The latest news and other interesting stuff.
May 25, 2018
“THE KEY FOR US, NUMBER ONE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN HIRING VERY SMART PEOPLE.” – BILL GATES
If your company is typical, 80% of your profits come from the top 20% of your people. The P&L tells no lies. How well equipped are you to hire more people that rank in the top 20%?
Here are 5 key traits for you to assess your recruiting process:
1: Sourcing: Flow of quality talent is the first step. If you start with a poor talent pool, there is no recovery and your chances for success are grim. There are two types of talent, those who are in the job market and those who are not. One recruiting secret, the most talented professionals are rarely looking. How effectively is your recruiting process uncovering the talent that is not looking? For top professionals, there is significant risk in exploring new opportunities and changing their career course. Fear of change and the unknown culture of a new company combined with a sense of betrayal of your current employer make this a daunting task for even the most qualified professionals. Breach of loyalty in the most progressive companies can be devastating to one’s career. Most internal recruiting efforts miss out on sourcing this high level of talent.
2: Confidentiality: Strict adherence to a confidential process is critical to protecting your talent and customers. If there is an incumbent in place, the importance of confidentiality is even more sensitive to hiring companies. It is extremely difficult for the even the best company led recruiting processes to maintain confidentiality, but any recruiting firm worth its salt should be able to outline in detail the steps they take to cover their tracks and mask their recruiting efforts.
3: Scorecard: What does winning look like? Or as I prefer to ask: “If one year from now we are raising our wine glasses to toast a job well done, what has this professional done?” How have they impacted your P&L and what are the essential tools and resources that they have leveraged to achieve this? Your scorecard should include defined measurable outcomes (success) and the list the proven history of success traits required of a candidate to get you there. Spending the time to answer these questions up front will enable you to create a list of essential skills and traits, to understand past successes as well as the cultural dynamics. Finally, a rigorous ranking of these items is the heavy lifting. Number 1 on the list should be twice as important as number 2. Developing the right Scorecard is key.
4: Selling: Why is your company the best place to work? Is it the best place for this professional? It makes sense that companies struggle to sell themselves to their candidates. They lack objectivity and are emotionally attached to the situation. Let’s drop the idea that if you sell a professional somehow it limits your ability to vet them. Try this exercise: 1) Create a “best place to work” ranking of your customers and your vendors. 2) Create a “Best place to work” list of your peer competitors. 3) Make a list of peer companies outside of your area of competitive reach and rank them. I doubt most leaders could list the top 3 peer companies in the next major metro area much less describe what is it like to work at them. Business leaders are focused on their people, their customers and their suppliers and that myopic perspective impairs their ability to objectively assess their company’s unique talent value proposition relative to their peers. Consider thoughtfully how you would sell a professional when they ask, “Given the competitive options, why would a professional want to work here?” Take the time to develop your talent value proposition. As leaders, you should be the best at delivering your 90-second pitch. Rehearse it. Capture it on video.
5: Vetting: Any professional skilled at vetting will tell you that their process begins with exceptional Sourcing (#1). Having a top-notch pool of candidates to draw from allows you to head into a rigorous interview phase with confidence. Now you dig in to differentiate between high performers with a proven history of success, and those riding the coat tails of these professionals, those who coast on the rising tide of the company or market. The most reliable strategy for removing biases and revealing blind spots when vetting is to have multiple interviewers with diverse backgrounds using scripted questions from your meticulously developed Scorecard.
How is your competition getting ahead? Remember, probability of success or failure starts with the quality of your talent pool.
Our team is presenting 5 fully vetted professionals for every project within 3-4 weeks. We have focused strictly on the building products industry for 20 years, and this history has allowed us to develop and leverage our long-term relationships and provide thorough, credible references for our clients.
Reach out to learn how our team can impact your 2018 Goals!
April 9, 2018
Celebrating my favorite mentor
Time passes regardless of our desires. Later this month, Bill Vogt, one of the best human resource leaders in our industry, is planning to retire from Zeeland Lumber and Supply.
Let’s jump back to a time when his walk was a little faster, and his stories might have been little shorter. On that day back in 1992 when Bill Vogt and Jim Cavanaugh met in Edmund Oklahoma, I doubt either of them imagined what was in store for them. Jim was a 39-year-old president of a small 4 location lumber dealer called Hope Lumber and Supply, HQ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their sales revenue at the time was less than $50M. Bill was also about 39 years old, with a master’s in public administration from the University of Virginia, looking to leverage his experience. He showed interest in Jim’s vision and was hired. Over the next 15 years together they would build Hope Lumber into a 75-location top performing company, with 1200 employees, covering 10 states and generating $1.2B in annual sales revenue.
