Several weeks ago, I posted a message on LinkedIn asking for examples of people who started in the lowest ranks at a building material supply company, who weren't part of the owner's or boss's family, and now hold a management or even executive post. Dozens of you replied. Here are your stories. Some have been edited for clarity.
President, Frontier Building Supply
I started pushing a broom part time in a lumberyard while I figured out my next “real” job. I would have never guessed that I would have gotten hooked into the LBM industry. Move forward 18 years and I am the CEO of a very successful ESOP and have become the president of another for a much bigger operation, Frontier Building Supply.
Branch Manager, Allied Building Products
About 10 years ago, with no knowledge of the building industry, and as a struggling, desperate, single father, I took a position as an inside sales position with ABP. I fought corporate structure at every turn, and almost lost my new job in less than 12 months. Since then, I've been fortunate to turn the struggles into a great career working my way through the ranks, doing everything along the way including operations, dispatch, and assistant manager. I have moved for the company to work in multiple territories, and now serve as a branch manager of multiple locations in greater NYC area. I'm proud to say I've been given the opportunity to now open the newest location for Allied/Beacon in Queens, NY.
Director of Market Operations, BMC
I’ve been in the LBM industry for over 25 years and have a diverse job history. I began my career with Thomas R. Hopson in 1989 as a load builder and rider.
Currently, I am the director of market operations for BMC in Atlanta. In this role, I am responsible for all aspects of the business for 8 physical locations which include millwork, EWP and truss and panel manufacturing as well as traditional distribution to jobsites. Additionally, I oversee the turnkey leg of the business which includes structural components, millwork and building materials (siding, decking etc.) Presently, I have approximately. 400 associates reporting up through me in the market excluding the outside sales group.
President, Higginbotham Bartlett of New Mexico
I started out with McCoys Building Supply as a cashier in 2005. I went from cashier to sales floor to special order coordinator to store inventory coordinator to manager in training to assistant manager. In 2010, I left McCoys and went to Higginbotham Bartlett of New Mexico as a store manager at Mustang Lumber in Andrews, TX. In 2015, I became interim general manager and two years later I took over as general manager and president.
CEO, Guy C Lee Building Materials LLC
I started part-time in the yard working for Home Builders Supply in Greenville, NC, back in the 1980s working for beer money while I was at East Carolina University. I was a very social kid and really got to know our customers in the yard and had a real passion for making sure they were taken care of.
I thought I would be an asset to the sales team and realized that I just wasn’t built for college and this building supply gig was really cool. I loved being a part of seeing projects coming out of the ground and being involved with real, salt of the earth people.
I asked management if there was possibly a place for me, and probably due to being green and the fact that I was part time, they had nothing for me. But from there, I did in fact catch the eye of the GM at Lowe’s and my sales career began. It started very fast and grew VERY fast. My passion became reality.
From there I met the GM at Wickes Lumber and spent a couple years with them, then decided I wanted to try the distribution side of the industry as it seemed to be the cool and sexy thing to do was to be a “territory rep” for something I thought was even bigger. I wanted to “sell” to the supply houses. That desire came to be and my distribution career of 10 years started with two different outfits.
During that time I was fortunate to meet and work with MANY owners of building supply houses and relationships began to grow. I had decided that if I ever got back into retail, I didn’t want to be a part of a large corporate structure as my opinions and thoughts didn’t really register with anybody. I became very involved with Guy C Lee, as they were my largest customer and I fell in love with the company and how it was Management driven and most decisions came from the local level. John Lampe and I met each other when an opportunity to become an operator of one of his stores came available and I joined the team over 20 years ago.
Fie years ago, I told John that one day I wanted to run his company when he decided to slow down a bit and enjoy his money, and he laughed. Well, a year later I got a phone call from him, as he remembered our conversation and we began to talk about what my idea would look like. After a period of time we made the decision for me to take the plunge, for him to be able to relax and concentrate on his other business ventures and I took over the CEO position of Guy C. Lee
1- I started in a lumber yard making $4.10 an hour
2- No college degree and only passion to be successful.
3- A sincere desire to make a difference in the industry I fell in love with.
4- And the rest is history.
I have told many kids my story and have told them “I can coach you on many things, but I can NOT teach you or coach you on desire and passion.” You are born with it but you can be successful in this industry and make a great living for your family while loving what you do without a college degree or a ton of experience when given the opportunity.
Life and careers are not a sprint, but a marathon.
Former President/CEO, Spahn & Rose
I started in a merchandising position early in my career at Spahn & Rose. Was elevated to VP after two years. Then was named the company’s first non-family, non-owner President/CEO in it’s 100 plus year history. I retired two years ago.
