The latest news and other interesting stuff.
June 3, 2019
We recently took on a project to help an $80m millwork business with 180 employees find an exceptional HR executive leader. The private equity owners purchased the business and replaced the legacy operator with a new President in 2016. The sales at the time of purchase were $96m with 4% EBITDA, declining to $80m with 2% EBITDA by 2018, forcing them to replace the President in 2018. The private equity owners and the new President did not care to repeat their past mistakes; they requested our evaluation of the business model to help them develop the right questions to be successful in the turnaround. Candidly, private equity owners are some of our favorite clients – they have a high desire to win, embrace the facts and quickly adapt to new information.
The company they bought was stuck in what we call the “1974 Syndrome”. It was operated by a legacy founder and owner with an egocentric leadership style, with low performance expectations and discretionary bonuses. The cultural theme of “we take care of our people” with no metrics measurement in place can be interpreted as “guaranteed jobs for everyone.” The average age of level 2 and 3 leadership was 58 yrs. old and the companywide average tenure was approaching 19 yrs., which included a 25% turnover rate of the manufacturing crew. After cleaning out the back office, they donated the office equipment to the local museum including typewriters, copy machines, an old switchboard phone system, and several Apple II and Commodore 64 computers. The real treasure was the crate of Life Magazines from the 1970s.
The evaluation results:
- Underestimated the depth of the cultural problem
- Hired the wrong leader; the past President did not have a proven history of success solving entrenched cultural problems
- Undervalued the need for human resources support backing the President
The past President’s failures:
- Focused on evolving people who were between 35 and 55 yrs. old with an average tenure of 19 yrs.
- Did not hold top leaders accountable to new performance standards
- Did not follow the 20% “fresh blood” rule
What is the 20% fresh blood rule?
It is a critical step in driving change, 20% of the workforce must be new to the company and between 20-29 yrs. old. Hire hungry people. Leaders often make the mistake of thinking a few key new hires will make the impact desired, only to have the entrenched culture crush their spirits, forcing them into the fold or driving them out of the company. The subculture synergy needed will never develop a foothold with anything less than 20% fresh, hungry people. The old guard needs to feel pressure from the younger talent; their higher level of energy, hunger and synergy must be more powerful than the status quo.
It’s common for leaders to be overly optimistic about their abilities to drive change with the tenured employees of the organization. The historical behavioral patterns were rewarded for decades and have locked them into a state of inertia. To them, survival is doing everything possible to protect the homogeneous, indolent culture. Everyone agreed, for the President to be successful the organization needed 20% of the workforce to consist of new employees that are 20-29 yrs. old. Currently, with 180 people, the company needed to hire 36 new people to support the performance merit-based culture they envisioned. The goal was to create a competitive environment, identifying and rewarding high potentials – but the plan had to start with the ability to hire a lot of new talent. The owners agreed; the short-term higher payroll expense was well worth the investment to move the culture forward.
Who was the silver bullet?
The task of hiring 36 people was not something the benefits, payroll and safety focused HR team was capable of handling. It became quite clear the support the President needed was the right HR executive leader to deliver this critical part of the plan.
Scorecard for the HR leader:
- Must have led a company out of the 1974 Syndrome to success
- Must have built an effective, metrics-driven recruiting team
- Must have led a Best Place to Work objective
- Must have created and implemented a development program for high potentials
Everyone agreed, the administration, payroll, benefits and safety would be handled by the HR Manager, freeing up the VP of HR to focus on building a recruiting team and leading the cultural evolution.
Should the VP of HR come from the building materials distribution industry?
Our team was immediately concerned about the “Tallest Midget Syndrome”: a common recruiting mistake caused by limiting the search parameters, a specific industry segment or geography are the two most common limiting factors. In other words, setting up search parameters where the quality of a candidate might appear to be excellent due to the poor quality of the comparable candidates.
Our best tactic to guard against Tallest Midget Syndrome is recruiting two pools of talent, one within the tight parameters and one outside of the parameters. This gives our clients the power of comparison. Since the building materials distribution industry has been 10 yrs. behind the Best Place Work initiatives and cutting-edge recruiting practices, we were confident our talent pool would be much stronger with this dual search approach.
For the past 20 yrs. recruiting in our industry, a couple of things never made sense to me: there is a CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO… but never a Chief Human Resources Officer? The VP of Sales might make $250,000 – $350,000; the VP of Operations and VP of Manufacturing over $200,000; but HR leaders’ compensation has stayed in the $90,000 – $120,000 range for most companies ranging from $50m to $300m in sales.
HR leaders are finally getting recognized for their economic impact on the business. The HR leaders guiding companies with 200-500 employees outside the building materials distribution industry, who are excellent at recruiting talent and proven successful at competing for the Best Place to Work award, have base compensations starting at $150,000, with clear metric-based incentives that bring them to $200,000 – $250,000. Leaders in other industries have clearly learned that the company with the right talent and culture generates the highest profits.
A quick survey of the HR leaders’ compensation at building materials distributors that are roughly the same size with 200-500 employees:
The low end was $80,000 with no bonus up to $115,000 with 25% bonus; this made up for 80% of the companies surveyed. There are several companies that have embraced the greater-US trend and are paying a base of $150,000 – $180,000 with a $50,000 – $70,000 bonus.
Owners/leaders – if you are happy with your profits, then change nothing and celebrate being a great business builder. If not, consider recognizing the innate abilities and thinking styles needed to be successful at recruiting and driving a culture change. How different are those abilities and thinking styles from the traditional administrative duties of most HR positions? Hire the right HR talent and free up HR leaders from the trap of administrative responsibilities; allow them to focus their efforts on the greatest challenges in your company – likely recruiting talent and cultural evolution.
HR leaders – if you are happy with your compensation, then change nothing and celebrate personal and professional alignment. If not, consider upgrading your recruiting skills, specifically your marketing and sales skills. Develop an expert-level understanding of Best Place to Work leadership and implementation. If your company will not support you in these efforts, reach out to our experienced team for a professional assessment and to confidentially help you locate a better-aligned career opportunity.
Hire smarter – Tony
May 28, 2019
We were recently working to find the right General Manager for an LBM company that had a $20m location in the Southwest, serving general contractors in single-family new construction. The company started a satellite location, serving a market that was 90 miles away from the major metro market our client focused on serving. As a satellite location/market, the owner wanted a strong leader who could operate with full autonomy since the executive team needed to focus on their major metro business. This satellite location is in an underserved market, running with only an operations manager and dispatcher leading the team and needed a dedicated General Manager to grow. The owner and I believed with the right leadership, the location should drive $30m in sales and a 10% EBITDA in the first 2-3 years as a low-case financial benchmark.
As the owner honed his focus on the right candidate from the talent pool, he requested input on what the compensation package should be. He was struggling as this location is a standalone business, whereas their other locations operate together as a market. We asked our client to consider the following questions to determine the right compensation:
- What are the compensation levels for the 7 candidates in the talent pool who have a proven history of success growing a location from $20m – $30m in sales, in a highly autonomous and entrepreneurial business model?
- What is the competitive advantage of this location’s business model to gain and hold share on its own?
- What level of influence will the right leader have over the profit of the location?
- What is the key-person risk of the right General Manager? Retention planning is best done before you hire any professional.
- What is the return on investment modeled out at varied tiers as the business grows?
- What are the appropriate benchmarks for the General Manager to hit, making certain inventory, A/R and people are managed in a healthy way?