Financials are the ultimate report card. Hope Lumber consistently performed:
Inventory Turns: 10
Corporate Allocation: 1.5%
How did they do it? Here are some excerpts from my conversations with them.
Human Resources Leadership:
Jim: I saw Bill transform from an “in-the-trenches, hands-on, do everything” manager to an Executive HR professional, leading a staff of talented individuals as a team. Not many individuals have the capability, adaptability or expertise to lead, grow and adjust that quickly. Because of Bill’s unique talent, humility and undying commitment to do “right” by both the employees and the company, he was not only able to grow and adapt but THRIVE in this rapidly changing environment. Remember, Hope Lumber completed 20 acquisitions, added 70 locations and over 1000 employees. Bill did an exceptional job, allowing the rest of the team to concentrate on transitioning customers and revenue.
Bill is quick to acknowledge Jim’s support: I will always appreciate how deliberate Jim was with my development. We both understood that if I didn’t understand the details of the business how could I be effective in impacting the company objectives? In turn, I worked hard at earning my place at the strategy table.
Hire Entrepreneurial Talent as Location Managers:
Bill: Jim’s and my thinking were very, very similar. He truly saw and valued strategic human resources input. He was a driver who knew that he didn’t want to be the kind of corporate executive who pulled strings on puppets… he didn’t have time for it. My role was to make sure we were people smart. Standards were set, but he also granted the autonomy necessary to hire highly talented people. Hire talent solutions, support them but also get out of their way. We both agreed, building a culture of excellent talent with loose reins on people was our vision. If you must light fires under people, you likely have some combination of poor leadership and the wrong people on the team.
The Right Compensation Program:
Bill: A good understanding of psychology added to incentive plans is the secret to great compensation programs. Our compensation program at Hope Lumber was almost perfect. It was designed to attract the kind of decisive entrepreneur who would manage our operations as if it were their own company, the only difference being that they didn’t have to come up with the working capital. We collected the first 2% of sales to cover the salaries we paid, paying out 10% of the remaining part of operating profit, adjusted down if they mismanaged their inventory, accounts receivable, or safety benchmarks. We wanted to pay large bonus checks.
Jim: Bill developed industry-leading incentive compensation plans for managers, salesmen, truck drivers, load builders and production workers. Many of those plans are still being used today! He provided the leading edge of the transformation and consistent superior achievement of personal performance.
Culture of Performance and Integrity:
Jim: Hiring and vetting for integrity are key. The loose reins granted to our location managers meant we had to have confidence that their values aligned. Hope Lumber had some of the best location, market and executive leadership in the industry. Many of those professionals are in top leadership roles at BFS, BMC and other companies today. Bill had a tremendous impact on the development of this structure as well as the recruitment of those leaders.
Bill: The incentive program and culture of performance drove out incompetent talent rather efficiently. We believed clear and objective personnel evaluations respected the integrity of the underperformer while giving the opportunity to grow and protected our culture at the same time.
We all have mentors, those people who have generously shared their wealth of knowledge and experience with us. Bill, thank you for giving this once 29-year-old rookie recruiter a shot at serving you 20 years ago. When I tell stories of the shoulders of giants I am standing on, yours are the first ones told. Your friendship will always be valued. Now we can focus on more important goals, like catching big fish in the Gulf.
His walk might be a little slower, the stories a little longer, but don’t underestimate the depth of his knowledge, experience or the breadth of his career achievements. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Bill with your human resource questions – just make sure you have a full cup of coffee, a clean notepad and plenty of time…
View this article in ProSales
March 19, 2018
The toughest aspect of owning and leading an independent business, is being alone. The isolation while making critical decisions, with only your experiences to reference, is limiting. The collective mastermind of our industry leaders – combined with their generosity – might be the greatest untapped resource at your feet.
Last week at the ProSales 100 Conference we had the privilege of hosting 80 pro-dealer leaders for wine and dinner. 80 independent operators in one room. The goal was simple, create a warm environment that enables leaders to establish new relationships across the industry. At the end of the day we all face similar challenges and problems – there is no reason to fight the battle alone. (And there is nothing wrong with having some fun along way!)
Listen to what leaders say about our executive dinners:
It is a privilege to share our circle of trust with the top leaders in our industry. It is an honor to serve them and share in their energy and enthusiasm around our dinner social events.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to register for our Preferred Attendee list. We will provide you with notices and reserve seating for our future Executive Dinners.
With every breath keep growing! – Tony
February 16, 2018
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” – Eckhart Tolle
As an independent owner/operator your greatest strength lies in your ability to differentiate, to step off the beaten path and live in your largest competitors’ blind spot. Today that blind spot is the People.
