Industry Workforce a Focal Point at BEC Conference

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Apogee Enterprises CEO Joe Puishys spoke yesterday and provided thoughts on developing a company’s workforce.

Former pro baseball player Jim Abbott delivered the keynote address at the conclusion of the BEC Conference’s second day, but Abbott wasn’t the only presenter at the event talking about teams.

A theme stressed throughout the day was the building of a good team and how to keep it together.

Joe Puishys, CEO of Apogee Enterprises, got things started with an update on the state of the glazing industry. Puishys’ presentation was centered around the optimism of the industry from an economic and workload standpoint, but he also offered some insight on developing the workforce. (Click here for related story.)

“At the end of the day, it’s all about leadership,” he said.

Puishys noted that in a company, family should always come first, but that a good employee will “bleed the company blood. … Most of you are small businesses, and you know how important this is,” he said.

He added that it’s important to “remove negativity, and quickly,” and that “it’s okay to disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.” And finally, he suggested that owners and managers “hire people bigger and better than you,” which he said fuels growth potential and will ultimately help build a legacy.

John Rovi of Childress Engineering followed with a talk about strategy for building a good team and retaining talent.

“In the business of hiring and firing, it’s important to be able to answer the question of ‘why?’” he said, adding that the two main areas of focus for a business leader are talent and culture. “Relationships are the most important part of your culture,” he said. Rovi stressed the concept of leaders applying the word “why” to decisions.

Later in the day, during the “Facing Today’s Challenges: Fabricator Q&A Panel,” the topic of finding good talent—an increasingly important one given the labor shortage the industry is facing—was raised.

All three panelists said both participation in job fairs and alliances with local colleges are important in finding talent, and each stressed certain aspects of their businesses that help them retain it.

Keith Lindberg of Wausau Window Wall Systems said his company assigns new employees to a mentor, and it also requires everyone to go through cross-training to give them flexibility within the company.

Rick Wright of Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope said Oldcastle is a big proponent of its ex-military programs, and Donnie Hunter of Kawneer stressed the importance of internships, both for discovering talent and helping prospective employees find out for themselves where they fit.

Meanwhile, Abbott, who found great success both in the collegiate and professional baseball levels despite having the use of only one hand, delivered a speech on overcoming adversity—which had the large crowd tuned in.

Abbott spoke with USGNN.com about the connections he sees with working on the field, as he did, and in the field, as many glass industry members do.

“I think it’s really fun to see how different principles are applied to the different things that we do,” he said. “Some of the same things applied on the baseball field are applied with people doing such different things. Whether it’s installing glass or manufacturing glass, it’s fun to observe those similarities.”

Stay tuned to USGNN.com for continued coverage on the BEC conference, which closes out today.

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