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Lean and agile wins the race

By / March 7, 2018

As I write this, the 2018 Winter Olympics are in the record books. Watching the highlights, I was struck with how often the difference between Silver and Gold came down to mere hundredths of a second. For example, when American’s Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won our nation’s first-ever gold in cross-country skiing’s team sprint, they did it by edging out Sweden by just .19 seconds. Think about that. The winner in a race that lasted over 15 minutes came down to a fraction of a second. That’s just one of many examples from this year’s Winter Olympics, and only one parallel between the world of sport and our business.

How does your company measure success? While there are many different metrics, one universal measure is net margin. Acknowledging the razor-thin margins that define the LBM business, even a modest increase or decrease in margins can have a dramatic impact. Let’s say your company’s revenues were $20 million in 2017, with a net margin of 8%. That would mean your company put $1.6 million on the bottom line. Bumping margins up 2% would boost your bottom line by $400,000. That’s a 20% boost! Granted, building margins isn’t easy. But the growing number of companies who are making that their mission know that it’s not impossible. Like being a world-class athlete, it takes tremendous discipline…and it takes a plan.

If you’re drawn to the idea of having more money at the end of the year (to invest in bonuses, capital improvements, company expansion, etc.) from the exact same top-line sales, it’s time to take a hard look at lean. We talked to three of our industry’s top lean proponents—Scott Morrison, Ben Hershey and Jeff Tweten—for “Waste Not with Lean Principles” feature on page 44 of this issue. Lean was also the topic of an LBM Journal webinar held on February 22, and sponsored by Epicor. If you missed it, you can still watch the recording at LBMJournal.com/webinars.

Another key to being a winner, in the Olympics or at your place of business, is having the right tools and materials. Which brings me to the cover story of this issue, “Hot Products from IBS.” The products featured represent the latest, greatest offerings that we discovered from the half-million square feet of exhibit space at the 2018 International Builders’ Show. If you weren’t able to make it to Orlando for this year’s event, our recap will give you an overview of products we believe could help you help your customers in 2018.

Finally, my single favorite moment from the Olympics, was when Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecká shocked herself and the world when she won gold in the women’s super-G in alpine skiing. She was expected to medal in snowboarding (which she did, taking home the gold in the parallel giant slalom), but ranked a lowly 68th in alpine skiing. Ms. Ledecká is a golden example of someone who paid no attention to what people said she couldn’t accomplish. Instead, she went out and made it happen.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s what companies and people in our industry do every day. Our stories may not be televised, but they’re no less real. Here’s to working together to do amazing things in 2018 and beyond.

Rick Schumacher

Rick Schumacher is the editor and publisher of LBM Journal, and has more than 25 years experience covering the industry. [email protected]