General Manager, Wholesale Roofing Supply
In 1969, I started out working in a lumberyard as help in the yard unloading lumber and helping clean up. I became a Deca student that senior year and went inside helping stock hardware and selling on the floor. I stayed with the company until 1976 working various roles and prior to leaving had worked my way up into outside sales. In 1976 I moved into wholesale distribution working out of the DFW market call on lumberyards selling a variety of hardware millwork and many commodity items such as roofing siding and insulation. I moved up through the ranks from merchandising manager to sales manager and executive VP of sales and marketing
In 1996 the company spun off a one step roofing business which I took on as president. We sold to local contractors and builders primarily and grew to become one of the leaders in our market.
The business was sold to Beacon Roofing supply in 2014 and I stayed on until February of 2018.
VP and General Manager, Buck Lumber & Building Supply
I started as a manager trainee at 84 Lumber in 1998 at $7.35 per hour.
CEO, Ro-Mac Lumber
I started with Moore-Handley Homecrafters in September 1980 in Pascagoula, MS, as an inside salesperson, not knowing anyone with the company.
Throughout my 40-year career, I had no one to ever pave the way either through family or friendship for any position. Not with Mobile Lumber (Stacy Building Supply) as a general manager, Wickes Lumber as a general manager, or RoMac Building Supply for the last 22 years in which I have operated this company.
Vice President for Pro Sales, Lowe’s
I started as a sales person in the garden department at $8 an hour.
President/CEO, Roswell Lumber Co.
Started working part time, purchased a store five years later, had a second location after a few more years and then sold the company in 2018.
Millwork Sales Leader, Branford Building Supplies
Growing up, I was my grandfather’s shadow, spending my summers on his construction jobsites, following him around with my toolbelt on. My first job was Grossmans, in my home town of Branford, CT, at 16 years old. When I graduated high school, my mother yelled at me that I couldn't go on a road trip with my friends until I had a job. So, I picked up the paper and saw Branford Building Supplies listed.
I walked the two blocks from home to the yard and introduced myself to the old timers at the lumber counter. I announced my family name and sealed the deal when I answered "how long is a two by four?" correctly by saying, 8 10 12 14 16 20. I left after telling them I'd be back after the weekend to start, as I was off for a road trip. That was 1996.
I started at $6 an hour stocking the shelves: Caulking, nails and other items in the store, bundles of mouldings, and assorted metal edgings in the barn. And not the bulk nails like today, in plastic buckets with handles, but I was throwing around 50-pound boxes of nails! I can't tell you how many pants were ripped from the nails sticking out, or how I learned real quick to wear gloves when putting away drywall bead or drip edge! I stocked shelves and became relied upon for counter duties.
I made quite the name for myself, or rather enhanced the family name that most of the clientele knew. I absolutely developed a following, going from the "girl that cried her first day on the job" to the young lady that was sought out by rough and tumble contractors.
I remain at Branford Building Supplies and don't have any intentions of leaving. I am not an executive but my bosslady and I could run the whole lumberyard (and probably world) if we had to. I've done just about every job possible, not necessarily as full time hours, but I've never been afraid of the work, having loaded trucks, delivered materials, etc.
I now am inside sales support/millwork specialist. I field all questions in regard to construction, from the foundation to ridge vent. I have been involved in the millwork of multimillion dollar projects and most recently, placed the largest Marvin Window and Door order of my career. I absolutely have a following of our best contractors that rely on my abilities. Heck, even the local building inspector said he knew who I was!
I've worked the ranks of the yard, back when I was hired, it was still rough being a female in the man’s world. Thankfully, the world has evolved.
Sales Rep, Shaw/Stewart Lumber
In 1986, I started at Interstate Lumber in Afton, MN, at $4.80 per hour working in the yard hauling shingles with an elevator and delivering sheetrock, and building loads. I worked my way to inside sales and estimating. After two years , I was recruited to another lumberyard for estimating, and after one year I worked into sales and worked another two years. Then I was recruited again, to Stewart Lumber in Minneapolis. I have been working in high-end residential sales for 30 years at what is now called Shaw/Stewart Lumber
National Director of Sales, Beacon Roofing Supply
I started at Beacon 13 years ago as a marketing manager and was the fourth employee at the at their corporate HQ in Virginia. Through the years I have been promoted multiple times from marketing to e-commerce and now a national selling role.
OSR, Tri-State Forest Products
I started in the yard at Carter Lumber in 1975, loading customers and unloading box cars of lumber by hand. By 1999 I was one of the first store managers to be named as district manager for eastern Indiana.
General Manager, Studs Lumber
We're an independent building material supplier in Durango, CO. The company was founded in January 2014 and I was the first full-time employee, hired on in May 2014 as a puller/delivery driver. I worked up to operations manager and sat in the sales seat for a while before becoming GM in late 2017.
Branch Manager, Commonwealth Building Materials
I started as a delivery helper 17 years ago. Now I am a branch manager. Long hours and hard work. No “freebies!”
Managing Partner, Principia Consulting
One of my favorite climbs in the LBM distribution industry was George Pattee, who started in the warehouse and ultimately rose to CEO over a long career at Parksite. Well done, George!
