Want some optimism and some encouraging ideas? Check out my highlights from the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) Annual Convention held this week in Nashville.

Good News for Wood

A few people I spoke to at the show reported that the wood business is doing fairly well including Mark Rieser, president of Windsor Windows and Doors.

“It seems vinyl sales as an industry whole were higher last year due to the tax credit,” he said. “But this year wood is doing well. Our business picked up a little during the summer.”

Matthew O’Shea at Glasscraft agrees, saying his company is selling a lot of wood panel doors.

Session that Will Get People Thinking

AMD held a session on social media marketing, and more and more of these types of seminars are popping up at industry events. It seems this is a topic people need to hear about as many of the session attendees admitted they are not utilizing social media.

When the presenter asked for a show of hands on who was on various social media outlets, not a lot of hands went up. When it comes to Facebook it’s not as surprising, but most people in the room didn’t even have a presence on LinkedIn (which, by the way, drives the most leads for business-to-business companies, according to the speaker Bob DeStefano).

If you happen to be someone very familiar and engaged in social media platforms then you may want to check google+. DeStefano, believes this will be a game changer.

But it’s not all about social media—it’s about content as well. DeStefano said that companies who have blogs generate 67 percent more leads. Why? These companies are seen as thought leaders.

“There is a reason people want to talk to you,” said Stefano. “It’s for your knowledge. You need to become a content marketer. You’re not only in the business of millwork distribution, you’re also in the business of knowledge.”

Favorite Attendee Quote

During the economic forecast, John Meeks asked attendees the rhetorical question: “Do you remember a few years ago when you couldn’t get enough door skins.” An attendee then yelled out, “The good old days.”

Favorite Quotes from Keynote Speaker Joe Calloway

Joe Calloway, author of “Becoming a Category of One,” engaged with AMD attendees during the keynote speech and definitely gave me a lot to think about. Here are some of my favorite quotes, which will perhaps get your creative juices flowing.

“If you want to do a seminar on how to interact with customers go and watch the Apple employees interact and engage with their customers.”

Calloway also said that the online retailer zappos is top notch when it comes to customer service. For me, I was most impressed with how they get just the right employees for their company.

“After two weeks of a six-week training program management says, ‘If this isn’t the right job for you I’ll give you $2,000 and you can leave.’ Why do they do that? To get the right people.”

Calloway told of Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson River, who after each flight takes 15 minutes to determine what could have gone better.

“What would be the impact on your company if everyone did that? How many are willing to do that?” he asked.

“Your management team must be courageous enough to take risks …. Mediocre companies have great ideas but don’t take action.”

Favorite Example of Companies Not Afraid of Change

You hear it all the time—nobody likes change. But the companies who are willing to adapt are the ones who are surviving.

At Menzner Hardwoods, although hardwoods is in its name, the company has started utilizing softwoods as well in the manufacturing of its products.

“We’ve done things we never thought we would do,” says Mike Moe. “We have to change.”

And it’s not just suppliers that are adapting. Suppliers report that distributors are doing so as well. Ferche has expanded into a new market with the addition of ready-to-assemble fireplace mantels.

“This is new for us and we are selling it online as well as through our distributors,” says Tim Klimek. “They [distributors] are tired of being the same so they are doing something.”

Good for them and for the others who are embracing that same philosophy. In this economy, that could be the game changer.

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