Our client found great comfort in the balance and forward-thinking elements of this process. The candidate we placed was excited to have an entrepreneurial opportunity to build a business and be rewarded for success.
The final step in this process, we reported the base and bonus compensation programs for 15 independent LBM businesses with a situation similar to our independent client company: $30m sales and 10% EBITDA.
The survey results:
The low-end: base salary of $100,000 and bonus of $75,000, $175,000 total. The high-end: base salary of $140,000 and bonus of $210,000, $350,000 total.
Top independent LBM companies’ base and bonus compensation ranged from $175,000 – $350,000. A difference of $175,000 between the independents.
BMC: $135,000 base and $35,000 bonus, $170,000 total. (Bonus calculated by a region, not the P&L of the location.)
Builders FirstSource: $100,000 base and $35,000 regional compensation, $135,000 total. (Bonus calculated by a region, not the P&L of the location.)
84 Lumber: $70,000 base and $180,000 bonus, $250,000 total. (Half of the bonus calculated on gross margin goals, paid monthly and half on profit, A/R, inventory and safety.)
US LBM: $140,000 and 25%, $175,000 total. (Bonus calculated as a percent of base salary.)
The large national LBM dealers base and bonus compensation ranged from $135,000 to $250,000.
There is a difference of $215,000 from the low end of the national LBM dealers to the high end of the independent LBM dealers.
The compensation differences make complete sense: business models, the market and the type of talent needed are all highly variable. Focus on collecting the relevant facts and the actions needed will become self-evident.
The driving factors:
- What is the competitive edge of the business model on its own, without the General Manager to attract talent and customers?
- What resources in leadership, structure and training are the company providing?
- What are the levels of entrepreneurial talent and autonomous experience expected from the General Manager?
- What are the gaps in the business model the General Manager is expected to fill?
- What is the competition offering this talent?
- What does the talent want that the competition is not offering?
“While the right design is essential, it is only half the battle. It is equally important to put the right people in each of those positions.” – Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
Owners/leaders: If you are pleased with the return on investment and profits on the bottom line, do not change anything. Well done being a great business builder! If not, focus your financial investment on getting the exact talent and skills needed. Remember, it all starts with the right leader. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Misura Group team to learn more about our process and 1-year guarantee on excellent industry leaders.
“In life, you don’t get what you want. You get what you think you deserve.” – Teddy Roosevelt
General Managers: Know your industry value! You will be spending 30,000 hours over the next 10 years of your life on work-related activities regardless. Make sure you know what you are worth and that you are valued for it. Reach out to our experienced Misura Group team to help you find great companies that value your talents.
Hire Smarter – Tony
May 13, 2019
Builders Millwork (BMI) is a $20M company headquartered in the heart of the Dairyland – Mondovi, WI. I first met Jerry Jehn, the owner, in 2008 walking into his office greeted by a life-size Wisconsin Bucky Badger Football player Fathead leaping off the wall. BMI is a great company with great people, providing architectural door and hardware products to general contractors focused on multi-family new construction projects in the upper Midwest. BMI’s model has supported a 15% growth rate YOY for the past 10 years. The shocking aspect of their business model, they have no sales team. Can you imagine your competitive edge being so great you have no need for a sales team? Well the BMI team not only imagined it, they did it.
How do you build a business model without a sales team?
Multi-family, commercial projects have been plagued by the Hardware Room for decades. The Hardware Room is a single room secured and designated to hold all door locks, hinges, closures and entry hardware needed for the project. One key is handed to the job superintendent to guard. It’s proven to be an efficient path to having lost products, hardware applied on the wrong openings and general time and money suck for everyone: general contractors, installing sub-contractors and the supplier. Jerry and the BMI team developed a solution – presorting the doors, millwork and hardware per unit. A 200-unit assisted living project will receive 200 materials packages, each marked and sorted by unit and phase. Hardware is palletized. This allows for easy and immediate distribution throughout the building and eliminates the need for hardware rooms and empty units for staging product. If units are ready, all materials can be delivered directly to the respective unit. Less time is spent handling the product and mitigating the risk of damaged or lost material. The BMI On-Site Optimization Program, the trademarked name for this process, has become the oxygen their customers need to survive.
Impact: Inventory shrink solved. Installers save on labor and stress. General contractors close projects on time. BMI does not have the headache of proving what was delivered and who is responsible for the loss.
Greater impact: Subcontracted installers demand BMI as the preferred supplier on their projects. Subcontractors have become the BMI sales team.
Jerry: “The BMI Value Proposition is our employees and their Midwest roots. Coming from a largely agricultural, hardworking heritage, our employees realize the value of hard work and are rewarded accordingly. We create an entrepreneurial culture where all employees participate in improving the company. Their opinions matter. Let the employees that are doing the work come up with the solutions. They share in the success and more importantly, take pride in being a part of the success. They take ownership.”
BMI is a team, no lone ranger swaggering sales persona driving their sales volume. No salesperson capable of moving their accounts to a competitor after a disagreement. The competitive edge was created by solving a major on-site construction problem, positioning them to operate without a sales team. What are the elements of your offering that are different from your competitors and in high demand? Clue: it’s not “on time and in full (OTIF)” or “customer service”.
Jerry is humble; make no mistake the quality of the team is a reflection of people the leader attracts. The competitive edge of the business model starts with a strategic thinking leader. You can measure the strategic abilities of any leader by their expenses on outside sales compensation and entertainment. High commission sales expenses and Canadian and Alaskan fishing trips might be a sign your competitive edge is over-reliant on your sales team and not the competitive edge of the business model.
Here are my top 6 strategic vetting questions:
1) When have you developed a market competitive edge? (proven history of success is must, looking for multiple examples of when it was done)
2) What did you inherit and what was the result? (must be reported in hard P&L numbers)
3) What is the process for developing a market competitive edge? (the answer must be focused on collecting facts directly from the customer base and defining the problem to be solved)
4) What is your problem-solving process? (looking for collaborative, team-based answers – instant fail grade if the leader says “I” or “my team” as it’s a clear sign of narcissism)
5) What are the common obstacles and how do you navigate them? (people not embracing the facts – poor ranking and prioritization)
6) What have been your biggest mistakes? (not having any examples is a clear sign of an egocentric leader – instant fail)
If your hiring process does not have multiple leaders in the final stages that score high on these questions, you are likely not accessing the hidden top-tier industry talent. Don’t settle, reach out to our experienced team and interview the talent you are missing.
Hire Smarter – Tony
May 6, 2019
We are dedicated to impacting people’s personal and professional goals; combined with helping great companies connect with great people. Following are a few of the great professionals and companies who engaged with Misura Group recently.
Regional Sales Manager
“Tony has run multiple searches for our business for top-level market leaders. We think about Tony and the team and the success they provided in two different ways. First, they were successful in finding a great many highly qualified candidates that fit our profile and ultimately helped us work through the process to find great fits for these positions. Second, Tony has become an integral part of our market insight, strategy development, and team building. I would recommend Tony and the Misura Group team to anyone looking to improve their team, culture, and strategy.” Jon Vaughan, President at Brand Vaughan Lumber
Truss General Manager
Truss and Panel Design Manager
“I have known Tony for a few years and he is a very special guy when it comes to recognizing top talent and quality people in our industry. We hired Tony to search for a general manager for our truss plant. He and the team put some great talent in front of us to choose from and we were able to hire an outstanding individual. The Misura Group is an awesome team and does outstanding work.” Clinton Grothues, General Manager at MG Building Materials
Chief People Officer
Senior Project Manager
“Tony is really good at finding out what your culture is as a leader and as a company, and making sure that he finds people that are a cultural fit. He’s not just looking at a transaction, he’s looking for where you want to be strategically then helping identify what kind of people to bring in to accomplish that goal.” Russ Kathrein, CEO at Alexander Lumber
Access Control Technician
Helping individuals grow and watching them succeed is why we do what we do. We look forward to building more meaningful relationships as the year unfolds.
