Where Will They Come From and Long-term Survivable

Monday, December 5, 2016

Here's something that everyone in our industry knows, and is painfully aware of: "Through the Great Recession, our industry was pretty much gutted, from top to bottom." But now we have one of the strongest truss order files we've had in a long time. On the other hand, builders taking delivery in a timely fashion just isn't happening. Again, no surprise…When we talk to our customers, even though they have this strong "Build" file, they can't find near enough block masons, cement finishers, carpenters, drywallers, painters, etc. So, when folks ask "How is business?" my qualified answer is: “There is a real ‘Governor’ on our activity!" This lack of skilled workers, throughout the industry, has effectively slowed activity. And it isn't just a lack of workers out there...Building Material Dealers are struggling through the same thing.

The situation remains (it can even be seen as a big worry) that throughout our industry many fine, talented folks left during the Recession and took a totally different career path...probably never to return. So, what do we do? My first comment is, "The ball is truly in our court." I've learned that because our company is recognized as a "Good Brand" and "A Good Company," the best hires we've had coming out of this Recession are within our own "Network"...Some are sons and daughters or relatives of folks that work here. As we put the “now hiring” word out, friends of the company, builders, trades folks etc. all supply some of the Human Resource we need. So although I feel at Kimal we're slowing gaining ground in the skilled worker search, this issue will be "ongoing, for as far as the eye can see."

So, a few things to comment on as we move into "This Brave New World"...We look for what I call "Gems"...Folks that have a good work ethic, good attitude, willing to learn new things, etc. A simplification is, "Hire for attitude, train for skills." Next is, some job applicants who come through the door do seem to truly have those "Gem" qualities, so even though we may not have an immediate "Fit" we're apt to hire, 'cause we don't want these types to get away. Another program that has worked well for us is making sure we have "round pegs in round holes"...or said another way, we have a person in a position that "just isn't working out" but the work ethic, attitude etc., is good...We've moved some of these folks around, till we found that right "Fit." And boy, have I seen some folks blossom after they’ve been moved to another position--becomes a "Win-Win" for all. O.K., you take your time hiring, even with those shortages, but some just don't work out...So, two things. First we still always try to “Hire for attitude, train for skills,” but when it simply doesn't work out, we then follow the protocol, "Hire slow, fire fast." We just don't hang on to a situation that probably will never work out.

To sum it up, at Kimal we're trying harder than ever, even as "Cyclical" as our industry is, to create a "Recession-Proof Model." I don't feel it is as far-fetched as it seems. Maybe said a different way, never try to "Put all your eggs in one basket!!" Don't concentrate on the large production builder, for instance, if they're the strongest player...Remember when they "Leave" (for whatever reason) they can leave a void that may be almost impossible to fill. We're getting better at "Grading" our customers for their contribution to our company. When we've built a strong relationship with a customer we try to never take them for granted...It must truly be a relationship that will continue way into the future. Just train and nurture them properly and the marriage can last…well maybe forever. Also, here's a challenge that we have lamented about a lot, and some see this as kind of insurmountable: "Sell at a decent Margin/Profit"...But remember, if you don't have sufficient margin dollars to pay well, to maintain and improve what you have, to put a little back for that rainy day, etc., then what's it all about? And if you just barely came through when times are good, and that next Recession hits—could be you haven't built enough reserve to carry you through. And I'll end with this…Where we're all at…Kind of a "Tale of Two Cities"..."The best of times, the worst of times"...I think erratic cycles, volatility that didn't used to be there, government at all levels seemingly "at its worst"...And it goes on...So, time to just raise the bar on--well everything---could be we can create a stronger "Win-Win" than we've ever had...the Ball is really, really in our courts"!!

P.S. Here's a saying I picked up the other day, and it’s definitely worth sharing…"Speak when you are angry...and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret!!"

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 12/5/2016

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