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2016 PRODEALER INDUSTRY SUMMIT Working toward an industry youth movement Panel tackles next generation recruitment and retention By Ken Clark Amid the education, networking and legislative mobilization that took place at the 2016 ProDealer Industry Summit in Charleston, S.C., there was also time for some industry inspiration. Three dealers representing a sort of youth movement among the LBM in- dustry shared their thoughts on a vari- ety of topics during the NextGen Panel Discussion. In describing how to recruit and retain the best and brightest, they also gave their positive perspectives on working in the LBM industry. “I feel like we’re the best kept secret in the American economy,” said John Perna, general manager of Hamilton Building Supply in Hamilton, New Jer- sey. “We have an opportunity to make an impact on the American economy. And there are so many ways to get involved – sales, production, engineer- ing – and so many opportunities.” On top of that ringing endorse- ment, the panelists shared strategies to attract the next generation of top performers. Sometimes, it can be very effective to promote the advantages of working for a family business. But even sound bites 16 John Perna Wendy Whiteash General manager, Hamilton Building Supply Senior VP of Culture, U.S. LBM more powerful, according to Wendy Whiteash, senior VP of culture at US LBM, is the idea of working meaning- fully for an industry in transition. “The idea of being part of a greater good really rings true with this genera- tion,” she said. “Building things, provid- ing housing, and entering an industry at a time when technology is beginning to pay a bigger and bigger part – I think there’s a great, compelling story there, if we tell it the right way.” Keeping talented employees is a similar challenge for the larger industry. And according to Thad Shuler, presi- dent of Charleston-based Southern Lumber & Millwork, keeping them engaged is crucial. The company has grown from 45 employees 8 years ago, to more than 100 today. A management trainee program played a major role in achieving that growth. Shuler described the program in which new em- ployees jump from one department to another in roughly three-month shifts, learning as they go. “We feel that Thad Shuler change is what President, inspires them,” Southern Lumber & Millwork Shuler said. “And we also get to find out what their true strengths are.” All three of the panelists agreed that the LBM industry can do a better job promoting itself to the outside world in a way that attracts new talent. “There is a stigma a total miscon- ception that LBM dealers are just like the big box stores, and that’s what millennials associate us with and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Per- na said. “There is a path to a great and long career through the LBM industry, and it starts with how we engage our own associates and how we view them in our own culture.” Asked to pinpoint what excites him most about being in the LBM industry, Shuler pointed to the challenge and the fun. “There is always an opportunity to get better, and I think that’s a great challenge for me: to try to inspire our people and have a lot of fun together.” on overtime rule “For them to come up with a rule to willy-nilly double the amount and make it one size fits all was a bad thing. The fight that we’re putting up, I’ll fight on behalf of every dealer in this nation. If we don’t put up this fight, they’ll win this fight and go on to the next battle, and the next thing they come up with could be as bad or worse than overtime.” on election Scott Yates, president and general manager of Denver Lumber Company NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 HARDWARE + BUILDING SUPPLY DEALER “Keep in mind we’re electing a president, not a dictator or an emperor.” Ben Gann, NLBMDA VP of Legislative and Political Affairs