Something interesting happened January 10th, 2018. Peter Alexander, President and CEO of the BMC company, was replaced by David Keltner as interim CEO. Remember, Peter came to BMC Select, the second largest full line lumber dealer in the industry, in July 2010 and led the company 6 months after emerging from bankruptcy and reorganization as a private holding. Peter then re-defined BMC Select, focused on people over profits and over the next 5 years built a company capable of buying Stock Building Supply in June 2015. BMC shareholders became owners of 60% of the new company, a result of BMC superior profit margin. Profit differentials aside, the greater challenge became integrating these two companies’ divergent cultures. A rough road at times, but the journey was completed in less than 30 months under Peter’s leadership. Fast forward to January 2018. The act of moving a board member in the interim role and no successor in place as the company conducts a search is not the preferred method of CEO transition, making it difficult to believe this was part of any long-term plan. The average tenure of CEOs among the top 3,000 publicly traded US companies is 9 years. No board wants their CEO to flame out in the first 30 months. Why would the BMC board replace Peter now?
Granted, running dual corporate headquarters in different states seems dysfunctional. The majority of administrative and financial professionals operate from the old Stock Building Supply HQ in Raleigh, while the executive leaders operate from the new HQ in Atlanta; this would seem to be fertile ground for silos to develop. Potentially the tale of the dual headquarters is a reflection that the integration never really happened where it matters most, in the boardroom? Stock Building Supply executives still hold board seats and historically their strategic plan has been clear: focus on operations first, measure metrics and cut costs. A common financial-first agenda potentially should not a be a surprise from a board with only 2 operators and 7 financial-first professionals.
BMC, under Peter Alexander, excelled at developing people and fostering high levels of autonomy in each market, gaining high levels of engagement from its people through being sales-driven and operationally aware. Remember the result of this method was BMC gaining 60% of the equity of the combined BMC/ Stock organization. How does Peter’s strategy mesh with the Stock Building Supply operations-first, efficiency, top down business model? Based on recent events, it doesn’t. Hence the transition to David Keltner.
Conversely, running a $3.6B business serving 43 metro markets across 18 states, in a decentralized structure, puts a colossal demand on talent. The new direction of the BMC board does have its advantages. It lowers the level of talented experience needed in the field and lowers risk as all key decisions come from HQ. The mantra from executive leaders becomes “watch your spreadsheets, focus on operations and efficiency metrics and we will handle the rest”. If you are 24 years old, with a lot of energy and motivation but lack of experience, this could be a great place to start your career. Operations-first, spreadsheet leadership models can work well when developing an inexperienced work force. As demand increases in a rising new home construction market, does the value of experienced professionals decline? As the national production builders’ share of new home starts continues to increase, does the operations-first and spreadsheet business model have advantages? The BMC leaders appear to be betting on it.
If you are an independent dealer owner competing against BMC, 84 Lumber, Builders FirstSource, or any dealer with volume over $1B in annual sales, turning their blind spot into your greatest competitive edge is clear – focus on the top talented people. The greatest competitive advantage of being a small or mid-size independent business is the ability to attract and top-grade talent. As the largest dealer competitors become over focused on financials and the daily stock price, leveraging this advantage steadily becomes much easier to achieve with broader impact. A solid benchmark for your team might be: for every $5M in sales you should have a professional who is in the top 10% best-in-class in the industry. If you are a $100M company, you should have 20 people that are in the top 10% best-in-class in the industry. Developing and hiring 20 top graded professionals with the right resources can be achieved quickly. Think about it, if BMC applied this method on $3.6B in sales they would need 720 people that are in the top 10% best-in-class. Impossible? Maybe. Improbable? Likely! The top-talent people problem for the largest dealers in the industry is potentially the #1 reason they shift their strategy toward centralization and reducing authority in the markets.
Re-create your Human Resources initiatives into your core strategy. Misura Group is helping organizations redefine their recruiting strategy and evaluate the alignment of resources behind their core recruiting objectives through our Strategy + Culture + People workshop. The program’s popularity is forcing us to develop a webinar to meet the increasing demand. Call us to learn how Misura Group can help your Human Resource initiative become your greatest competitive edge.
With every breath keep growing. – Tony
View this article in ProSales
February 2, 2018
“I am always in conversation and sometimes other people are involved.” – Mark Twain
It is human nature to explain our life experiences to ourselves in a way that supports our beliefs and protects our ego. These “stories” are based on fact but colored by our perspective. Everyone has a perspective – they may be different than our own, but this doesn’t mean they are wrong. Perspectives are subjective. As leaders it’s our role to flush out the facts, separate them from the explanations and excuses (stories), and make sure our decisions and actions are based on an objective assessment of the situation.
