10 Heads Are Better Than Two
NAWLA 10 Groups bring together like-minded NAWLA members in a small group setting, empowering them to work through top industry issues with peers.
What is your first step when facing a challenge or issue? Usually, problems are best solved by first consulting other individuals who have been in the same situation for advice or to hear the efficacy of the decisions they made. However, it can be difficult to have a set of objective consultants on hand. For this reason, Greg Fitz, sales manager at Balfour Lumber, a division of Canfor, started a new NAWLA 10 Group almost a year ago. These groups are a collaboration of NAWLA members with like interests who get together in a more informal setting to connect about issues that they face and to reflect on how to positively impact their organizations and the industry.
Fitz explains that his NAWLA 10 Group came to fruition after he attended a GenNext seminar at the Traders Market in Los Vegas and first heard about the groups. He too wanted to be part of an intimate group of industry professionals who he could bounce ideas off of, while gaining different perspectives into industry challenges. To that end, Fitz says that the members of his group, while in similar industries, all hold various positions in their organizations, creating a diverse set of member feedback. “It’s particularly important for people new to the field to get in here and see things from a different perspective. Everyone knows how their business runs, but they need to see how they compare to others.”
Similarly, Bethany Doss, business manager at Capital Lumber, is the leader of the GenNext 10 Group, which she created about three years ago with the other “young guns” of NAWLA. Doss says, “Our goal has always been to be able to discuss current issues we’re all facing, whether that’s industry-related or something we’re dealing with at our specific companies.” Doss adds, “Sometimes you feel as though you’re the only one running around like a crazy woman, and it turns out, you’re not.” She also points to the benefits this group has helped her bring to her organization, as she has been able to show the leadership team that other wholesalers face many of same challenges and provide different perspectives on how to approach these challenges.
Both Fitz and Doss say that some of their most impactful meetings revolved around succession planning and recruitment, though both groups had different focuses. Fitz, drawing on the diversity of his group’s membership, tapped into the skills of member Anthony Muck, manager of customer support at DMSi. Muck had experience with various programs and tools to help with the hiring process, and he brought this knowledge to the group. “I led a presentation on hiring, and we discussed what tool each company uses for hiring and how it helps them identify the right people for the right job.” Fitz adds that this discussion led him, and the other group members, to consider new tools and processes that they weren’t familiar with. “[DMSi] used a psychological exam as part of their hiring process, and that is something that was totally foreign to some people in the group.”
In the GenNext 10 Group, tackling the “next-in-line” aspect of succession planning was top of mind, as many members are part of a family business. Doss says, “[It’s] hard when you’re in a family business to know when to step up and say something that might not be popular and when to hold your tongue.” The GenNext 10 Group also talks through some cross-generational challenges that they often face in the workplace, including recruiting and hiring young professionals into the industry. “The recruiting piece has been interesting, because I believe that our group (and generation) does not think it’s as hard to recruit into this industry as some of our older co-workers think it might be.” Doss and her group see the industry as a thriving place to create an impactful, long-lasting career, and they are eager to spread the message.
As the groups surge forward, there is no absence of topics to discuss. Doss outlines just a few areas of focus for current and upcoming meetings. “Our topics we discuss range from recruiting, sales techniques, technology, older generation vs. younger generation issues, profitability metrics, trucking and logistics issues and more.” Fitz also takes a “sky’s the limit” approach, rattling off just a few topics slated for future discussion. “We will be talking about industry books and motivational books, sales – what makes a good sales person, and how can we take a weak sales person and make them strong. We will look at industry trends, specifically the generation gap.” And, he adds the caveat, “whatever the group really wants to talk about.”
The most important aspect of these groups, however, is the camaraderie that they engender. Doss emphasizes, “It’s single-handedly been the most rewarding piece of my NAWLA experience.” Muck also says, “The best part about being involved is forming this relationship, and it has led to much more than just a group for work; I genuinely care about these individuals, and we build friendships rather than just contacts in the industry.”
About NAWLA (North American Wholesale Lumber Association)
NAWLA is the association that delivers unparalleled access to relationships and resources that improve business strategy and performance through sales growth, cost savings and operational efficiencies for wholesalers and manufacturers of forest products and other building materials that conduct business in North America. Learn more at www.nawla.org.