On October 10, 1972, I unloaded my first truckload of material at my first job at Parksite. Fast forward (a very quick) 47 years and I’m happy to say that I’m still at Parksite, the company that gave me a start, believed in me from the beginning and provided thousands of opportunities for me. Parksite is an employee-owned wholesaler-distributor of Specialty Building Products and headquartered in Batavia, Illinois.

Parksite has been a member of NAW for nearly 30 years. My team and I have attended every NAW Executive Summit and NAW Large Company Roundtable we could. I’m humbled and privileged to serve as NAW Chairman of the Board for 2019. This year through my Chairman’s Columns, I’ll share my reflections on the state of our industry and provide ideas of encouragement, which I hope will inspire you along your journey.

We face many challenges daily as we navigate our businesses in these disruptive times. Life, society and the pace of business accelerate so ridiculously fast that we can barely keep ourselves current. One constant that gives me comfort is that we all have employees (associates) who help grow and expand our businesses. You’ve heard it before, they are our greatest asset. So, are we doing enough to maintain, nurture and retain them as we should . . .  as we were when we started our careers?

To quote Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In today’s market people stay in their jobs for four ideals: the culture, environment, opportunities and development.  At our company (and I’m sure at many of your companies too), we strive to retain our high-performing associates by using these four ideals as the cornerstone of our human capital strategy.

Many of you have seen NAW’s Optimizing Human Capital Development: A Distributor’s Guide to Building Sustainable Competitive Advantage Through Talent Strategy, the new research study written by the researchers at Texas A&M University for the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence. This research study goes beyond what I’m speaking about today and is an excellent primer on running a business. It’s the first research study for our industry that aims to build organization competitive advantage through people management. If you haven’t gotten your copy, I strongly recommend this read. In my humble opinion, it’s a must read for executives and managers in today’s new economy.

With unemployment at historically low levels, more and more baby boomers retiring and technology changing what were once necessary and needed skills, our focus as distribution leaders needs to go beyond hiring efficiently. It is imperative that we retain the high-performing associates who we’ve already hired, onboarded, trained and developed. Culture and development are the reasons our employees stay. Do your employees like their environment? Are they growing enough individually to satisfy their desire to succeed and flourish? Do they feel a part of your company or is it “just a job” to them?

At Parksite, inclusiveness is a core value to drive our communication strategy with our associates. Sharing information and creating an environment where they understand how and why their performance drives shareholder value is paramount to our success. Creating a development plan through our performance management program fosters communication both ways. We find out what our associates want to accomplish, and we let them know how they are performing against their goals. We’ve found these dialogues with our associates to be a great way to create a plan for their future.

Associates are an integral component of any company’s success and it is essential they understand how their role integrates with the system and how they are compensated and rewarded for the organization’s success because of their individual efforts.

I hope 2019 is starting off successfully for you and your business. Along with your management team, I’d encourage you to start today to nurture and retain your high-performing associates while developing a culture of inclusiveness, involvement and a focus on common goals. Do this through training, development and communication with the internal and external tools that are at your disposal. Remember that it starts with you and your vision for where you want yourself and your company to be in the future.

All the best.