The following are common stories I have heard from industry owners and leaders:
“The rising lumber market significantly reduced our company profits in 2017”
While it may be a fact that the lumber markets are rising, it is not the “lumber market’s” fault that profits are falling. It is the owner/leader that lacked the foresight to develop a purchasing strategy to coincide with the long-term pricing guarantees, and then allowed the sales team to be lazy in their response to these market changes.
“The housing starts and job growth rates are flat in my market area, reducing our profits” and “The political leadership is hurting business in my area”
Again, it may be a fact that housing starts and job growth are flat, however, healthy businesses run by astute leaders gain share in a retracting market. A rising tide raises all boats, even the leaky ones. Too often the core strategy, or lack thereof, for many owners is reliant on the market or other factors outside their control. Instead, explore the growth areas in your market. Find the soft spots of your competition, innovate, evolve and grow. Your profits are reflective of your unique value proposition, operational discipline and culture. All three of these define your purpose and are within your circle of control.
“The unemployment rate is so low I cannot hire enough people to improve my profits” usually followed by “The turnover rate of millennials is hurting my business”
Yes, unemployment rates are low, but your high turnover rate is more likely reflective of your strategic business plan, strength of leadership and culture. The best leaders develop excellent human resource executives, who turn their human resources department into a core competitive strength. Companies that continue to over-value operations and sales executives and leave human resources in a subordinate role will continue to be disadvantaged and deprived.
Owners and leaders – take control, rise above the common emotional self-preservation conversations in your head. Observe, collect the facts and adjust your stories based on the newly found information. The best cultures actively make this a team event, supporting each other and constantly searching for new perspectives on common topics. The opportunities are there but you have change your perspective to see them.
With every breath keep growing. -Tony
View this article in ProSales
January 15, 2018
What are your goals for 2018?
If you are looking to advance in your career, while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have access to the resources you need to reach your personal and professional goals?
- Do you have the time to find opportunities that align with your skills and values?
- Does your network include peers, customers, and competitors within the building products industry?
We are driven to help professionals reach their goals by connecting them with opportunities that align with their core values. Our passion is building relationships in the building products industry, and our network consists of leaders that put people before profits.
Take control of your career path – call us today. – Tony
January 8, 2018
We cherish our partnerships with long-term clients as well as new relationships. Together we can hire the right talent, build stronger teams, and produce better results for your organization.
|Andy Klapperick, Vice President of Operations
Ted Willoughby, Vice President of Sales
|Steve Larson, President|
|John Sewall, CEO||Scott Blackburn, President|
|Bill Vogt, Vice President of Human Resources||Todd London, Senior Vice President of Sales|
|Mark Mosher, General Manager||Adam James, Millwork General Manager|
|Ryan Hubert, General Manager
Jason O’Brien, General Manager
Bronson Royer, Outside Sales
Chris Lee, Sales Manager
|Dan Korgan, Truss General Manager
Tim Saville, Truss Division Sales/Design Manager
|Ken Thompson, Commercial Door and Hardware Manager||Ken Oetjen, Operations Manager|
We look forward to contributing to your success in 2018!
January 5, 2018
We are excited to be a part of the NLBMDA, in good company with organizations that share our passion for the building materials industry. We look forward to becoming more involved and collaborating with and learning from other members.
About the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA)
The NLBMDA represents its members in the national public policy arena, with emphasis on efforts to 1) promote the industry and educate legislators and public policy personnel; and 2) assist legislative, regulatory, standard-setting and other government or private bodies in the development of laws, regulations and policies affecting lumber and building material dealers, its customers and suppliers. Founded in 1917, the association represents over 6,000 member locations operating single or multiple lumber yards and component plants serving homebuilders, subcontractors, general contractors, and consumers in the new construction, repair and remodeling of residential and light commercial. www.dealer.org
View the original press release here.
December 21, 2017
“Misura Group delivered Ted Willoughby, our VP of Western Sales and Andy Klapperick, our VP of Supply Chain Operations in early 2017 – both were essential to increasing the value of Ultralox. Tony was able to quickly assess our needs and leverage his industry network, providing a pool of solid professionals. We continue to use Misura Group.”
– Edward Peterson, Founder of Ultralox
If you want the best outcome, you have to work with the best. We align the skills and abilities of our candidates with the needs of our clients with unmatched speed and quality. – Tony
October 27, 2017
The ProDealer Summit in Phoenix last week was highlighted by Ivy Zelman’s presentation. Ivy is the founder of Zelman and Associates who is focused on US housing market analysis. Ivy, known as “Poison Ivy” by her bosses at Credit Suisse when in 2006 she called the housing bubble in the midst of the robust market we thought would never end. She followed up to call the 2012 bottom, again more accurately and ahead of her peers.
