Blum’s Brian Joyce Looks to the Future, Even in the Uncertain Present
- On 15 Jun 2020
- By Tovi Spero
Brian Joyce, Vice President of Sales at Blum Inc., entered our industry in the early 1980s, building cabinets for a small, custom cabinet shop in Southern California as a way to support himself through college. Little did he know then that this “odd job” would lead to a rewarding career.
Over the last three decades, he has worked for three industry leaders. Five years ago, he moved from California to North Carolina where Blum’s U.S. corporate office is to take on more national responsibilities within the Sales Department before becoming VP of Sales almost three years ago. We sat down with him recently to discuss his career, the ongoing pandemic crisis, and where he hopes the business will be headed when there is a return to normal
NBMDA: What do you see are our industry’s one or two biggest challenges of the moment?
BRIAN JOYCE: Finding enough skilled workers to meet the need not only to grow business, but maintain it, as well, remains a major challenge for business owners. The gap between the volume of open jobs and the number of qualified workers ready to fill them most likely won’t end soon. The wood manufacturing industry offers exciting careers for college graduates and job seekers, but we must do our best to remove the stigma associated with these positions. Advanced technology, highly automated equipment, and innovative software solutions are critical components to our industry’s success, and we must find a way to look attractive to a diverse workforce, or we will miss out on top talent to other industries. This can be done by improving the perception of wood products manufacturing and focusing on what motivates candidates today. This could take adjusting how we previously did things and developing a strategy that connects with Millennials, considers veterans, and includes women. Our industry associations are eager to support and willing to provide resources to help with this challenge.
Education must continue to be a priority also. We need increased support from legislators in Washington for bills like the Perkins Act, the PARTNERS Act, and the Skills Investment Act. These funds provide a great opportunity for young people to acquire skills prior to joining the workforce; small and mid-sized companies the ability to develop work-based learning programs; and American workers money they can use on college classes, apprenticeship programs, or retraining programs.
NBMDA: How has technology changed the business since you first got involved?
Technology has changed the way we interact with customers and a new expectation has been set. Distributors and manufacturers are challenged to stay ahead of the digital curve while maintaining superior customer experiences. Personalized face-to-face interaction with customers is still a high priority, but no longer enough. Customers now look for connected experiences that include mobile friendly and adaptive home page options. Business hours no longer mean 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and our customers now look for 24/7 self-service access. The ability to remain constantly connected through social media and interactive websites are almost a must. Customers want immediate access to product information, purchase history, inventory levels, pricing, shopping cart features, and next-day or same-day delivery. Connecting existing systems with customer data is an expensive investment. But if you don’t offer it, you may not attract new customers and could lose existing ones.