How dealers are handling the crisis

Highlights from HBSDealer's 'Brave New World of LBM' webinar.

BY Ken Clark

A Brave New World of LBM, the webinar, featured insights from a panel of lumberyard industry leaders. A replay of the webinar can be accessed by registering .

在线精品国产在线视频The following industry leaders participated in the presentation:

  • Jay Short, president and CEO of Short & Paulk Supply of Tifton, Ga.;
  • Rita Ferris, president of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association; and
  • Levi Smith, president of Boise, Idaho-based Franklin Building Supply.

在线精品国产在线视频The participants representing the Northeast, Southeast and Western U.S., tackled topics ranging from state mandates, social distancing, curbside pick-up, and generally maintaining business and safety during an unprecedented challenge.

Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

On safety:

Smith在线精品国产在线视频: “I think managing workforce anxiety has been one of our biggest concerns going into this. And as we’ve been at this for the many weeks now, the anxiety is real. It’s absolutely understandable. Our employees are anxious about coming to work. Their spouses or significant others and family members are as well. So, one of the things we did was to communicate to our employees that we were committed to remaining open only if we believe that we could safely mitigate the risk. We can’t eliminate any risk, but we can mitigate risks.”

Rita Ferris

Ferris: “New York and New Jersey are requiring all employees to wear face masks at work. And they’re requiring the public as well to wear face masks if they cannot maintain a safe distance of six feet. So it’s just pretty intense. The safety piece is pretty intense and I really do see the members going above and beyond to comply with that.”

Short: “The Construction Supplier Association had a great video on COVID-19 that we showed our employees. And just after talking to other dealers and learning what they’re doing, we brought in a lot of ideas. We put plexiglass screens over our counters. We got that idea actually from the internet somewhere. The big thing we’re really trying to do is educate and communicate with our employees and our customers and make sure they understand how the disease or the virus is transmitted. A wife of one of our employees is a nurse at one of the hospitals and she brought some ideas and talked to our management team to explain how the transmission is done and why you need to stay six feet apart.”

On being resourceful:

Short: “I had a customer come to see me that had a backpack mosquito blower and he is using that to help sanitize our stores. Also, we partnered with a local brewery who was making hand sanitizer and we’re distributing that in all of our stores.”

Smith在线精品国产在线视频: “We have one store in one of our small towns that had a window that really had no purpose and it was rarely used. But it is a sliding window, and the store decided to make a drive-through out of it in some way.  So when people walk up on the sidewalk, they open the window and hand it to them through the window there. It’s good to see some innovative and creative uses of space.”

Levi Smith

On communication:

Short在线精品国产在线视频: “We’ve put several videos out on Facebook, basically telling people be patient with us. We’ve instructed our people not to come from behind the counter if possible. And we’re providing all the hand sanitizing stuff at the counters and trying to be very careful with our customers and our employees.”

Smith: “We’ve increased our frequency of communications. We have what we call ‘huddle meetings’ across the entire company where everybody in the company is involved in a standup huddle every day. And myself and our CEO, Rick Lierz, we have a video that we show in those huddles one to two times a week. And we have a dedicated webpage for our employees that we encourage them to share with their families, so they understand what’s happening at work.”

The impact on business.

Ferris: “March was in many cases a record-breaking month. Our demand was very strong and then it abruptly stopped. So what we’re expecting in the short term is a lot of pent-up demand. So we expect the next few months to be strong. After that, I’m really not sure. The unemployment rates are a concern. I just think a lot remains to be seen and it’s really hard to say.”

Short在线精品国产在线视频: “The custom guys in our market, most of them are pretty busy right now where we’re seeing the slow down is on repair and remodel. We do a decent repair-remodel business and right now in certain markets around us, a lot of people just don’t want people in their house.

“And I think all the relationships are adapting. But as long as we communicate and communicate between each other, our customers, our employees, then, I think we’re doing fine.”

Smith在线精品国产在线视频: “In general in the Northwest, there’s been some disruption with cabinetry as some of the facilities closed down in response to state orders in Oregon and in Washington in particular. And then we’re also advising our customers just to plan for disruption in their normal timeline. This is not a time when you can expect to adhere to a normal construction timeline.”

Ferris在线精品国产在线视频: “A problem in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic is that the municipalities have not all been operating the same. In some places the building inspectors will not come out on the job at all. In other places they’re willing to check out your job via video. So that’s been a major obstacle and we’ve actually been writing letters to the governors … because it’s just town by town.”

On Advice to other dealers.

Jay Short

Short: “I think the first thing is: just don’t panic. What we’ve tried to do is not to overreact on anything, but we definitely don’t want to under react. We make sure we give clear, open, honest feedback and communication to both our customers and our employees and team members. And just make sure everybody’s trying to stay safe.”

On the other side of the crisis:

Ferris: “We’re really excited about the prospect of getting back to business. Health and safety will continue to be the highest priority. Until the vaccine is found, it just has to be number one or we’re going to end up right back where we started. Another thing is online sales will be huge. If people aren’t doing it now, they really have to get on the stick with this. We can’t rely on foot traffic 100% anymore.”

Smith在线精品国产在线视频: “I think overall we expect things are going to happen at a little bit slower with more intentionality, both from the customer side and from our side. I think we’re going to see a change in how businesses think about who can work from home. More generous sick leave policies and aggressively sending people home when they’re ill — these are going to be part of our new normal. And we’re also looking at how we can get really good at curbside delivery — not just as a stop gap, but so that we can be a better operator in the months ahead.

在线精品国产在线视频“So we think a lot of things are going to change. We’re just trying to stay really agile.”

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