Following are my notes from her presentation:
Age in place: Retired people are staying in their single-family homes past 80 years of age, limiting the supply of homes for millennials. Remodeling is driven by debt/equity ratio in housing. Currently 30% of single family homes have no debt, 5% have greater than 20% equity, 4% are underwater. Combined with the single family home average age of 41 yrs., Ivy is “Bullish in Remodeling”. People have money to spend and homes need the upgrading.
Construction labor market is tight, but not getting worse having leveled.
Land development is at the most active point since the downturn with developers profiting from subdividing C grade raw land. A reflection of the high demand.
The increased flexibility and support from the banking industry providing home mortgage loans is a story not getting out. FHA loans for 3.5% down for borrowers with 620 FICA scores are widely available.
Home mortgage interest tax deduction changes will be limited to homes over $500,000 and home owners with an annual income over $100,000 (which only make up 14% of home owners). Second homes will likely lose the tax deduction. Overall, Ivy believes it will have little if any impact on the housing market.
Demand: Millennials are getting married, having babies and wanting space to grow their families. Surging demand beyond obstacles, new homes are in broadly short supply.
Ivy is projecting housing starts to increase 12% in 2018 and 10% in 2019. As of today, the top 10 publicly traded production builder stock prices are up on average 82% in the past 52 weeks. Wall Street seems to agree with Ivy’s calculations.
When the question was asked whether increasing prices of softwood and panels will be an obstacle, her comment was along the lines of “don’t hesitate to increase your prices they need your materials.” National Production Builder profit margins are 19-22%, the market demand can handle the increase in material expense.
The gasp from the crowd was hard to miss.
Published every other week by Ivy and her team, The Z Report is rooted in proprietary research and opinions and void of advertisements, focusing exclusively on rich content for executives and business leaders that removes all the noise of volatile and unreliable macro data. We encourage you to visit The Z Report webpage to learn more and sign up for a free trial subscription.
Dr. Robert Dietz, the Chief Economist from NAHB, also presented. His review was more conservative projecting 7% increase in single family housing in 2018 and another 7% in 2019. Student college loan debt increasing 220% in the past 10 years, 1.9% GDP projection, and labor constraints were highlights to his position.
These slides in his presentation I found the most interesting. US Wage Growth is 2.5% across all industries, seems like a low hurdle for our industry to draw talent from other sectors.
Overall US Productivity from all industries from 1993 to present has increased 25%, over the same time period the construction industry is a flat 0% increase. In the past 25 yrs. construction productivity has not changed. The World Wide Web was first tested in 1993, fax machines, pagers, 4% of the population had a giant box cell phones, this was the technical status of 1993 – and the construction industry productivity is the same as 1993. What an immense opportunity! The dealers that develop productivity improvements in construction will have the greatest competitive edge and profits will follow. Might be a solid topic to start your next strategic planning session?
August 28, 2017
It is convenient to blame the talent pool when leaders are struggling to generate quality candidates. As you run your normal traps, internet job posting, leveraging your network, offering finder fees to your people ask the key question; What steps are you taking to access the talent rich, Passive Candidate Pool?
Sourcing Passive Candidates can be difficult as the best professionals are not job searching. Rather they are focused on their day to day challenges at work, while supporting their families and personal well-being. Hiring companies face more complex hurdles when attempting to reach this talented group. Following is a list of natural obstacles companies face when trying to source Passive Candidates:
- You are a competitor, creating an inherent atmosphere of distrust
- Confidentiality breach, risking candidates’ current career position and income
- Your network is designed to know your customers, not your peers. Certainly not your peers outside of your served market area
- Your angle is to sell them on your position, making your actions predictable and biased
- It’s a time and resource drain for leaders
Misura Group approaches professionals to help them reach their personal and professional goals. As a 3rd party, that guarantees confidentiality, with personal coaching expertise and a database focused on the Building Products industry nationally provides us with the resources to be effective with the toughest search projects.
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August 14, 2017
“To be egoless one must withstand repeated attacks of success” – Ryan Holiday
If you think you are safe from the silent darkness of ego, the book’s rich stories of powerful leaders who have fallen at their own hand may shift your perspective. Whether subjecting yourself to the Greek tragedy, or minor displays of ego driven behavior, understand that it comes with being human and affects everyone. Ego is the salve we all crave that soothes the fear and insecurity. Following is an action overview of the book Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. The book caught my attention after reading that when Pete Carroll asked Bill Belichick what recent great steps he has taken to improve his team, Bill sent him a copy of this book.
Here are the top 10 steps to manage your ego:
1: Be fact driven. Suffocating egos with facts and hard data is effective. Warning: one must develop great intestinal fortitude to become effective at this step. Ignorance is bliss behind rose colored glasses.
