Against the Grain: Special Edition (March 24, 2020)


A Focus on the Positive

Dear Friends,

The world has changed a great deal since we were together at NAWLA Leadership Summit + WWPA Annual Meeting in Palm Desert just a few weeks ago.

I know many of you have seen your businesses impacted by the rapidly evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health situation, through supply chain and market disruptions, orders to shelter in place, and concerns from employees and customers about health and safety.

It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the negative news right now. But instead, I’d like to highlight a just a few reasons to feel hopeful this week. Good things are happening right now all over the world, and there will be tons of positive outcomes from all of this once the “COVID-19 dust” settles.

  • There were many people in our industry who thought everyone needed to work under one roof in an office setting who now realize their teams can perform at the same levels from remote locations. As I sit here today, more than half of our staff is working remotely and we are doing just fine. If we accept the fact that we can have certain functions of our operations performed from remote locations, couldn’t we use this “new found” job flexibility to attract more talent into our industry and companies, and perhaps even prevent office moves and similar impacts to customers and employees? 
  • States recognize our work is “essential.” While we all appreciate the need to mitigate risk and the spread of COVID-19, and respect the decision of city and state leaders to enact orders limiting activity outside of the home, I am pleased to see that those same states realize that rapid economic recovery will only be possible if building material suppliers continue to operate during this time. In New York, Illinois and Maine, just to name a few, NAWLA members can continue to operate at full capacity thanks to this recognition. 
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation is making it a little easier for truckers to move emergency supplies by suspending the “hours of service” regulations for drivers transporting full loads of items like groceries, fuel and equipment for building temporary housing or quarantine spaces.
  • The Canadian government has introduced a series of measures to help support the economy and forthcoming recovery in the coming months, including temporary wage subsidies for small businesses, deferred income tax payments for businesses and interest rate cuts.
  • From outside of our industry:
    • The World Health Organization reports that at least 20 coronavirus vaccine are in development right now, and the first vaccine trial has begun. Other medical advances continue in the areas of new treatments and faster tests.
    • More than 100,000 people around the globe have recovered from COVID-19 at this point.
    • Schools in Japan will re-open in April, 42 Apple stores have already reopened in China and other “normal” activities are resuming in parts of the world that were hit hard by COVID-19 early this year.

These are just a few reasons to take a positive outlook into the rest of your week. I’m sure that there are countless other stories out there that demonstrate how resilient our industry is that you can find without searching too long or hard. I’m confident that, post-Coronavirus, our economy – and in particular the lumber and building materials industry – will snap back fast and hard and our biggest decision will be which of a thousand orders to ship out first!

I’d also like to remind you that this is the perfect opportunity to leverage your 10 Group or NAWLA network for advice, lessons learned and experiences. Things are changing quickly, and your peers in our community can help you exponentially increase your understanding – and your attitude. It’s easy to get down in the dumps and depressed these days. In my case, I am fortunate to have the support of my executive team, caring and supportive employees and all of my extended family at NAWLA to lift me up when I need it. For that I say, THANK YOU ALL!

Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing from me a little more often to share the reasons I’m feeling positive – and you should too. Feel free to let me know what you want to know or talk more about at

Tom Le Vere
President | Shareholder, Weekes Forest Products
2020 NAWLA Chair
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