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The talent-acquisition challenge

At the ProDealer Industry Summit, execs tackle recruitment and retention.

BY Andy Carlo

COLORADO SPRINGS – When it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent for the lumber and building materials industry, executives from some the biggest LBM companies placed the responsibility squarely on their own shoulders.

During a panel discussion that featured BMC President and CEO Dave Flitman, Kodiak Building Partners CEO Steve Swinney and Managing Partner Matt Ogden from investment firm Building Industry Partners, the executives said creating a healthy company culture that results in strong recruiting and solid retention starts with company leadership. The conversation took place here at the Broadmoor hotel during the 2019 ProDealer Industry Summit.

“For us, it starts at the top. The leadership necessary to power and enable people starts at the top,” Ogden said.

Dave Flitman, Steve Swinney and Matt Ogden join Tony Misura for a discussion about LBM recruitment and retention at the 2019 ProDealer Industry Summit.

Building Industry Partners has been involved in getting some of the largest LBM companies off the ground, including Kodiak Building Partners, US LBM, and most recently Homewood Holdings.

But a strong balance sheet and impressive locations doesn’t always translate into a deal for Building Industry Partners.

“If I believe I have an A+ leader, who my interests are aligned with, I have very high confidence that we will succeed. An A+ leader attracts and retains A+ management talent,” Ogden explained.

“Part of our acquisition process is a strong leadership team. There have been deals that we have run away from because of the leadership team,” he noted.

When Kodiak Building Partners was formed in 2011, Swinney said, “We wanted to build a place that we would love working at.”

According Tony Misura, president of Misura Group and moderator of the panel, a component of Kodiak’s culture is the humility of its employees who aren’t afraid to “skin their knees” during an ongoing learning process.

“Kodiak is made up of humble people who are determined to improve,” Misura said. His description was based on sharing time at Kodiak facilities with company employees.

“I don’t know how you build a business without the humility part,” Swinney said. “None of us in this room can do it all the best – you need to find incredibly talented people and give the room to succeed.”

While BMC has a company culture that starts with safety and includes integrity, making customers a priority, and making sure that associates matter, there was room for improvement, according to Flitman.

He took over as CEO of BMC nearly a year ago and has since made it clear that the pro dealer is utilizing cutting-edge technology, including its Ready Frame business among other operations.

The use of technology has been an important recruiting tool for BMC.

“We are not Apple, we are not Google, but we are an innovator,” Flitman said. “We have tried to convey to candidates that we are using technology and you can have a nice career at BMC,” he said.

When it came to recruiting new talent, Flitman also pointed to another talent pool that is sometimes overlooked: U.S. military veterans.

“Ex-military make really great employees,” he said. “They bring passion, loyalty and they work hard. And they need jobs.”

Flitman’s son, Josh, is an active member of the military serving in the U.S. Army 4th Infantry at nearby Fort Carson. Flitman said the company didn’t realize how many veterans it already had in place among its employees until the company took a headcount. “We didn’t have a handle,” he said. “They are hardworking people.”

BMC has partnered with two military organizations, the Honor Foundation and Women Warriors, to bring veterans on board. “We have had strong success,” Flitman noted.

Having the right culture in place that retains talent, and attracts fresh candidates was agreed upon by all of the participants.

During the discussion, Misura asked the audience when the word “retention” is even brought up.

“Before it happens or after it happens?,” he asked. “Retention is typically in the rear view mirror.”

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