Building the better bench
Phoenix — Having a plan to identify potential executives who can help guide the long-term success of a company probably is not on the top of most pro dealers’ agendas. But according to Rikka Brandon, an executive recruiter, it’s a goal that should be part of any owner or CEO’s vision when looking to ensure their company is healthy long after they retire.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” said Brandon, the founder and chief executive recruiter at Building Gurus, a boutique executive search and consulting firm that focuses exclusively on building product manufacturers. “And everyone knows they should have better bench strength.”
Because the process can be “overwhelming, political and complicated, it’s not urgent,” she explained. “Other things in our business keep pushing ahead of it.”
Speaking here at the ProDealer Industry Summit, Brandon gave the example of a team member being groomed for a top position for a number of years. But then the employee suddenly decides to depart the company for another venture. The knowledge and expertise is now out the window or, even worse, possibly competing head-to-head with the company that provided the original training.
In another example, Brandon described the situation of a top sales talent who is responsible for 30% of a company’s overall sales. If there is no backup plan for the individual, a good deal of business and sales will be lost if he departs.
“If they leave it could be months before your company recovers,” she said.
Companies should establish core values and a vision, and stick to them, according to Brandon. If your business says it’s “family friendly,” but provides new hires with only one week of vacation that can’t be accessed until after they’ve been with the company for six months or more, “then you’re not very family friendly,” she said. “You have to walk the talk.”
Brandon recommends identifying the strengths and weaknesses of employees, including letting them self-identify their potential followed by feedback from others at the company.
Another strategy recommended by the recruiter is to identify employees who can be cross-trained for bigger and better things. For example, there might be a yard employee who has been involved in loading or pre-fabrication for many years but is ready for another role. Perhaps they have the knowledge and personality for a sales position.
“Developing opportunities to experience all aspects of the business is great — from millennials to longtime veterans,” Brandon said.
When it comes to executives or personnel who are not fitting into a company culture, and promoting might be a mistake, Brandon suggest not wasting time. “Fire and fire fast,” she said. “If you’re thinking of firing them, then it’s only just a matter of time.”
“Hiring, when you get it wrong, can get really expensive,” Brandon said.
Brandon suggests that companies establish a cross-training or promotion process for qualified employees and stick with it. And establish a system sooner rather than later.
“What’s your vision? You need to know where you are going to get there,” Brandon said. “You don’t need every step of the process. You need direction and you might have to deal with specific pieces through the process.”
HBSDealer Stock Watch: Midweek Deadlock
Industry stocks split down the middle between winners and losers on Wednesday. The big gainer was UFPI, up 8.28%, followed by SHLD with a 4.49% increase. After leading the winners on Tuesday, HBP dropped 4.30%.
Throwback Thursday: NLBMDA edition
Phoenix — The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association honored Paul Hylbert for his contributions to the association and the lumber and building materials industry during the NLBMDA Installation Dinner event on Oct. 17. The dinner was part of the ProDealer Industry Summit.
Hylbert started his career with Wickes, where he spent 21 years. He served sequentially as chief executive of the Wickes Europe, Wickes Lumber, and Sequoia Supply subsidiaries before leading a leveraged buy-out of the latter to form PrimeSource in 1987. He served as the CEO of PrimeSource from 1987 until 1999.
After the sale of PrimeSource, he joined Lanoga Corporation in 2001, serving as CEO until the formation of ProBuild in 2006. Starting as COO, he later became CEO in January of 2007 where he remained until his retirement in October 2010. He remained on the ProBuild board until May 2011, when he resigned to form Kodiak Building Partners.
He is a past NLBMDA chairman and has served on several committees and task groups over the years. He currently serves on the NLBMDA Building Task Group and on the LuDPAC Board of Trustees.
In his remarks, the current chairman of Kodiak Building Partners expressed pride in his industry.
“It’s a business where you can still do business with a handshake,” he said. “We are in a noble profession.”