Incoming NBMDA President:

Attracting young talent, harnessing technology are among industry’s biggest challenges.

Raymond Prozzillo, president and CEO of A&M Supply,
based in Pinellas Park, Florida, is the incoming NBMDA president.
A&M Supply is a 100 percent employee-owned company, and since
its founding in 1951, it has been managed with the goal of becoming
a 100-year-old company.

Prozzillo became COO of A&M in 2002 and president in 2011.
Under his leadership, the company has maintained its inclusive culture,
growth, integrity and profitability. Surface & Panel interviewed
Prozzillo about his career, the challenges and opportunities facing
the industry, the impact of technology and what the future holds for
the NBMDA and the building products distribution industry.

Q. Tell us about your background in the building products
distribution industry. How did you get into the business and why
did you decide to build your career with A&M Supply?

A. I have been with A&M Supply since 1988. It was my first
job out of college. As my job evolved and I was given greater
responsibilities, I saw that there was real opportunity here and
felt a strong sense of inclusion as a member of the team. There
were a couple of specific triggers that motivated me to stay as
well. A&M’s then-president, Bob Shaw, was a guy who believed
in giving people responsibility and letting them run with it. We
sometimes said that he would give you enough rope to either
hang yourself or pull yourself up to the top of the mountain. It
was your choice.

Another motivator for me was the company’s ESOP plan. A&M
Supply is one of the older ESOP (employee stock ownership plan)
companies in the country, and it meant that I was earning a
wage and also building equity in the company at the same time.

Q. What do you see as some of the challenges facing the industry

A. Attracting young talent to the industry is one of our biggest
challenges. Generally, our industry is not seen by young people
as cool or sexy, and young people do not necessarily grow up
aspiring to lifelong careers in the building products industry. In
addition, many young workers left the industry when the Great
Recession hit, and they have not returned. Because of this, we
have a generational void that we need to backfill.

Another issue I see out in the market has to do with the
changing nature of the manufacturer-distributor relationship. In
a growth market, such as we are experiencing right now, issues
arise due to factors such as Internet sales, acquisitions and
territory growth. The NBMDA has been proactive in bringing
together the parties and facilitating discussions in this regard,
and the organization remains committed to seeking solutions to
this topic well into the future as technology continues to shape
the wholesale distribution landscape.

Q. How has the industry changed in recent years?

A. By far and away, the biggest change has been the industry’s
shift to digital technology. That has impacted just about every
aspect of the business and the way we interact with customers
and manufacturers. Today, we utilize technology to generate
product information, provide customer service, manage trucking
and logistics, handle credit and finance decisions, make efficient
use of our fleet and equipment, manage inventory and so much
more. Our customers expect this, and I credit the NBMDA with
putting a lot of focus on helping members understand, adopt
and embrace digital technology. The NBMDA provides support in
the way of education, speakers and information, which has really
encouraged members in this area.

Technology can include the use of CRM (customer relationship
management) systems that enable us to get data to our field
sales teams and ensure they operate efficiently; digital training,
education and presentations; inventory management tools; and
billing and credit administration platforms. Technology makes
data available and actionable for the modern distributor, thus
driving efficiency and decision-making.

Q. What sets a top distributor apart from the rest of the field?

A. The top distributors are reliable to their end users and
valuable to their manufacturers. Look, at the end of the day,
our customers want to be successful and achieve their goals.
And our manufacturers want to be successful and achieve their
goals. A good distributor is a bridge between these two and
helps both achieve their goals. They do that by adding value
in the way of providing credit lines, local inventory, next-day
delivery, competitive pricing, premium brand products and
uncompromising service. Done right, it is win-win-win. Top
distributors create this dynamic for every customer and every
manufacturer with every transaction.

Q. Look into your crystal ball and talk about what you see ahead for
the NBMDA, the building products distribution industry and the
association’s member companies.

A. I see the issue of the generational void that I discussed
earlier continuing to be critically important. Our industry needs
well trained, reliable young talent, everything from truck drivers
to sales associates to accounting and credit staff to branch
and divisional managers. Going forward, it is important that
we provide career path opportunities as well as appropriate
recruitment, training and education resources so that our
members can attract the talent they need to serve their
customers. The NBMDA has done a great deal in this area,
offering such things as the University of Innovative Distribution
and many other education, training and marketing resources
during the annual convention. All of this is made possible by the
manufacturers and distributors that contribute to the NBMDA
Educational Development Program.
It’s also up to the distributors themselves to create within their
organizations a culture that today’s young people want to be
a part of. Study after study of the millennial generation has
found that they value purpose and want jobs that bring them
satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s up to us to create corporate
cultures that offer young employees the equity, autonomy and
purpose that they seek and need.

Q. What is the most important thing you would say to your peers in
the industry?

A. I think the number one thing I would stress is education.
I would advise everyone in this industry to make it a lifelong
commitment to improve yourselves, improve your processes and
help your people gain new knowledge and skills. Don’t stand
still because the industry is moving rapidly and those who are
standing still will fall down or find themselves running hard to
catch up. s&p