Territory Manager, BlueLinx
I started as a yard guy at a small local lumber yard and worked my way up to GM/VP over two yards before making the decision to join the Cedar Creek Wholesale team, now BlueLinx. I gained a strong passion for the building materials industry through the years and truly enjoy my career choice.
Director of Sales, Altman Plants
I started at the now-gone Builders Square in 1989 as a lawn and garden associate making $3.65 an hour. I worked for that company for nearly 10 years and went from that position to kitchen design, to store remodeling, to paint department manager, garden department manager, assistant manager, and then regional garden buyer, all in that company. Since I left, I have held positions as VP of sales for at the time one of the largest nursery companies in the states, I have been the COO of a nursery company, and I am now the director of sales for one of the largest if not the largest nursery company in the U.S.
President, Thermal Pipe Shields
I started in the paint department at The Home Depot. I was promoted to department manager and then operations manager. Then I went to work for a couple of insulation manufacturers, a contractor. Now I run a mechanical insulation company.
Business Development Officer, Best Buy Metals
I started working at Best Buy Metals when I was 18. I got a job staging orders in our Asheville warehouse. I’m now 24 and am the GM of our Greenville facility and currently training the incoming GM at our Charlotte facility.
Distribution Center Manager, Cameron Ashley Building Products
I started as a warehouse manager in 2010, new to the industry in building materials distribution. I was promoted to outside sales rep in late 2012. I was promoted again in 2015 to GM or distribution center manager. I have enjoyed my career path and have learned from the ground up. There are lots of great people and partners in this industry.
Southwest District Manager, TAMKO Building Products
I started at my current company as a newly formed position of contractor sales in 1994. Promoted to territory manager in 1996. Made a lateral move to larger metro in 2001. Moved up to field sales manager over Texas and more in 2014. Southwest U.S. Regional Manager since 2017. Life is good.
Branch Manager, Beacon Roofing Supply
I started with Beacon Roofing Supply in 2009 as an inside sales rep. I’ve been fortunate to have been given various opportunities that have lead me to branch management in Austin, TX.
Area Design Manager, Builders First Source
I started in the truss industry in 1984 stacking trusses. I went on to working on the tables and then to the saws. Transferred to one of our lumber yards to pull orders and then got into delivery. Worked my way to yard foreman and then into contract sales. After a time, I transferred back to the truss division and into design, worked my way up to design manager and since then, have done operations management and truss sales and have transferred to Nashville to take on a design management opportunity.
Southeast region sales rep, GLT Products and Speedline PVC
I started in 1997 driving a truck and working in the warehouse for a large insulation distributor. Worked my way up to warehouse supervisor, then customer service rep, inside sales rep, outside sales rep by 2005. Since 2012, I have been the regional sales rep for a major insulation manufacturer, covering eight states.
SVP Sales, Continental Building Products
Started as an inventory clerk in 1985.
Store Manager, Lowe’s
I started out as a temp hire at The Home Depot after serving four years in the Air Force. I worked my way up to a Store Manager and spent 17 years with them.
VP Business Development, Service Building Supply
I started in the building materials industry in 1992, making $5.25 per hour for loading trucks. Nineteen years later, I was the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Stock building supply and have had a number of executive roles since.
Director, Building Materials Group, PrimeSource Building Products
I started at PrimeSource Building Products almost 10 years ago now as part of their Manager in Training program.While I did not have a foot in the door with any family or industry knowledge, I did have plenty of student loans to keep me motivated.
I graduated in 2009 with a degree in business and started with PrimeSource roughly two weeks after donning my cap and gown. I have moved up the ranks over the past 10 years including these roles: Inside Sales, Territory Manager, Product Specialist, Branch Manager, Director for National Accounts (handling Home Depot) and most recently Director of Sales for our Building Materials Division. I’ve had the best mentors you could ask for and been blessed to ride the wave of a strong market.
Regional VP, Meek’s Midwest
Hatz joined Meek's back in 1985 as a co-op/intern where he started with entry-level outside yard responsibilities.He subsequently became an inside sales representative, assistant manager, location manager, district manager, and most recently RVP over the past 35 years of his tenure.
District Manager, Lowe’s
I started as a part-time building materials associate for $8.50 and now I’m a district manager.
Production/installation manager, Metal Roofing Solutions
I came to Canada 17 years ago and quickly found out my engineering qualifications didn't mean much here. I took a job with a neighbor who saw me swinging a hammer putting in a cedar fence. I helped him put= on metal roofs since I thought it would give me some insight into the Canadian construction industry practices, etc. That somehow morphed into me becoming service manager and then production manager at where I am now.
Sometimes we get a bad break.
Sometimes we are lucky to be where we are.
Sometimes the universe finds a fit for us.
I am a happy man who somehow fell into a lot of good things in my working life.