Rita Ferris, NRLA President With Bernie Ferrari, Sr. Director Product Management & Marketing Huttig Building Products

Building Strength and Numbers

Strength in numbers — it's a familiar phrase and we've all seen it in action. It's the reason why organizations like the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA), Lumbermen's Association of Texas & Louisiana (LAT), Florida Building Materials Association (FBMA), World Millwork Alliance (WMA), National Home Builder Association (NAHB) and others exist: to leverage our collective strength and resources into something more powerful than any one business or individual can be.

The benefits of membership in industry organizations are numerous. You can:

  • Leverage members' collective knowledge and buying power to help you make smart decisions
  • Have access to crucial support and resources that provide data-driven assessments of your company
  • Build community through events and trade shows
  • Access our industry's best and brightest to learn, share, and connect
  • Rely on organizations' advocacy in governmental legislation to ensure members' interests are being protected
  • Access to industry tradeshows to learn about product advancements, sales tools and much more...

With more specific benefits from the different organizations, for example:

NRLA Beneficial Tools:

NAHB Beneficial Tools:

These organizations are also able to take a macro view of our industry, identifying trends, issues, and opportunities and focusing their efforts to address them. This is where they do some of their best and most vital work on behalf of their members. One particular example is a recent focus on identifying and training the next generation of LBM operators.

To have strength in numbers, we must first have numbers — and some of the numbers we're seeing are of concern to us. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the median age of a person employed in the wholesale lumber and other construction materials trade is 47.2 years. The median age of a retail building material supply employee is 40.8 years. These numbers are compounded by two important factors:

  • Many young people are not aware of the great career opportunities in our industry
  • Many of the current leaders and business owners in our region are at or approaching retirement age without a succession plan.

We need to develop the next generation of LBM professionals today so that our industry can have a prosperous tomorrow. This has to be one of our industries top priorities and trade organizations have to work hard to provide new and better resources for their members. The following are just a couple of ways that our industry is making that happen now.

Over the next three years, NRLA and the Northeastern Young Lumber Execs (NYLE) will work together to achieve this. They will make our industry a more attractive, competitive option for young people by raising awareness and improving our image through our Employment Opportunities in the Industry video campaign. They will help their members develop a pipeline of talent with tools like their new Summer Help Recruitment Toolkit and the creation of an internship program that includes free online training. And it will make it easier for them to find the best candidates through free, unlimited job postings.

NAHB is also calling on a younger generation with their Student Chapters. They are working to enrich education in trade schools, colleges and even in high schools. Membership in this program allows real-world industry experience for students, which helps the younger generation transition into our changing workforce. Members compete in national competitions, win scholarships and enjoy discounts to trade shows and other industry networking events. It's a great way to reach this audience and offer them a leg-up into the industry. What a great option for you to access when looking to hire!

The WMA and The Learning Café have teamed up to provide customized learning experiences and tools to educate managers and business owners about working with today's multi-generational workforce. The GenNEXT mission statement is to engage emerging young leaders in the millwork industry sector and provide them with a comprehensive experience to gain the knowledge and tools needed to take on leadership roles within their profession. The WMA is also in the early planning stages of an internship program to introduce high school, college and trade school students to a potential career in the millwork industry.

This multi-pronged strategy for revitalizing the talent pool in the LBM industry is just one of many ways organizations work to build strength in numbers. We encourage you to use the benefits offered and thank your partners for many years of support and leadership in the industry.

Strength can always be found in numbers, but without the numbers there is no strength. It's important to take advantage of associations like NRLA, LAT, FBMA, WMA, NAHB and others so that you can leverage the industry's collective clout and resources into a powerful source for your business—you don't have to do it alone.


Articles in Better Business | August 01, 2016