With every breath keep growing – Tony
Meet the minds of our Marketing team! Laura and Nali work behind-the-scenes to make sure our clients and candidates (and the whole Misura Group team) reach their goals.
You can view more videos on our YouTube channel here
April 29, 2019
I hope you find value in this Behind Your Back podcast with Bradley Hartmann. Following is a continuation and message I missed on delivering.
My favorite CEO/President interview question is “How many 20-29-year-old professionals have you recruited, developed, mentored and promoted?”
It may come as a surprise that this question is quickly rising to the top of my “toughest interview question” list.
What is equally surprising is the number of leaders in their 40’s that fail this test.
It’s simple. The companies with the greatest number of top talented 20-29-year-olds today will be the companies gaining the most share over the next 5 years. While the companies with the least 20-29-year-olds today will be losing share to the aforementioned companies.
What is the key trait to measure?
Who are the best leaders mentoring and developing 20-29-year-olds?
If you would like to help your organization develop this skill, consider the following points:
Leaders must understand the WHY:
Losing sales is rooted in a leader’s inability to attract and develop talent. Not only is the leader’s career growth directly affected, but there are many who will be demoted or lose their jobs if they choose not to develop this skill.
Understand the vulnerable leader’s mind:
Rooted in fear of the younger generation who are born as cyborgs, armed with lightning-speed technology skills, while also embracing the facts of their own degradation that comes with aging. It’s a tough blow. A key trait in identifying poor mentoring leaders is those who believe their values are morally superior to others. You have a choice – gain the smartest, most progressive, energetic workforce and earn their trust or hang on to your 1987 values with an average employee age of 57 years old with no succession planning or growth.
What is it that Millennials and Generation Z wants?
Learn from your employees. Conduct surveys and embrace the facts around their desired culture: community involvement, meaningful work, marijuana policies within the state law, tattoos, body piercings, paternity leave, collaborative team culture, constant feedback, transparent reporting, flex work schedules, mentorship and defined training programs.
Principles by Ray Dalio and Originals by Adam Grant are both great books for helping leaders sharpen their skills at attracting talent.
With every breath keep growing – Tony
April 22, 2019
According to a Gallup poll, 75% of people quit their jobs because of the direct line leader they report to and 65% of Americans say they would rather change their boss than get a pay raise. The prevalence of poor leadership is something our industry struggles with.
Watch this video to learn more about Competence vs. Confidence and other themes from the book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It) by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
How does your organization measure the difference between Competence and Confidence? What are your favorite interview questions?
With every breath keep growing! – Tony
April 8, 2019
What is Michele’s zen? How does Sarah recharge?
You can check out more videos on the Misura Group YouTube channel here
April 1, 2019
I refuse to hire people who smoke cigarettes onto our Misura Group team. I’m not even slightly apologetic about it. Rationalized by my cognitive mind, “How can I respect a person’s intellectual problem-solving skills if they choose to fill their lungs with smoke and toxic carcinogenic material?” Science has shown that this habit will shorten a person’s life by an average of 15 years. We might also question how that person can be productive when they are taking smoke breaks 2-3 times a day.
Are these rational, data-driven hiring decisions? Or are we dismissing highly-qualified candidates as a result of unrecognized biases? Hiring decisions are among the most complex and critical decisions leaders make. Understanding your biases and psychological miscues is a major step in making successful hiring decisions.
Illusion of Causality
Fact: Net of several social and demographic variables, there is absolutely no correlation between smoking and the ability to be an effective professional. The amount of unproductive time spent by nonsmokers on social media is likely equal to or greater than that spent on smoking breaks. Any leader with a negative bias towards smokers must embrace how irrational this is. Psychologists call this the Illusion of Causality; the development of a belief that there is a causal relationship between two events (characteristics) that are actually unrelated.
Leaders make poor hiring selections by falling in love with candidates for the wrong reasons, unaware of their halo biases. Equally debilitating, leaders eliminate highly qualified candidates based on their irrational biases.
Here are some more stories:
A long-time CEO client would never hire someone who was a golfer; “I hired a golfing salesperson once and it was the worst hire of my career. He spent all of his time golfing.” Are all golfers slackers? This CEO conveniently forgot about all of the top people on his team who golf. Psychologists call this error Duration Neglect; basing future decisions on a distorted or amplified memory of a negative past experience. It’s common human behavior to support our flawed thinking with what psychologists call WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is). Our ego conveniently creates plausible stories to support our intuitive surface assessment.
We make errors in positive associations as well. Charismatic professionals, attractive people or people who look and act the part during the interviewing process, only to fall short when put to the task, are the “empty suit” hires. Psychologists call this the Halo Effect; the tendency to associate only positive qualities with someone who makes a positive first impression, neglecting any “red flags” or warning signs. We are often deceived by someone who looks like us or our ideal image of ourselves. “Face in the Mirror” is a specific type of Halo Effect reflecting self-love. The ego, of course, wants more people just like you on the team because you are perfect.
Private equity company owners have “Face in the Mirror” candidates they are drawn to, those with great financial skills who present well to the board and shareholders. The MBA plaque from a top school guarantees they will be great, right? Unfortunately, the operator fails as they are unable to engage with the blue-collar operational grit of the business or gain the trust of the people and customers.
“Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation; our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”
– Daniel Kahneman
What are the roots of our biases?
Biases come in three forms: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. Embracing that science has proven 95% of the human mental function takes place in the subconscious and unconscious is the first step to understanding the monstrosity of this problem. To be human is to be driven by an emotional mix of self-love (ego) and repressed pain, fear and guilt.
After some unpleasant reflection and psychoanalysis of my own smoking biases, it’s my grandmother who is at the root. In 1976 I was 8 years old. My grandmother lived across the street, and my parents were in a bowling league every Friday night – meaning we had a babysitter every Friday of the 30-week season. Arguing with the babysitter is a competitive sport when you are 8 years old. Suffice it to say that anytime I wanted to rebel, I walked across the street to hang with my grandmother. She was a registered nurse who smoked like a chimney. She lived for Friday Night (scaring/disturbing) CBS movies on TV, these combined with an endless supply of chocolate-covered peanuts were the reward for putting up with her ashtray kisses and smoke-filled family room. Digging deeper into my bias, my Mom suffered from serious PTSD, the result of an abusive childhood. Her father was the abuser, but my grandmother was clearly complicit, failing in a mother’s most crucial role, protecting her children. I still hold my grandmother accountable. To this day, the smell of cigarettes conjures up immediate dark and sinister images. Remember, pulling this out of my subconscious was neither an easy nor pleasant experience. We humans work hard to avoid difficult and unpleasant experiences.
How many hundreds of unknown biases do we harbor deep within our subconscious and unconscious?
5 Rules for making Great Hiring Decisions:
1) Increase your awareness of your personal biases
Humans are vulnerable to emotion, euphoria and the darkness in our life experiences. This is the place to start searching for the most entrenched irrational biases. People seem to be more entrenched and blind to biases rooted in pain, fear and guilt. Understanding our pain, fear and guilt is the only way to increase our cognitive power.
