Tough Call: The velocity of change

By / March 2, 2018

tough call the velocity of changeAs a third-generation owner/CEO of a LBM business, you may not have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but you definitely have an opportunity to continue building on a rock solid foundation. Your grandfather created the company from nothing, and your father took the young company to its next level. By the time you took over the reins in 2015, 4G Lumber had established a reputation among local building pros for having knowledgeable people, and for selling quality materials at fair prices.

There’s no doubt your dad and grandpa were successful, and very good at what they did. But, as a proud Gen Xer, you’ve always believed that you could do it a little better. After all, they had very specific ways of doing things, and of managing the business. Learning under their guidance, you realized that they saw things in mostly black and white, while you saw shades of gray. For them, if something worked, you almost always left it alone—even if presented with a better, faster way of accomplishing the same thing.

This was especially true when it came to technology. You remember when they grudgingly computerized the operation in the mid 1990s. As a kid, you thought this was so cool, and showed that your dad and grandpa were on the cutting edge. As it happened, that was the first and last time they ever invested in technology. When you talked with them about the potential of powerful management tools in emerging business software, they grunted and ended the discussion with “this computer works just fine.”

You swore that, if ever given the opportunity, you’d bring 4G Lumber into the 21st Century, and you’ve been true to your word. Since taking over less than three years ago, you’ve invested in a new, state-of-the-art ERP system. Delivery trucks are all outfitted with GPS, and salespeople are equipped with current model iPhones. An unexpected bonus of updating your technology has been the ability to attract younger, tech-savvy people to join the company. Unfortunately, that “bonus” isn’t all positive.

Changes that instinctively make sense to you and your rising young employees are creating conflict with your company’s veteran workers and customers. “I understand the appeal of instant billing and delivery info, and I even agree with some of the new sales approaches,” explained Bob, your company’s longtime General Manager. “The systems we’re replacing may not be the latest/greatest thing, but they work. And our team and our customers are comfortable with them. Morale among our core people is taking a hit, and some long-time customers have told me that we’re forcing changes on them that they didn’t ask for, and don’t want. I want 4G Lumber to move forward, but I’m concerned that the changes are too much, too fast.”

You know that Bob has a point. It’s true that you’ve been pushing the tech upgrades, even though you knew that it’d create issues with some members of your team. That was expected, though you were confident you could coach them through it. But you didn’t know that these changes could alienate customers as well. What would you do?

1. Keep pushing. They’re called “growing pains” for a reason. You know that the more you leverage technology, the more successful you’ll be. Stay strong, and stay the course.

2. Take a breath. As much as you want to keep pushing forward, it may be time to let your team and your customers digest the changes made to this point, before introducing any more.

3. Get buy-in. Bob is right. Take time to solicit feedback from employees and customers about any future changes you’re considering. Then, move forward only when you’ve got buy-in.

4. Prioritize. Sit down with your customers, explain that you can’t afford the cost of custom-order mistakes. Ask them to work with you to come up a solution that works for everyone.

SOMETHING ELSE? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to [email protected] If we publish your reply, we’ll send you a LBM Journal mug.


What would you do?

See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at LBMJournal.com.
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the May 2018 issue.

Rick Schumacher

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