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Ambassadors of lumber

Building on the reputation of a vibrant industry.

BY Cally Fromme
Cally Fromme, VP of communications and culture at Kodiak Building Partners

Cally Fromme, VP of communications and culture at Kodiak Building Partners

Sshhhhh … It’s a secret. The hardware and building materials industry is the greatest industry to enjoy a fulfilling career. Why is it such a well-kept secret, you ask? The answer is: I don’t know. No one knows. At any seminar or conference that you attend, you will hear some variation of the theme, “We just aren’t sexy….”

Well, to those naysayers: speak for yourself.

At Kodiak Building Partners, we think that we are plenty sexy. Eyes are rolling at our HQ in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, but bear with me. What makes someone attractive? Smarts? Check! Energy? Yep! Passion? Got it! Experience? Years! Sense of humor? Oh yeah! Generous? You bet! Confidence? Duh. We’ve got it going on!

To spill the beans and get the word out, we actively recruited “post millennials” to come and intern for us, during the summer. Obviously, these young adults would benefit, and so would Kodiak, but the big picture benefit is exposing this generation to our world.

All kidding aside, the building materials industry truly is a great place to settle in. When you think about all the facets of our businesses, we are an interesting and vibrant industry that can satisfy a multitude of interests. Just a few examples:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Safety/Risk Management
  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Supply Chain
  • Logistics/Transportation
  • Forestry
  • Environmental Science
  • M & A

Kodiak started its internship program in the summer of 2018. We found it to be valuable for all involved parties and strove to make it better organized and more robust, with intentions to keep improving, year after year. Our leadership fully supported the initiative, and mentors were prepared to take on the responsibility of guiding interns for a couple of summer months.

Because our corporate headquarters and several of our companies are located in the Denver area, we reached out to four nearby universities to learn about their job fairs, pools of candidates, and internship expectations.

Through their processes, we found five excellent students. We also were fortunate to have one of last year’s interns return for another round. Investment banking, business management, construction management, mathematics, and accounting were their fields of study. Prior to this summer, most had very little exposure, if any, to the building material industry. They were a well-rounded group of typical 20-somethings with hobbies that included, piano, hiking, ice hockey, basketball, comic books, and video games.

We found the interns to be bright, hardworking, focused, and eager to learn. The stereotypes about this age group just didn’t pan out, and hopefully, any misconceptions that they had about us were overcome, as well.

One of our interns told us, in his exit interview, that he was very impressed with the efficiencies of some of our manufacturing facilities and that the technology utilized was more sophisticated than he expected. Benjamin, our intern, shared that young adults would be excited to understand that many operations in our field are cutting edge and open to incorporating more efficient mechanization and procedures. He told us that this was a facet of our industry that should be promoted, to help pique the interest of job candidates.

He also felt like other young job seekers would feel at home in such a familial atmosphere. It was encouraging to him that he had access to the CFO, comptroller, and the VP of finance, telling us that such entrée might not be typical in all industries. He felt supported and encouraged. Benjamin and the other interns enjoyed an environment that allowed them to comfortably ask questions, learn, and gain constructive feedback.

The interns were constantly engaged and exposed to a variety of career paths, and their eyes were opened to the fact that challenging and varied vocations were available in our sector. Granted, no one ever said that we were “sexy”, but that was surely an oversight. They did tell us, though, that they had told their friends about the building material industry and roused some interest and enthusiasm.

In the exit interviews, we were happy to learn that the chief complaint was that the program was too short. We can fix that!

Kodiak Building Partners’ culture facilitates and encourages service to its communities and industry. By hiring, mentoring, educating, and developing local students, we are doing both. We encourage other companies to do the same, no matter their size.

Cally Fromme is VP of communication and culture. Visit Kodiakbp.com for more information.

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[Editor’s Note: Cally Fromme, has been providing leadership in the LBM industry for at least the past decade. In 2011, when she was president and CEO of Victoria, Texas-based Zarsky Lumber, the family business, she took on the role of chair of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association. As chair, Fromme tackled legislative and regulatory issues, and encouraged participation — and action — from dealers coast to coast.

With Kodiak Building Partners’ acquisition of Zarsky in 2015, Fromme took on new responsibilities and senior management positions at the acquisition-oriented, Denver-based company. There’s been no evidence of her passion for the industry subsiding.

When HBSDealer approached Fromme about the idea of a Top Women program for the hardware and building supply industry, she rightly stressed the importance of inclusion for all professionals — men and women. At Kodiak, she continues the role of industry ambassador and encourages professionals to join this rewarding industry. The above essay is one of the results of that conversation.]

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