“The test of learning psychology is whether your understanding of situations you encounter has changed, not whether you have learned a new fact.”
– Daniel Kahneman
2) Choose cognitive reasoning over intuition
Your intuition might be effective when it comes to hitting a baseball or taking a jump shot but only after 10,000 focused repetitions. Leave your intuition where it belongs, on the field or on the court. The team deserves a more cognitive approach when selecting talent. Developing proper scorecards is critical to any hiring process, followed by scripted questions that will provide clear insight into the strengths and weakness of any professional. Take time and focus on collecting the facts, not drawing conclusions. If you focus on collecting the facts the conclusions will be obvious.
Speak in algorithms, so the language of the team is focused on collecting the facts and completing the math. Math does not lie. Teach professionals that their university and college professors lied to them, they really can be boiled down to a dollar value, and knowing that value is the first step to controlling your career path. The hiring process is about the leader and candidate trying to figure out this problem:
Resources x Strategy x Candidate/ Time = Return On Investment
4) Vetting as a team
It’s a team event and critical to our process. Perspectives become more well-rounded, provided there is not a dominant leader running shotgun over the process. Each person must be rewarded for calling out each other’s biases. The privilege of working with coworkers over a long time is knowing the individual and team patterns. What is the proven history of success? What are the behavioral patterns in their double vetting? Our team fully believes in double vetting.
5) 360° reference checking
Fact: people often lie on reference checks. The cause is some combination of the litigious environment and the need to be liked. This is a tough obstacle for companies and corporate recruiters to overcome as their intentions are not shrouded, making a truly unbiased reference highly rare. One of the most valued aspects of our vast network and now 30-year history in the industry is the ability to call a president and talk about an opportunity he might be interested in, and in the barrage of interview questions asking, “so in your career who are your proudest mentees?” What this is really driving for is a reference on a GM that reported to him 5 years ago. If the president selects this GM, from the over 20 has he led, that is an objective reference – worth its weight in gold. It is tough for hiring companies to feign their intentions and minimize exposure to the candidate when reference checking. In this competitive environment losing candidates to other companies once it’s known they are “on the market” is a significant risk. Not to mention jeopardizing a professional’s current career position and need for confidentiality.
The backbone of our vetting process is found in the pages of Thinking, Fast and Slow, written by Daniel Kahneman. He won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work. The book has become a must-read for any C-level or President we place. The book, both hardcover and cliff notes version, never leaves my desk. It’s riddled with notes and highlighter marks.
Remember – reading is easy, it’s putting the concepts into action consistently while under pressure that is the real separator.
With every breath keep growing – Tony
March 4, 2019
Check out this video to learn how to de-risk your hiring process.
It is common for leaders to believe that being secretive or noncommittal with the company people is a smart practice.
Company growth plans, individual growth opportunities and company financials are all common areas in which leaders choose to be tight-lipped.
The reasons range from the belief of protecting a competitive edge, fear of embracing the facts, to fear of the facts being companywide knowledge. Words like strategy and savvy are used to rationalize these efforts.
What they don’t understand is that it’s a lack of information that drives people away from companies. People are looking for clarity and are wise to smell the freshly-spread manure as a leader dances through questions without being direct. The first thought in a candidate’s mind is, “the company that does not share financial performance must have something to hide, either they are on the fringe of bankruptcy or the owner is getting so rich he should be embarrassed.” Or “the leader who cannot give me a clear answer on achievements needed to be promoted must mean there is no promotion opportunity.” None are typically accurate scenarios but the absence of facts, like a vacuum, pulls in the worst-case scenarios and, in a candidate’s or employee’s mind, they become beliefs. Now the relationship has a foundation of half-truths or lies.
Please let me know how helpful or non-helpful this video is as we look to improve our content.
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With every breath keep growing! – Tony
January 11, 2019
“Never compromise your principles, unless of course your principles are Adolf Hitler, in which case you would be well advised to compromise them as much as you can.” – Justice Scalia
Could a lesson delivered by my millennial children be your greatest competitive edge recruiting talent? I just returned from a wonderful family vacation and am compelled to share. As there are many who can attest, having adult children has its own set of rewards, but the true test of embracing diversity is being isolated with your socialist democratic adult children for a week. Great conversations late into the night with the appropriate infusion of spirits opens the gates to impassioned discussions on politics and economics. I hope I am not unique in that the father, son/daughter nature of our relationship allows the gloves to come off rather quickly, with everyone compelled to share their impassioned views.
Topic: Capitalism and Free Enterprise vs. Socialism
In the opposing corner: My oldest son, Cody 28 yrs. old, website developer for a Minneapolis marketing company. Delta Airlines is one his accounts. If you have a problem with their website, it’s Cody’s role to fix it. My daughter-in-law, Jenny 28 yrs. old, Master’s Degree in Public Health. Logan, my 26-yr-old son electrical engineering student, and Maddie my 22-yr-old daughter pursuing her Master’s in Speech Pathology. Political stance: entrenched Socialist Democrats. Holding true to their peers, a Harvard study found 51% of millennials do not support capitalism. https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/06/01/many-millennials-reject-capitalism-what-does-this-suggest-for-management/#5a47cae76dbd
Myself, 50 yrs. old. Centrist Republican, business owner. I fought hard for Capitalism and Free Enterprise. Conjuring up my best Milton Friedman (’76 Nobel Award for Economics, 1980-88 key advisor to Reagan) impression, “The only cases in which the masses have escaped grinding poverty; the only cases in history are where they had capitalism and largely free trade. What other society allows individuals to pursue their self-interest? Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest?”
But it was this interview on CNBC last month from Paul Tudor Jones that delivered the last blow in our debate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUfzebxwrxA
Paul founded Tudor Investment Corp, which had a long record of double-digit annualized returns. A self-made hedge fund manager, with a $4.5B net worth, has started an investment fund called Just Capital – an investment portfolio that picks companies based on the surveys of the American public on how they value companies. The #1 factor is worker pay and overall treatment of their people.
Tudor goes on to explain the belief that companies can be a force for the greater good and play a crucial role in addressing the social challenges in our country is critical to capitalism’s survival. Paul makes it very clear to Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor CNBC Squawk Box, over-focusing on earnings is a problem.
51% of millennials 18-29 yrs. of age are opposed to Capitalism
If we don’t change, Capitalism will not survive
20 yrs. from now you will be practicing in Havana unless we change the way Capitalism works
If companies are viewed as lifeless entities that do nothing but make profits, we will not have a sustainable social structure
Be wise, these changes have already happened. Consider the number of Dow Jones companies ranking high on Just Capital’s employees-first metrics: Microsoft, Intel, Proctor and Gamble, Apple, 3M, Nike, Caterpillar. These companies know their success is determined by their ability to attract and hire top talented millennials.
Learning and adapting with the next generation, particularly your children, is not always easy – but what other option is there? Threading the needle between value differences of your workforce is challenging. Making decisions based only on legacy, or how you see the world in a vacuum, can be dangerous. What steps are you taking to collect facts from outside that vacuum? As Cody, now in his 2nd year with the company and has earned 4 weeks of vacation, informed me: “Dad, everyone knows 4 weeks is the standard in the industry.”
What happens when competition for talent becomes so intense as a business leader you no longer have the privilege to consider your own political self-interest? Simple – choose your economic self-interest above your political ideals. The smart leaders throw aside their 2009 values, including their compensation and benefit plans, and adapt to the new generation. When competing for top talent what you think is or is not nobler does not matter. The only thing that matters is what top talent wants and what the competition is offering.
