CSA Plans for 2017: HR and Technology on the Horizon

By Jim Moody, CAE
CSA President

As we finish out 2016 and perhaps catch our breaths, I want to let you know of some plans we have for 2017 that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Workforce Development/HR
We’ve been dabbling in this area for a couple of years. We’ve offered a stand-alone workshop and have tried to include something related to HR in our all-member meetings. We’ve offered some webinars as well. The feedback has been positive, and members continue to tell us that dealing with the broader HR function is something many people struggle with.

The time seems right for us to jump into this area with full force. I’m in the process of searching for a full-time staff member with expertise in this area. Our goal is to do for HR what we do for safety – provide an expert in the area to provide assistance and raise the bar for the industry. We know that most of our members have someone “doing” HR, but most often that person wears multiple hats. It’s tough for that person to stay on top of the whole HR function.

Beyond that, we also know most folks have room for improvement in their strategic HR program. By that, I mean stuff that goes beyond the realm of personnel and record-keeping. I’m talking about how we recruit and hire new employees, how we on-board them so they get a sense of our culture and what it means to provide high-level customer service, how we train them, how we appraise them, and how we pay them. Sometimes it means how we set them free to find the job that is better suited for them, without fear that we are open to a lawsuit.

Our goal with this new position is to offer assistance in all these areas. We’ll do it through member visits just like Victor Shell provides with safety. We’ll also provide more seminars, workshops and webinars. We also plan to start a peer-learning group (also known as a roundtable) for the folks in your companies who want to learn more and create best practices for our industry.

We are not aware of any other association in our industry offering this service, and we’re excited to do something innovative. We believe it will be another way that we meet our mission of building strong independent dealers.

It may take some time to find the right person. Obviously I can’t hire anyone who is filling this role for any of our members – it would be poor form for CSA to poach great folks from people who pay dues to belong! But, I’m confident the right person is out there, and I can’t wait to see how he or she helps you be better by the end of the 2017.

I think we can all agree that the LBM industry is not exactly on the cutting edge of technology. We have a relatively low-margin industry, and investment in anything has to be proven to have a good ROI before we jump on it. I understand why we are the way we are, but I also recognize that we are at risk if we don’t stay abreast of what’s happening in the world around us.

To that end, we’ve contracted with Chris Rader to help our members move the dial a bit. Chris owns a technology business in Lafayette, La. He provides remote services and consulting to LBM dealers around the country. I know of no one who comes close to having Chris’ expertise in our industry AND technology. We are blessed to have him in our territory.

Chris is going to moderate two users groups for us – one for Spruce and one for BisTrack. We have a number of members using these modern platforms, and we have heard from you that you’d really like to have a group for sharing ideas. (Please note: CSA is not endorsing either of these products or telling anyone they are better than any other product – that’s a personal decision for each dealer. We are simply acknowledging that there is a critical mass of dealers on these systems accompanied by a desire for a local group. If we find that’s the case with any other platform, we will create a group for that platform as well.)

Chris is also going to do some looking into the future for us. He’ll be writing in our publications about ways to use technology to serve customers better and/or to be more efficient. We may also provide some webinars on that topic.

I’m really excited about these two new areas of focus for CSA. They both arose out of a strategic planning process we went through with the Board in June. They are also the first fruits of the merger we completed a couple of years ago with the Midsouth Building Material Dealers. Up until now, we’ve been rolling out CSA’s “regular” services in Mississippi and Louisiana, and we’ve done that with pretty good success. But the promise of the merger was that we could do things that we could not have done when we only had the Georgia and Alabama membership. The critical mass we gained in the merger is now allowing us to do these two things we could not have afforded in the past.

As time goes on, we’ll be providing more specifics on all these programs. I just wanted to whet your appetite and share our excitement about them with you.

All of us at CSA wish you a wonderful end to 2016 and a bright hope for 2017. We’ll see you in January.