2: Pursue regular self-evaluation with detachment. The reason 360 Degree reviews are so effective. With detachment is key.
3: Embrace continuous improvement. The first step in learning is admitting there is much you don’t know, further being concerned that what you think you know, might be wrong.
4: Avoid passion, focus on purpose. Passion is unbridled enthusiasm and a form of mental retardation, deliberately blunting our most cognitive functions. Purpose is like passion with boundaries.
5: What is your purpose? What are you here to do? Answer these questions every day.
6: Create a grand purpose that is larger than you. Now your standards of achievement have become more difficult and easier at the same time. Might be my favorite point of the book.
7: Stay present with decisive action. A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except their thoughts losing touch with reality. Idle action allows depression and anxiety to set in, both of which are merely our egos at work.
8: Do not talk or write about your potential success. It saps your energy away from taking action. Silence is the respite for the confident and strong. The only relationship between work and chatter is one destroys the other. “Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.” Lao Tzu.
9: How do your Performance Standards rate? Compare yourself or business model to industry peers. Best way to fool yourself is to stay in your bubble.
10: Have a mentor to look up to, peer to compete with and someone you are mentoring. Many do this at work where personal economic rewards are the goal. Challenge yourself to also achieve this in an environment absent of economic motives. Might be the most powerful words I took out of the book. A clear path into the most powerful universal energy.
“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
To your measured success and resiliency through failure! -Tony
July 21, 2017
“There are no bad soldiers only bad generals” – Napoleon
The book The Generals by Thomas Ricks struck such a chord with me on the topic of leadership and team building, that I feel compelled to share the key points of the book. With the global political crisis looming in September of 1939, General George C. Marshall received a clear directive from FDR. His mission was to build a world class army, and fast. He inherited a feeble ill-equipped army of 190,000 troops. Many of the officers were hold over veterans from WWI waiting to retire. What was the first step he took knowing he had to build a giant Army 40x its current size? He fired 600 officers, keeping only 11 of 43 Generals. He created a preferred leader profile and objectively removed those leaders who were risk averse, plodding, or lacking the energy, passion and skills needed to perform at the top most level.
What was the outcome of this risky leadership move? From 1939 to 1944 the Army grew from 190,000 troops to over 8,000,000. It was an army that made mistakes, but learned and adapted from those mistakes at a pace that left British leaders astonished. The initial firings created opportunity, attracting the best young, flexible and eager to learn leaders who were engaged in growing their military careers. In 1941, Eisenhower was a Colonel, rising to become a 3 Star General and Commander in Chief of the Allied forces in the following year; that is 3 promotional levels in 1 year.
General Marshall’s secret was respecting the strategy of relieving officers as being part of the process of individual development and growth, and is essential to protecting the desired organizational culture. Accountability becomes the energy behind adaptability, when leaders delay terminations, they also diminish the rigor of the organization’s culture. The risk of getting fired is the price leaders pay for having a high level of autonomy and the freedom to be self-directed. General Marshall said, “When a general complains of the morale of his troops, the time has come to look at his own.”
What is the greatest factor in determining the outcome of wars: strategy, tactics, logistics, technology or personnel policy?
The American forces in the Korean War suffered from poor leadership under the egomaniacal General MacArthur who was removed by Truman for cause. He was replaced by General Ridgeway, who was capable and effective, but the military leaders struggled to recruit officers to serve in Korea for fear it might blemish their career paths. Unfortunately, the US Army continued its rapid decline through the 1960s and ’70s. Ricks makes a compelling case that the devastation of the Army’s culture was a result of their policy of 13-month tours for soldiers, and 6-month rotations for officers, combined with little to no enforcement of performance standards. The My Lai disaster and the lack of repercussions for the officers and top leaders conducting the cover up was the defining peak of “Good Ol’ Boys” policy among the Army’s generals. My Lai was so embarrassing, the Army decommissioned the entire Americal Division. You can read of the blind ego of LBJ, and the incurious and foolish General Westmorland, but modern generals agree, the personnel policy of new young soldiers with no experience being led by officers with no experience on 6-month rotations was the prevailing failure. Protecting Officers’ careers became the primary goal, not protecting soldiers, ethics or winning the war.
Does your company suffer from Institutional Mediocrity?
Fast forward to modern times, rarely is a general relieved. The few times it does happen it’s for personal foibles, not for performance in command, and it is done by civilian leaders, not within the ranks of Military leadership. In the Iraq War, a private who loses his rifle receives a heavier penalty than a general with weak command who loses the battle, or even the war. General Mattis is the one of a few Army leaders to relieve a general in the past 20 years. General Mattis was quoted as saying, “Even Jesus Christ had 1 out of 13 not make the cut.” His vision of accountability driving adaptive growth is a glimmer of light.