With every breath keep growing! – Tony
December 14, 2018
Recently, the Greg Brooks/Misura Group HR Roundtable leaders had some questions surrounding compensation plans for Outside Sales Reps (OSRs). The following was my response, I hope you find this helpful.
The most common mistake we see leaders make is developing plans based on what they “think” and not on what is fact. Make a commitment to collecting the new and current facts surrounding your business and your competitive market for both customers and talent. If you are diligent in collecting the facts and ranking them by relevance, the appropriate action becomes quite clear.
Here are my top 5 questions for developing a sales compensation plan:
1. What is the competitive edge of the products or services?
2. What is the value proposition the sales professional is personally delivering?
3. What is the competitive “Compensation Currency” the hiring company is offering?
4. What is the amount of sales volume/gross profit dollars the business model can deliver?
5. What percentage of gross profit dollars are paid to the sales professional?
1. What is the competitive edge of the products or services?
Apple, Budweiser and Leaf Guard do not need to pay their salespeople above market. Why:
- Apple has Facetime, end-to-end encryption and a long list of proprietary high-demand products the public wants. Their strategic product position is excellent. Their toughest sales question: Do you want that in black or white?
- Budweiser – who sells more beer, the sales professional or the Clydesdales on NFL Sundays? Their brand dominance is impressive, only order taker sales talent is needed.
- Leaf Guard, it’s an exclusive distributed product with patent protection that allows “old guys” like me to have clean gutters without the risk of breaking their leg. High demand for products or services means a low level of sales compensation is needed.
What is the level of demand for your products or services when compared to your competition?
- Your gross margin percentage might be a leading indicator.
- Complete, accurate and on time are low barriers to the competition and typically are not enough to command customer loyalty and high margins.
- What is it that your competition is not doing, or not doing well, that is the area to focus your competitive edge?
- If you have a “me too” product or service offering you have to pay more in compensation or offer more “Compensation Currency” to attract top-level sales talent. The success of the business requires the sales professional to carry more weight.
2. What is the value proposition the sales professional is personally delivering?
- Truss and wall panel sales professionals make more money because their math, blueprint and construction knowledge is in high-demand and short-supply. Whatever the skill, it must be quantitative and reflected in higher gross margin dollars.
- The best new-business developing sales professional in the county is worth more compensation than the account-maintainer sales professional. Again, supply and demand, driven by return on investment, are the factors.
- If an OSR is claiming their “relationship-selling focused model” is working, it must be reflected in their gross margin dollars. (Warning: the good ol’ boys “relationship” selling model is not sustainable today.)
3. What is the competitive “Compensation Currency” the hiring company is offering?
What are you offering the sales team that they want, that the competition is not providing?
- It’s often not what you “think” they want. Many leaders miss the boat here – collect the facts. Survey your current sales talent and post-interview the sales talent that turns you down to understand how your offering compares with the competition.
- It might be centralized estimating, work-life balance schedules, bird-dogging assistants to track orders and walk job sites, technology that increases their volume per hour worked, trips to Hawaii, training and development, a sales manager to hand over new business leads, or career path growth. You can offer less compensation if you have the right mix of these types of offerings.
4. What is the amount of sales volume/gross profit dollars the business model can deliver per sales professional?
Most OSRs are already working the maximum number of hours, from their view. The question is how many gross margin dollars can be generated with each hour worked with ABC Company vs XYZ Company?
- Taking steps to increase the amount of gross margin dollars a salesperson can generate in your business will decrease your compensation offerings and increase your talent level.
- More effective purchasing programs can have a major impact.
- Business development, estimating and logistics processes can create opportunities.
5. What percentage of gross profit dollars are paid to the sales professional?
Most solid OSRs are highly money-motivated. The rubber meets the road at gross margin dollars sold divided by compensation paid.
Beyond these 5 points, OSRs are humans and will only conform to the incentives and structures laid out in front of them. Activity-based costing (ABC) analysis, leading every OSR to annually turn over the bottom 20% of their accounts to junior sales talent, keeps their business development skills sharp and improves the health of the overall business model. ABC is effective in helping the senior OSRs improve their compensation per hour worked. If you don’t want a sales team that won’t leave the nest waiting to be fed – quit treating them like baby birds. Compensation is not a silver bullet solution for poor leadership or a non-competitive culture. Owners and Presidents must ultimately take responsibility for the sales performance as they are accountable for the pace and culture.
If you are interested in more compensation ideas specific to your situation, please reach out.
With every breath keep growing! -Tony
November 19, 2018
“Fortune Favors the Bold” – Bohemian Rhapsody
On one of my best days in 2018, I was boarding my flight when I looked up and saw Kevin McHale sitting in seat 2A. Without even thinking I blurted out, “Kevin! Wow, hello!” like he was my best high school buddy, reaching my hand across the person in 2B all but elbowing them. I love those moments – when at 50 years old I’m suddenly transformed into my 14-year-old self. From my perspective, Kevin was THE power forward in 1982, playing for the Boston Celtics team that had just won the ‘81 NBA championship. I remember studying his moves: baby hook, turnaround jumper, but it was the drop step from the low post that he perfected.
On that day, Kevin graciously shook my hand and I took my seat in 19B. Being the ever-persistent fan, I walked with Kevin from the gate to the baggage claim area. I thanked him for teaching me the drop step, which had allowed me to start as power forward for the St Patrick’s 8th-grade team. Our team went 35 and 3 that year, letting Kevin know he had played a key role in that was very cool.
In 1982, at 14 years old, all I knew was that I wanted to improve my basketball game. The best self-directed step seemed to be watching and adopting the techniques of the best NBA player who played my position. Little did I realize that this was my first attempt at using a Gap Analysis Continuous Improvement Process.
Here are the steps to that process:
Envision your goal. For example, to become the top sales professional or top general manager in the industry.
Find a role model. Study the industry’s top professionals to find your Kevin McHale and make a list of everything he or she does. Notice I said the industry’s top professionals, not your company’s. Aside from the relatively restricted range of talent that you will find within one company, you will also limit your exposure to new ideas and approaches. An individual company’s practices are subject to historical biases and outdated customs that are likely begging for a fresh perspective.
Create a list of questions. These should be aimed at learning about this top professional’s path, both his successes and failures. Be comprehensive with your questions, we will sort and prioritize later. Be confident, professionals at the top of their game will be open and willing to help.
Your list of questions should be thorough:
- What steps do you take developing your sense of purpose?
- How do you spend your free time?
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you recharge your batteries?
- How do you maintain your level of energy?
- What methods do you use to stay positive?
- Who do you go to when you need objective feedback and increased self-awareness?
- What is your diet?
- What is your workout regimen?
- How do you manage your work/life balance?
- How do you set goals?
- What are the 3 biggest mistakes you’ve made in your career?
- What is your process for managing your ego?
- What are your favorite creative sources?
- How much time do you dedicate to personal development per week and what do you do?
- What is your process for staying organized?
- How did you develop your financial discipline?
- What spurs your curiosity?
Now, take that list of questions and give it to 5 people who know you well and care about you enough to be brutally honest. What are the gaps between you and your Kevin McHale? Break the list into the following 4 categories: low effort-low impact, low effort-high impact, high effort-low impact, high effort-high impact.
Carefully write down the high effort-low impact and low effort-low impact items and throw them away.
If you are fortunate enough to have low effort-high impact items on the list, pursue them.
