM’s operating companies:

  • Bellevue Builders Supply, Schenectady, N.Y.
  • East Haven Builders Supply, East Haven, Conn.
  • Edward Hines Lumber, Buffalo Grove, Ill.
  • John H. Myers & Son, York, Pa.
  • Lyman Lumber, Excelsior, Minn.
  • Shelly’s Lumber, Telford, Pa.
  • Universal Supply Co., Hammonton, N.J.
  • Wisconsin Building Supply, Green Bay, Wis.

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Without leaving, vinyl siding makes a comeback

BY HBSDEALER Staff

By the best estimates of the Vinyl Siding Institute, last year was the first year since 2004 that shipments of vinyl siding and soffit have shown a year-over-year increase.

For all that time — and longer — vinyl has remained the nation’s leading choice for exterior cladding. Census Bureau reports show that 110,000 out of 368,000 single-family homes sold in 2013 were built with vinyl siding as the main exterior material. Wood? A mere 11,000.

The strength of vinyl is no surprise to Jonathan Wierengo, VP marketing for the Tapco Group, who sees improved technology combining with customer tastes working in the favor of Tapco’s The Foundry division.

There are color options — more than 300 for vinyl — and a low-maintenance story that are gaining converts among younger (in other words, stylish and busy) homeowners. Also, siding technology has advanced to make more realistic grain patterns and better butt edges, he said.

“It’s not the vinyl siding I used to see on my parents’ house in the 1970s and ’80s,” Wierengo told HCN.

For instance, The Foundry’s Weathered Collection Shakes have been built with darker hues in deep grooves and lighter shades on the ridges and high points, to better imitate the real thing.

“Our goal is to make realistic products that replicate nature,” Wierengo said.

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Executive spotlight

BY HBSDEALER Staff

True Value Corp. CEO John Hartmann’s first mission was to meet as many dealers as fast as possible. In his first three-and-half-months on the job, he talked to some 450 retailers at 13 roundtable events around the country.

Hartmann took over the co-op’s CEO spot officially on May 31, replacing Lyle Heidemann. There was a lot to cover in his first official HCN interview, which touched on Home Depot, the FBI and the new name for the co-op’s Chicago headquarters.

On his first four months

“Taking the time to listen to the membership to find out what’s working is particularly important, especially for a new leader. I’ve been to 13 round-tables around the country — met 400 to 500 members face to face. I’ve heard, most importantly, our members want to grow. They want to grow individually, and they want to grow collectively.”

On the new “Retail Support Center”

“When I said [during the General Session] we’re renaming the headquarters from the retail headquarters to the retail support center, that was the first spontaneous applause. And I think that’s a pretty significant signal of where this company is going.”

On previous CEO Lyle Heidemann

“I think Lyle did a terrific job of setting True Value on a course to shift from a pure wholesaler to more of a retail-focused company. But I think our journey now is to shift beyond that and become more of a consumer-focused company. Everyone in that value stream — from the consumer to the retailer to the co-op to the vendors — benefits from a focus like that.”

On his background as an FBI field agent

“People’s vision of the FBI is what they take away from television and the movies. But the typical field agent makes his living by speaking and getting information. It taught me how to have a conversation, and more importantly, it taught me how to keep my mouth shut and listen.”

On the competition

“I respect the competition, I know (Home Depot CEO) Frank Blake, I know the people there. The big boxes are doing well because they’re relevant. You gotta give them points for that. HD in particular. It matters less to me who the competitor is, whether it’s the big box, whether it’s Amazon. Or whether it’s another hardware store. What really matters to me is how relevant the stores are.

An example of a good hardware store

Cole’s Hardware in Danville, Pa. It’s an 11-store chain. They have taken the core hardware business, and they are terrific partners with us. They modified it gently to fit their communities. A terrific mix of products and family-driven customer service, where they have made the emotional connection with their customer. And that’s just one of many stores.”

On hardware store success

“Independent retailers, doesn’t matter what flag they fly, must get and remain relevant to the new generation of consumers.

“I’m 50 years old. I’m old now. When you look at the demographics of the country, it can’t be your granddad’s hardware store anymore.”

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