What is the result of this culture in our time? Brigadier General Mark Arnold commented that when 94% of all Colonels receive a promotion in the same year, “that rings loudly of institutionalizing mediocrity”. The personnel equivalent of Gresham’s Law is that bad leaders drive out good ones. A study in 2010 by the Army Research Institute concluded “that the main reason talented people leave is not the lure of a lucrative civilian career, but because mediocre people stay in and get promoted.”
Thomas Ricks does his homework as Pulitzer Prize winning authors should, referencing personal letters, diaries and testimonials delivering a nuanced perspective of every general since WWII, in a quite candid style. It’s a leadership themed book with much to be mined. Many stories of great generals, Bradley, Abrams, Ridgeway, DePuy can be added to the list alongside Marshall and Eisenhower as models for us to strive towards. Reading how tactical focus not only undermines the ability to think strategically, but seems to erode desire to do so was insightful. However, by far the most shocking revelation are the seemingly endless examples of the power of personnel policy.
What does this mean to the leaders in the Building Products Industry?
For 20 years I have had the privilege of watching and working with many owners, leaders and companies across the US as a national recruiter. Here is what I have learned:
- We can accurately predict which companies will gain market share by the strength of the owner and the top leader of the company.
- We actively list the best owners and leaders to target as our clients.
- We are as diligent listing the weak and incapable owners and leaders whose egos make them helpless, as we know it will be easy to recruit away their best talent.
- Both lists are equally important.
Rigorous 360 reviews and re-assigning or firing poor leaders are essential tools in building great companies. Your people deserve the best leaders providing the best chance of winning in this competitive world today.
View this article in ProSales
July 5, 2017
Talent acquisition is one of the most important factors in the success of a business. Done right, a good hire will make a huge impact on your organization – and likewise if done wrong, the negative impact could be detrimental. You know what you are looking for in a leader – so why work with an external recruiter to find talent? Ask yourself these three questions to see if your current strategy is yielding the best results.
Do you really know your talent pool?
Sure, you can post your open position on a job board and receive multiple applications. But what percentage of the talent pool is actually looking? Of those looking, how many are actually a good fit for your company? Recruiters find the best talent – regardless of whether they are job hunting. We have the ability to not just fill a job, but find the individual who aligns best with all aspects of the position and your company.
Do you have the time and resources to find multiple truly qualified candidates to choose from when hiring leadership?
An open position is costing you money. Can you afford to wait for talent to come to you? A recruiter brings in pre-qualified candidates so you can get right to the selection process. But not all recruiters are created equal. We consistently provide 5-7 qualified candidates within 2-3 weeks so the candidate can begin making an impact on your organization.
Is your current strategy working?
To find the right candidate you need access to a national network of top talent – passive candidates who probably view you as a competitor. You have to remove the barriers of emotions, biases, and complacency. As a third party, we can remain objective and focus on the opportunity. Bottom line, there is an individual that is the best fit for the position and your company – and we will find them.
Do you really know your talent pool? Do you have 5-7 candidates to choose from when hiring for leadership positions? Is your current strategy working? If you answered “no” to any of these questions – contact us today to learn more about how working with Misura Group can make an immediate impact on your organization.
May 30, 2017
Companies typically spend more on hiring in sales than they do anywhere else in the firm – but the right sales hire can bring in a huge return on investment.
In the HBR article “The Best Ways to Hire Salespeople” Frank V. Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter reinforce some key tactics in hiring Sales professionals:
- Hire for the task
- Focus on behaviors
- Be clear about relevant “experience”
We would rank their 8-point score card in the following order:
Ability to learn:
If you are teaching a sales class, what 3 books will you reach for to prepare?
Outdated books often equal outdated thinkers; those who struggle trying to solve new world problems with old world thinking.
And those who can’t list any books, well… move on!
Prioritization of tasks:
How do you manage your time?
Triaging time is key. Don’t use the word “prioritization” and see how long it takes for them to bring it up.
Develops sales leads:
What is your business development practice?
The best have a practiced system they are continually evolving.
Who is a perfect client for your top competitor?
Knowing your company’s value proposition and how it aligns with your customers’ needs is a solid first step. Knowing the competition is better.
Commits time and effort:
How do you move through the emotional lows of the selling cycle?
Resiliency is an art and science. The best know both.
How do you manage the risks of a multi-tasking profession?
Sales is a common landing zone for those with ADHD. Awareness is the key.
What do your customers need that they are unaware of?
Uncommon and hard to find in an OSR. It can be a struggle finding this in a VP of Sales, much less Sales Managers.
Controlled work approach:
Are they consistent?
