Five Questions With: Ben Skoog, Arcitell, LLC
Q: In today’s strong remodeling and new residential construction markets, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for LBM dealers?
A: In a strong or weak market, LBM dealers can shine by being the easiest supplier to do business with in their market. This means a hyper focus on having the right products in stock, delivering the right products at the right time and other classic service areas that are fundamentals. The LBM dealers that can understand their customers’ pain points and provide realistic solutions will shine above their peers. This can take the form of providing market data, help with code compliance, sourcing new products, or helping keep their customers up-to-date on the latest trends in construction and remodeling.
Q: The flipside of that question—What do you see as the biggest opportunity?
A: Conversely, it is a challenge in a strong market to focus on anything but the fundamentals of servicing accounts and not invest in the other areas of information service that create the long-term returns. When LBM dealers are so busy just fulfilling orders, it can be a challenge to spend the extra time and resources to put in the work today that has a critical but soft return in the future. This is a vital business model decision and requires the ability to hire the right type of talent and provide them with the resources and time to provide this type of service. While it can be difficult to see the ROI on providing this type of service, it can be the driving force behind above-market margins and a growing customer base.
Q: What advice would you have for dealers who want to grow their share of their local siding market?
A: There are two main options. The first is to carry the best lines and provide superior service which is very practical but resource intense. The second option is to expand their competitive view and look into new product lines that would allow them to service not just traditional siding, but masonry and other specialty claddings. Given their customer base is most likely already installing siding but losing the stone and brick work to masons, there are new products on the market that would allow them to capture this share. Some of the new products provide the authentic look of stone and brick but install similar to siding and thus are an opportunity for the siding installer. If the siding installer expands his share of the house, then the LBM dealer behind him expands his share as well. In a nutshell, those who help their customers expand share also expand share themselves.
Q: A shortage of skilled labor continues to plague all segments of our industry, especially dealers and builders. What can manufacturers do to help?
A: Manufacturers often face two choices when it comes to addressing the skilled labor shortage. The first is the most difficult to influence and control, which is to entice young people to enter the trade. This is a complex societal issue and I think manufacturers should support where possible but focus their efforts where they can have the most impact, specifically product design. Manufacturers need to design and craft new products that minimize the need for skilled labor to install. Given the shortage is chronic with no near-term solution, manufacturers need to commercialize new technologies and products that simplify the builder and remodeler’s process without sacrificing quality or performance. Often, this can mean more expensive materials, but the reduction of labor and complexity costs of a well-designed product can often create lower installed costs. This requires a serious effort from manufacturers, not just line extensions of existing products but wholly new materials and designs that simplify the install process.
Q: As a new company, Arcitell’s official launch will be at the International Builders Show next February. In a nutshell, what should dealers look for?
A: Arcitell, LLC will debut the Qora Cladding line at IBS 2019. For LBM dealers looking to differentiate themselves, expand their share of siding sales, and provide a way for their customers to grow, Qora Cladding could be the solution. Qora Cladding is a residential cladding that faithfully replicates the looks of traditional materials like brick, stone and wood but is easy to install due to panelized design. Qora Cladding is fire- and UV-resistant, lightweight, durable and has thermal and acoustical properties.