High effort-high impact areas are where the rubber meets the road. As humans, we are inherently emotional beings prone to undervalue the high impact-high effort items in order to protect our egos. This is the same reason I choose to shoot free throws every time I’m at the gym. As an 87% free throw shooter in high school, my ego loves the free throw line – off-handed ball handling and shooting… not so much.
What is the one thing from the high effort-high impact list that will bring about the greatest evolution and advancement toward your goal? Concentrate your efforts on this “One Thing”. Set a reasonable timeline to learn, practice and implement these changes. Stay focused until you can apply the new methods consistently when under pressure.
What is the value of a professional coach?
- To help you recognize the high impact-high efforts areas.
- To help you understand that what your brain perceives as Mt. Everest is emotional fiction, the reality is a countryside rolling hill.
- To force you to work on the highest impact area of your game, which typically requires the greatest emotional resiliency.
My daughter Madalena will be graduating from UW Madison this spring. Looking back and comparing pictures of her as an incoming freshman to a graduating senior I am in awe… such phenomenal growth. Why in the hell should accelerated growth be exclusive to the young?
With every breath keep growing! – Tony
November 5, 2018
“I never saw your future only your possibilities” – Billy, counselor at The Refuge
Coaching youth sports for over 20 years created some of my favorite life memories. Youthful souls, hungry to learn and full of energy. I view my role as coach with this simple objective: learning how to compete, win and lose well is foundational to a successful life. The accelerated learning loop of athletics might be its greatest asset. Attempt, fail, assess, adjust, try again. That loop can happen dozens of times in one game. Learning to compete requires mental resiliency, the common trait among top career professionals.
Years back when my sons were in grade school, a new director took over the town baseball program. Their first action was changing the names of the teams from the Cubs, Pirates and Tigers to the Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries. Yes, this is a true story, you can’t make this up. Their next move, we were no longer to keep score and statistics. The purpose was to avoid exposing kids to failure and act like some protective bubble from the reality of life. The change was initiated out of fear for the children’s’ feelings and emotional state. Irrational and ridiculous, right? When the kid strikes out at the plate, it’s impossible for their peers and parents to unsee what just happened. In life, when has any good come from hiding a failed attempt? The essence of a great athletic experience that comes from embracing outcomes with encouragement and proper guidance, was destroyed. The response was overwhelmingly negative, and the director was replaced, thankfully, the following year.
At various industry speaking events, I focus on helping operators improve their recruiting efforts. I am shocked at the large numbers of companies that refuse to share financials, profit and loss statements, with employees. When asking them “Why?” the responses range from “confidentiality” to “the people’s inability to handle it” or “it’s just not our traditional way”. These responses are rooted in an irrational fear of some sort, you can see it in their eyes. A more honest answer might be, operators either feel guilty because of the high profits they are making and low compensations they are paying their employees or embarrassment of the low profits the company is generating as it negatively reflects their poor leadership. Not sharing financials is called the “Mushroom Management” approach, avoiding the facts and not allowing the crucial conversations to take place. Consistently the results are disengaged people and high turnover rates, mixed with mediocre talent, delivering low profits.
“We live two lives; the one we learn with and the one we live with.”
Naming a sports team the Raspberries and not keeping score or stats is equally as ridiculous as not being transparent with your financials. Being human means we often do not act not in our best interest, but rather in the interest of serving our ego and emotional state. Our subconscious mind’s favorite tool in this ploy psychologists call “duration neglect”, in which we craft stories about the experiences of our past to support our emotional state. Simply put, we lie to ourselves. And worse, we make future decisions based on those lies. Don’t kid yourself, duration neglect is a pervasive human trait. Resist the natural response of applying the concept to someone else and take the tough look in the mirror. Collecting facts and tracking how activity impacts financials is the best duration neglect defense. Financials don’t lie, making them the ultimate report card.
Employees can hold their own fault and responsibility fulfilling a role supporting the Mushroom Management model. As it requires a codependency of employees willing to lie about how great the company and its leaders are, in return the leaders don’t hold them accountable. If you are in a position where you cannot define your impact and value in hard numbers daily, you are likely in some form of Mushroom Company, or Mushroom Position. National Sales positions are famous for lacking clarity between their daily actions and market share and profit gains. Key buying decisions are made in the local market, what is your impact on the company beyond the next golf best ball tourney? A person’s unhealthy fear of change and exploring a better career path is a vote of confidence for the Mushroom business model and being treated this way. If you find yourself in this business model take action. Create your own measurements, tie them to a financial result. Request 360 feedback from peers and leadership. Develop your own mini-MBA, reading and studying books a minimum of 4 hours per week. Personal development done well should increase your income by 20% per year minimum and increase your efficiency by more than the 4 hours per week you are carving out to study. Call our team, we can help get you started.
Leadership – it comes down to trust and impact. Either you trust the people that make up your company, or you don’t. The actions of a prevailing trust culture are easy to identify – everyone in the company understands how their daily efforts impact the P&L and want to be measured and rewarded based on that clear outline. Open conversations regarding the professional’s current skills and talent, including both successes and failures, are welcomed. Leadership, in turn, requires constant feedback, increasing their self-awareness acting to grow and improve to close their leadership gaps. Great professionals take advantage and look forward to their failures, knowing their approach will drive significant personal growth on the other side.
The choice is simple: allow everyone to keep score and individual statistics through financial transparency, or keep telling lies. Regardless of whether or not your head is buried in the sand, there are winners and losers. I guess, you could always change your name to the Raspberries.
October 15, 2018
Adam Grant is a professor at Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Professor Grant tasked his MBA students to determine which Fortune 500 company had the best culture. Armed with Wharton credentials and resources the students launched into the project, flying around and visiting company to company collecting their culture and performance data. When the Wharton MBA student debates ended, Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio founder and Chairman, is a $150B, HQ in Connecticut, and the top-performing hedge fund. What made Bridgewater the best culture? Baseball Cards! Baseball Cards? Yes, Baseball Cards.
Every person in the company has a personal Baseball Card with agreed performance measures and values that are updated 24/7, by subordinates, peers and leadership. Starting with Ray Dalio himself. A recent entry on Ray, the Chairman of the Board’s card, “Ray – you scheduled a meeting and planned for 30 minutes, but you came unprepared and rambled your way through. The meeting lasted 90 minutes and was a major waste of my time. You earned a 1 for organizational skills and preparation. Try harder next time.” Pete, Manager in IT.
Leaders struggling to provide the level of development and feedback the millennial generation is demanding – Baseball Cards might be your solution. Providing everyone with a voice and creating a high level of transparency is empowering, engaging and leaves no room for disgruntled and underperforming team members. Weak leaders beware: this culture is not made for the underperforming leaders who prefer fiefdoms where everyone lies about the greatness of their leader and in return, the leader covers for underperforming people.
This book is a fantastic read. I have found the explanation of the structure and implementation to be excellent in simple language. As a team, we are 3 months into adopting the systems with great results. I walked a few Presidents and CEOs through the book with solid early results. Best of luck on your journey creating meaningful relationships through radical transparency.
With every breath keep growing – Tony
October 2, 2018
Last week I was walking into a classy hotel in Minneapolis for the Greg Brooks Executive Round Table. While thinking about topics to be covered, I met Roy; the doorman, valet and luggage porter. I was impressed with his energy, enthusiasm and communication skills. Unlikely to be a college student, being it was a Tuesday morning and he was working, I was intrigued as to his story. He revealed that he is now 28 years old, had graduated from high school in 2008 and assessed that taking on a large college debt at that time didn’t make sense. He had watched an older sister go to college only to be burdened by a heavy debt load for a degree that was not benefiting her current career. His girlfriend now graduating from college, Roy is hoping to get married and buy a home soon; considering what direction to take his career, he looked to me for advice.
