We recently attended a meeting of lumber and building materials (LBM) distribution executives. The company heads at this meeting had a lot of suggestions to share with one another that can be of benefit to door and window manufacturers as well. One of the more powerful insights of the day came in the form of a simple question: If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would decide to do it? This question isn’t a cure-all because a company still must spend whatever is needed in order to get back on the optimal path. If you never identify the optimal path, though, you’re sure to miss opportunities for improvement and course correction along the way.

Other executives demonstrated how they take their knowledge of their local market conditions to the next level. When asked how the California drought was affecting business and whether they were thankful for the recent rains, one executive took the response a step further. She pointed out that when it rains in the most populated areas of California, the water just ends up in the ocean. What they really watch is the snowpack up in the mountains, since that will trickle down in the spring and give all the ground a good soaking.

It doesn’t matter whether you operate in or near California. The point is that, in every market in the country, there is an initial layer of understanding – and then a deeper layer of understanding. We all need to reach that deeper layer.

If you operate in the Northeast and have noticed that your fortunes vary with the stock market, layer in the earnings of the S&P 500 as well to determine how much the overall economic success of the country factors in, versus stock indices alone. Take your game to the next level, no matter where you are in the country.

One executive encouraged attendees to measure everything about their business. You should measure how inventory moves among certain customers and at different times of the year, whether certain customers favor the good, better or best end of your product pricing and similar items. The counterpoint to that recommendation was that you have to avoid generating data that reaches the level of white noise about your business and hone in on only those data points that allow you to make the most impactful decisions about your business.

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