Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

Volume 44,  Issue 8                                        October  2005

     AMD Headlines
         In the News

Wanted:  Good People
All That's Needed is a Plan

By Don Houghton

When talking to distribution or dealer management and owners, the conversation frequently turns to our industry and the many challenges we face. Issues such as the economy, distribution channels, supplier loyalty and customer loyalty inevitably come up. What would you say is the number one concern on our minds? If you answered “finding good people,” you are not alone.

Michael Marks, a frequent AMD seminar speaker, challenges us by saying, “Distribution is a third or fourth tier employer at best.” Michael goes on to say that employers can’t find good people and good people can’t find good employers. The good news is: it doesn’t have to be this way.

Thomas Friedman, a New York Times writer, recently wrote an article urging the U.S. Government to develop a plan and use Lance Armstrong as an example of his team’s ability “to meld strength and strategy—to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow.” He also used Ireland, a country who not too long ago was in the economic doldrums and losing jobs every year, as an example. 

Ireland came up with a plan to educate its entire work force and an incentive plan and strategy to attract and recruit global hi-tech companies and researchers. Friedman wrote, “They have mobilized business, labor and government around a common agenda. They are playing offense.” They had a plan and executed it. The results—Ireland is now the second richest country in the European Union.

I suggest we, as distributors, better have a good plan if we want to attract the best employees. Take a hard inward look—would you work for yourself? How good is your recruitment program? Is every member of your team actively involved in searching for talent and promoting your company? Do you provide adequate training or do you subscribe to the “sink or swim” school of thought?

As employers, we must be willing to make an investment in our people. The “satisfiers” such as salary, benefits, retirement plans, etc. must be competitive—that’s a given. Spend time analyzing how good of a job your company does with the “motivators”—training, mentoring/coaching, clear expectations, career plan, continuous development, relationships, incentive plans, reward and recognition. An investment in the motivator areas will reap a tremendous return.

Mark Sanborn, an internationally known author and motivational speaker, recently wrote a book called The Fred Factor. It’s a book about turning your life and work from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Our companies must be comprised of a lot of Freds to be successful. Buy the book—it’s an easy read and very worthwhile.

Having a plan, working the plan and creating an environment that is friendly and fun will attract the right people. Not an easy task, but it’s critical and it can be done.

Don Houghton is president and chief operating officer of Reeb Millwork and AMD’s second vice president.

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