His current compensation as a bellhop is $20,000 in hourly wages, he receives another $25,000-30,000 per year in tips, bringing his total income to $45,000- $50,000. His present need for greater financial security demands a career that will enable him to grow and advance. His position at the hotel, while stable, offers no career growth opportunity. He mentioned the steamfitter and electrical trades as respectable options. The irony was shocking to me. I was preparing to help some 50 presidents solve their recruiting challenges – they all walked by Roy, likely tipped him as he carried their bags or valeted their cars, never even considering that he could be the solution to their problems. An eager, smart and hungry 28-year-old with a proven history of success delivering best-in-class customer service and an income that is over 50% commission-based. Hiring Roy as a junior outside salesperson and watching him command and conquer is where I would place my bet.
Focus your mindset; be recruiting 24/7
Why is Roy the bellhop not being recruited? Are leaders entrenched in the “must have sawdust in their veins” theory? Or are they just not accustomed to actively recruiting themselves? The first step is shifting your mindset, by looking for talent everywhere.
Shift your network
Leaders are often not directly engaged in solving their hiring problems as their networks are typically not well-suited to fit their recruiting needs. Your primary network consists of your family, friends and customers. None of these pools are adequate when it comes to meeting your talent needs. The traditional practice of having the HR department handle recruiting by advertising is the old solution. We all fall into ruts, attempting to solve new problems with old solutions is the paradigm that needs a shift. Where do truck drivers and warehouse workers spend their time? Eating breakfast and lunch at the local truck stop. If I wanted to hire the best truck drivers, I would go to local truck stops and offer the waitstaff $100 gift cards for every driver they referred to me or hire a crew to wash windshields and hand out business cards. You could have your yard manager certified to train CDL drivers. Sitting on the board at a technical college or leading certification processes for your focus area are proven best practices. Stop waiting for candidates to apply online – reach out, beyond your standard network, and draw them to you. The recruiter who is action-oriented, thinks outside the box and gets up-close and personal, will out-recruit his competition every time.
Shift your thinking and create new solutions
Some operators walk into a restaurant and think about the supply chain logistics of the tomatoes in their caprese salad, some think about customer turnover at the tables and the revenue capacity of the business. The best recruiting leaders think about how similar the kitchen operations are to warehouse or yard operations. They assess the wait staff, looking for that individual with an engaging personality and the right level of curiosity and desire to serve their company. How well suited is a Starbucks employee for an inside sales role? A barista awarded Best in Class for service, with a history of success and arriving to work by 5:30 am, deserves more than a good tip. These qualities would be #1 and #2 on my scorecard for a counter sales role.
It’s about mentorship and career path growth
Think about Roy. What is it that Roy wants that his current employer is unable to provide? Career options and growth without college debt, as well as mentorship and personal development. Our industry lines up perfectly to provide what younger talent desires. We have never been an industry that requires a bachelor’s degree to enter, rather enthusiasm, curiosity and a willingness to be trained on the job are preferred traits. Shift your personal recruiting process to search out the Roys. As a leader, your greatest competitive edge for recruiting talent is your commitment to their personal development. Focus on providing mentorship and career growth opportunities and you will solve your toughest recruiting challenges.
August 29, 2018
Congratulations to our recent placement, Lindsey Fox, now Marketing Manager at Nationwide Industries. It was a pleasure working with Lindsey, we are excited to see the impact she will have as she creates thoughtful, customer-focused marketing programs for our client.
Here is what she had to say about her experience working with Misura Group:
“Working with Misura Group was my first experience with a recruiter and it felt like the stars aligned from day one. Everyone always had time to speak and answer my questions, and I felt like I had a close professional mentor through the entire process. The thing that surprised me the most was the level of detail involved in each step; from the initial conversation to checking my references and finally working with me on an offer.
I appreciated Misura Group’s level of knowledge about the industry, the employer and the type of individual needed to fill the role. Tony showed great sense of character and integrity by taking the time up front to understand my goals, personal and professional, before we dove into details of the position to make sure the opportunity was the right fit.
There are many reasons this opportunity interested me. I was able to bring expertise from my marketing background while expanding upon additional skill sets to make me a more well rounded professional. I’m also able to put my thumbprint on a growing company and work with more brilliant minds within the building products industry. Lastly, the culture of teamwork, motivation, fast-paced environment and entrepreneurial spirit helped make a difficult decision easier.
I recommend working with the right recruiter, in my case Misura Group, if you are interested in considering a new position. Don’t shy away from recruiters reaching out to you, the job of your dreams might be waiting for you in the wings.”
August 6, 2018
Don Magruder, CEO of Romac Lumber & Supply, will be moderating an executive panel discussion on hiring, training and retaining employees of the future at the Florida Building Materials Association Convention August 22-24 in Orlando, FL.
This panel will discuss the past as well as future demands of the market as they relate to growth and then explore ideas on how to create employees of the future.
Don will be joined by the following panelists:
Mark Callender, VP/COO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc.
In this role as VP/ COO, Mark has a clear view of all the company’s activities and operational results, and he has an extensive responsibility for carrying out the company’s policies, goals and objectives. Mark has 37 years of experience in this industry – most of that with GSW.
Mitch Lewis, President/CEO of BlueLinx
Mitch Lewis began his career practicing law, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Prior to accepting his current role at BlueLinx, Mitch also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Euramax Holdings, Inc. and President of Amerimax Building Products, Inc. For more than 26 years, Mitch has been a leading executive in the supply industry.
Russ Hallenbeck, CEO of Tibbetts Lumber Co., LLC
Russ is a Director and CEO of Tibbets Lumber and Cox Lumber Ltd. in the Cayman Islands, taking that post in December 2014. Russ began his career in 1987 with the former Cox Lumber Co. until 2006 when the company was sold to The Home Depot. Russ also served as Area Vice President of Florida for ProBuild from 2010 to 2012.
Jacqueline Schaffer Shaw, VP/General Counsel of Schaffer Associates
As VP Client Development, Jacqueline oversees all new and current client relationships and directs all corporate communications and marketing, including print, public relations, and social media. As General Counsel, she provides legal counsel to the firm with a special focus on employment issues.
Tony Misura, President of Misura Group
Tony has been serving people in the lumber and building materials industry since 1987. He started Misura Group in 2007 after buying the Building Industry Division of Focus Executive Search, the recruiting firm he had been at since 1999. There, he learned the dynamics of the recruiting business from leaders of an established firm and learned how to create a national network of top executives.
Don’t miss this “Standing Room Only” event.
You can view the full agenda and registration details here.
July 16, 2018
“Some feel the rain. Others just get wet.” ~ Bob Marley
The average compensation for Division I (FBS) collegiate head football coaches is $1.64M, for athletic directors it’s $646K, for state governors it’s $70-$190K. Political commentary aside, in the best-case scenario the governor’s salary is 11.5% of their university’s head football coach. Simply there are more people who have skills and are willing to be the governor than the Division I head football coach.
It’s reported the average college undergraduate has $37,172 in student loans. And yet the most popular undergraduate degree is Humanities and Social Sciences, which ranks among the lowest in career field job placement and starting compensation. Why is Humanities and Social Sciences the most common undergrad degree? The students’ high interest level combined with a relatively low academic rigor is a good guess. Why is their compensation and job placement relatively low? Simply there are more undergrads than there is demand for their skills.
