|Roger Dankel is President, North American Sales for Simpson Strong-Tie. He joined the company in 1993 as a Field Sales Representative before serving as Sales Manager of the company’s McKinney, Texas branch in 1997. Dankel has successfully integrated multiple new products, both acquired and internally developed, into Simpson Strong-Tie’s product line.|
Q: In today’s very strong market, what do you consider the single biggest challenge facing LBM dealers?
A: LBMs are struggling with the same issues that have been holding back the housing recovery. Builders cannot find subs to pour slabs, frame homes and hang drywall. LBMs struggle with finding qualified truck drivers, skilled manufacturing people for their truss plants and millwork shops, and experienced salespeople. Part of the issue is the low unemployment rate. The other part is our ability to attract young people to the building materials industry where so many of us have found a home and a very fulfilling career.
Millennials have many different options these days coming out of high school or college, and working at a lumberyard or selling building materials is not necessarily at the top of their list. I have heard it said a few times that we need to find a way to make the building material industry “more appealing” again. Attracting young adults and convincing them that they can have a successful career with a dealer is a lumberyard’s biggest challenge—and it’s their biggest opportunity to differentiate themselves.
Q: On the flipside of that, what do you consider the biggest opportunity?
A: One of the best ways to attract young adults to working at a lumberyard is technology. Our industry has traditionally been slower to adopt technology tools to help run and drive business. As housing starts and the economy picks up, more advanced technologies are finding their way into the LBM channel. Selling on the web, new ERP systems, CRM for sales, GPS for trucks and pictures of deliveries are technology examples that have enabled LBMs to be more efficient and effective in the way they run their business. Take-off software, whole-house BIM modeling and e-marketing have also influenced LBMs’ sales process. It’s clear that LBMs can leverage technology to better service their customers while reducing cost and adding efficiency in how they do business. Early adopters will find this as a way to separate themselves from the competition and as an opportunity to attract the next generation of employees.
Q: One of the key issues facing the LBM distribution channel is a shortage of carpenters and construction laborers. What, if anything, can dealers do to help?
A: Dealers can provide products and services that help speed up the construction process, such as offering wall panel and truss systems, hosting customer demo events, or simply stocking new products with lower installed costs. Dealers should also take advantage of free manufacturer training to learn how to install their products correctly. When products are misinstalled, productivity slows down and in some cases, can get a job red-tagged, which keeps the job on hold until it is corrected.
Q: Product innovations driven by building science and technology are disrupting the way that homes are built. How can LBM dealers leverage these changes to help their builder customers grow their business?
A: Product innovation can help reduce costs and increase productivity on jobsites, but product training is key. Educating LBM employees is as important, if not more important, than providing customer training. When dealers become a resource for information and education to their customers, they are more than just a supplier, they are viewed as a partner and price is less important because they have added value to the relationship.
Q: Simpson Strong-Tie used to be known primarily for connectors, but the company has evolved and expanded into many other areas. What should dealers watch for from Simpson Strong-Tie in the coming years?
A: Simpson Strong-Tie continues to offer new and innovative products as well as provide complimentary product training in connectors, fasteners, anchors, and truss and lateral systems. We are also expanding our software solutions for builders, specifiers, component manufacturers and our LBM customers. We are committed to being the trusted advisor of construction solutions to the industry and being the best manufacturer LBMs do business with.