What are examples of inconsistencies in your work habits? If they have nothing, they are insecure and lying. To be human is to struggle at times with inconsistency.
Be tough, strategic, and consistent with your interview process!
Are you taking control of your sales? Learn more.
May 18, 2017
Why do leading private equity investment companies like Building Industry Partners trust Misura Group to help them grow? We know the best industry leaders. Building Industry Partners is focused in the U.S. middle-market building products industry.
“We have high expectations, but Misura Group has delivered excellent President talent for our Evergreen Lumber and Split Rail Fence companies.”
– Zach Coopersmith, Managing Partner, Building Industry Partners
Recent 2017 Placements
Organizations that focus on their people first win big. Contact us to discover the excellent talent in our industry.
February 20, 2017
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda
Simply stated, our mission is to help professionals navigate planfully through their careers.
Our recent article on non-competes was written with the intent of enlightening professionals to the common miss-steps. The themes and human patterns are there for you to compare with what you see from your perspective, in your world:
- Ego and emotions clouding the judgement of otherwise top critical thinkers and professionals.
- New employees feeling vulnerable to prove their value at great legal risk.
- People paralyzed with fear blindly making legal comments, with some companies leveraging that fear to their benefit.
January 9, 2017
We would like to congratulate Building Industry Partners and Allan Breidenbach, CEO of U.S. Fence, for their recent acquisition of Binford Supply. Binford Supply, is the second addition to support U.S. Fence’s install and distribution growth strategy.
Misura Group placed Allan as the CEO of U.S. Fence last year and we have enjoyed watching him impact the business. If you are a great company searching for a great leader in the building materials industry, contact us and we will help find your next successful executive leader.
January 5, 2017
It has been pleasure partnering with our long-time clients and building new business relationships with some of the industry’s leading companies. We value the trust they have in our firm to bring impact to their organizations.
November 14, 2016
In the ProSales Article “Life After LBM“ Craig Webb did a terrific job of outlining succession planning challenges facing our LBM owners and leaders.
July 23, 2016
Misura Group is honored to collaborate with LBM Journal at their upcoming conference in Charlotte September 6-8. This year’s event will be filled with presentations and open panel discussions allowing for best practice sharing and learning.
- Increasing Your Sales In Today’s Hyper-Competitive Reality
- The “Wow” Factor: Making Your Company a “Best Place to Work”
- Panel Discussion: Real World Strategies to Attract, Hire & Retain Millennials
- Panel Discussion: M&A Strategies: True Tales & Horror Stories
- What Next? Is Your Company Ready for its Next Chapter?
- Beyond Selling Sticks: Grow Your Business by Leveraging Services
- Strategy Z: Overcoming the Tyranny of Price Competition
- Getting Paid: Credit Management Strategies that Work
Conference Promotional Offer
Visit the LBM Strategies 2016 Conference website to learn more about the conference and to register. And now through July 31, apply promo code LBMTM16 and receive a $250 discount on your registration fee.
May 20, 2016
I am excited for the LBM Strategies 2016 Conference and honored to be listed with the excellent collection of industry leaders. As the conference approaches, I’d like to highlight the following event taking place:
Panel Discussion: Real World Strategies to Attract, Hire, and Retain Millennials
- Wendy Whiteash, SVP of Culture, US LBM Holdings
- Caitlin Stoll, Happy People Department Leader, Drexel Building Supply
- Moderated by Tony Misura, President, The Misura Group
Wendy, Caitlin and I will highlight the personal stories of recruiting success hiring the next generation. The stories will deliver insight and dispel the myths around the LBM industry being unattractive to Millennials. Through discussion, we will break down the barriers and misconceptions and sift through the stereotypes to reveal what’s real and what’s not.
January 5, 2016
It has been a pleasure partnering with our long-time clients and building new business relationships with some of our industry’s leading companies. We value the trust they have in our firm to bring impact to their organizations.
Mill Creek Lumber & Supply
Gary Poulos – President
Rick Vancil – Executive VP
Greg Kimbrell – District Mgr.
James Wallace – GM
HPM Building Supply
Adrian Murphy – Sr. Buyer
The Detering Co.
Analisa Pratt – Design & Sales
JP Hart Lumber Company
Duane Sanders – Div. President
Brandon Natale – VP Purch
Marvin Window and Doors
Jason Carmichael – Terr. Mgr.
Mill Creek Carpet and Tile
Gary Cissell – President
Building Industry Partners
Allan Breidenbach –
Great Southern Wood
Jeff Biddy – SYP Buyer
Cornerstone Building Alliance
Rakky Putnam –
Sales & Purchasing
We look forward to contributing to your success in 2016!
The Misura Group Executive Recruiting Team,
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