It is remarkable the number of professionals who don’t understand the economics of compensation. Employees who blindly move through their careers believing that compensation involves some mystical equation. Leaders who believe they have control over market compensation and are shocked when they lose key talent.
Compensation is a function of supply and demand economics, with an X factor.
The Top 5 factors that drive compensation:
The number of people willing to do the job – Staffing a Starbucks will always be easier than a lumberyard. Coffee is cool. The food service and education industries have the advantage of an alluring appeal, the building products industry by comparison does not have this privilege. The food and education industries generally have lower compensation rates than the building products industry due to this factor.
The number of people capable to do the job – The level of discipline and cognitive horsepower needed to be a neurosurgeon creates a low supply.
The level of risk tolerance – The window cleaner who handles 50-story buildings is compensated more than the window cleaner who doesn’t own a ladder.
The level of demand for the service/skill – Pharmacists once had a lucrative career path, but now the online and mail-order pharmacy business models are shifting the demand. It’s wise to understand the demand for your skills as well as the economic trends affecting the industry you are serving.
The X Factor… How strong is your network? Hiring Leaders, the depth of your talent pool is limited by the quality and quantity of your network reach. Professionals, the flow of your career opportunities is limited by the reach of your network. Confidentiality and risk will always be significant obstacles for both parties to connect without leveraging a 3rd party recruiting resource. Limited time factors only further complicate this difficult situation. The result: It’s common for a professional’s network to be focused on serving their customers, which is not very effective in serving a hiring process or career search.
The truss, custom millwork and installed segments of the industry are hot. When run well, these business models commonly generate 50-200% more profit than lumberyards. The shrinking contractor labor force, combined with an older-demographic customer base that is shifting from Do-It-Yourself to Do-It-For-Me, creates great profit margin opportunities increasing the demand for service. Trusses, custom millwork, installed services all reduce construction time, on-site risk of injury and the level of on-site carpentry knowledge, all of which increase the demand. General managers, Sales managers and Sales talent in these segments have increasingly complex responsibilities, requiring a broader skill set. Simply, the number of people willing and capable to do the job are less than the number of lumber generalists, leading to a short supply of capable talent. Lumber people – before you send the hate mail, ask yourself: Which do you screw up more often, the lumber pack or the truss bid?
Why are industry leaders commonly compensating truss, custom millwork and installed sales leaders the same as lumber generalists?
It could be a few reasons:
Singular focus of keeping compensation costs low as the objective, rather than the ratio of productivity and profits to compensation.
If talent is not wise to the broader market and unwilling to relocate, does competitive market compensation matter?
It might be a factor of status quo, the less disparity the better. Maybe our industry needs more Humanities and Social Science undergrad leaders – we know they would have learned the lessons from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
June 25, 2018
What defines your Stanley Cup?
A key step in recruiting and retention is creating the “Internal Company Vision”. Many companies have external customer-facing vision statements, this is different. The purpose is to provide clarity to the direction and goals of the company for your current and potential future employees as the audience. Since the target group you are speaking to is not the customer base, objectives and depth of detail are much different.
Following are the 5 key steps in creating your Internal Company Vision:
Keep it simple. A 12-year-old must understand what winning looks like, and how it would affect their lives. I love the image of the Stanley Cup. 31 teams in the NHL, over 700 players, yet every individual can describe in vivid detail how their life would change if they won the Stanley Cup. What defines your Stanley Cup?
Leadership Enthusiasm. As you read the vision it must generate huge passion, enthusiasm and energy from you. Great leaders understand the best methods to project infectious energy.
Team Inclusive. Teams and people are mixed between serving WIIFM (What’s in it for me) and the power to give to those in need. A great vision that combines the financial and human spirit perspective is critical.
The power of written words. Most leaders are extroverts and they over-rely on verbal communication. From the people’s perspective if it’s not written down it does not exist.
Language Creates. People who typically want to define excellence, often only need to be pointed in the right direction. Let your internal vision message provide the common language to become the daily chaperone of your culture. Borrowing from great companies, Alexander Lumber (Aurora IL), uses “Own the Last Mile” for their drivers, at Brand-Vaughn (Tucker GA), “The Strength Lies Within” – both are powerful messages.
Internal Company Vision Example
Young’s Creek Lumber
By January 1, 2020, the Young’s Creek Lumber sales goal is $100 million (25% increase). Combined gross margins will stay over 30%, and operating expense will be stay below 20%. Young’s Creek Lumber will have 3 locations in the Washington–Oregon Pacific Northwest Region, with each location generating over 7% pre-tax profit. By this date, Young’s Creek Lumber will operate on a cash basis with no long-term debt. We will be committed to financial transparency. Each employee will understand what part of the P&L they own, and how their impact will be measured quarterly on the P&L.
The sales revenue will be 50% semi-custom new construction general contractor accounts, 30% will come from renovation and remodel general contractors and 20% will be super-regional production builder accounts.
Products and services will consist of 20% installed services, 20% truss and components, 60% lumber and millwork distribution. We will build strong relationships with Home Builders Associations, with our general managers chairing 2 committees and our entire sales team actively engaged in events. Sales will come mostly through word-of-mouth because of our exceptional quality and service. Young’s Creek Lumber will avoid pressure-based sales, focusing more on actual testimonials from satisfied clients who have increased their profits and sold more homes by leveraging our company value proposition. Our marketing materials will be simple, professional, and feature the signature Young’s Creek Lumber navy blue and gold colors.
Young’s Creek Lumber will compete for the Oregon Best Place to Work Award. Our goal is to embrace what our current employees and the top talent in the market desire from their workplace. Our commitment will allow us to attract employees with the unique ownership and professionalism capable of serving the team first. While our employees will come from diverse backgrounds, ages and education, they will grow as people because of their experience working with Young’s Creek Lumber. Our managers will truly be leaders, helping employees to grow, reaching their personal and professional goals and holding them accountable for results through regular meetings. Our managers will be committed to rigorous reviews and 100 hours of outside professional leadership training. Employee engagement, growth and impact will be the key measurements guiding our employee-first mission. All employees will wear navy and gold long and short-sleeved polo shirts with blue jeans, khakis or approved shorts uniforms. All uniforms will have our company mantra “the Strength lies Within” printed on the sleeves establishing the expectations we have for each other. All attire will be available for purchase on the Young’s Creek Lumber website.
We will be organized and systematized, with all employees keeping appointments and schedules up to date and on the calendar. We will be committed to timeliness and following through. Our drivers will “own the last mile”, this will be their mantra commitment to success, as we track complete, accurate and on-time deliveries. We will have very specific, well-implemented systems that employees can use, creating efficient paths for onboarding and training. Our trucks will always be clean inside and out, with all equipment and materials in their place and ready for action. Our offices of operation will be clean and orderly, yet friendly and inviting. Customers and visitors will always be greeted warmly by knowledgeable and professional staff.
Young’s Creek Lumber will be committed to supporting the Oregon Foster Care and Adoption organization, AdoptUSKids.org. As a company we will volunteer in teams for fundraisers, bikeathons and 10k runs. The company will have performance goals triggering 1-3% of the company’s profits donated to the AdoptUSKids initiatives.
Above all, Young’s Creek Lumber will exemplify our values of Honesty, Service, Thoroughness and Speed in every aspect of our company. We will take pride in our job and always put our people first.
What is more powerful – impact that changes your life or the ability to change other people’s lives?
Clarity + Transparency + Higher Purpose = Empowerment
With every breath keep growing… Tony
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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