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Missy O’Daniel, president of Web-Don., served as the first female president of the NBMDA in 2019. She shared her thoughts, opinions and vision for the building products industry and the future of the NBMDA in an interview with S&P.
Q. Tell me a little about Web-Don and what distinguishes you in your marketplace.
A. Web-Don is a family-owned business headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was co-founded by my father and his partners in 1972. We are still a family-owned and operated company. In fact, we recently became a woman-owned business and are currently pursuing Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification as a woman-owned and -operated enterprise. This is an important step in our family succession planning that will have significant benefits for us and our customer base.
We have roughly 120 employees, so we are not the largest building materials distributor in our region, but because we don’t have a big bureaucracy, we can be nimble and agile. We can make decisions, react to changes in the marketplace and respond to customers’ needs quickly. This gives us a huge advantage.
Another driver of our success is that we have deep, longstanding relationships with our customers. They trust us to help them succeed based on our tradition of service and the high-quality products we offer. We carry top-tier brands such as Wilsonart, which we have represented since our founding in 1972, and superior products such as HanStone Quartz, Hartson-Kennedy postform tops and Carolina Heartwood cabinets.
We also make it a point to carry products for varied segments of the market in order to expand our customer base and reach out to more nontraditional consumers. In addition, we have been very intentional about carrying products that save lives and improve safety conditions in buildings. These include LumAware’s photoluminescent lighting products and EOScu bacteria-killing solid surface.
Q. Tell me about your background in the building products distribution industry. How did you get into the business and how/why did you decide to build your career with Web-Don?
A. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, I spent a short time selling cell phones and office equipment. I joined Web-Don as an architectural rep and found that I liked getting in front of people. Those early jobs taught me lessons about time management, persistence and the ability to take rejection, skills that proved invaluable as I moved into customer service and helped open and grow a new location in Columbia, South Carolina.
I also learned that relationships are critical to both inside and outside sales. In time, I advanced through the ranks from inside sales to VP and sales manager, chief operating officer and eventually president. I became president of the company in January 2017.
I definitely learned this business from the ground up. I have rolled laminate in the warehouse, ridden routes with sales reps, poured over architectural specs with customers, evaluated GPS routes and negotiated truck leases. Every job has taught me something new and has been a key step in my career.
Q. What do you see as some of the challenges facing the building products industry today?
A. We all face the challenge of rising customer service expectations. Today, the sales cycle is very much accelerated, and we need to keep pace and make things happen really fast for our customers. We also face the continuous challenge of recruiting and retaining good workers and numerous issues related to technology, including the impacts of online purchasing and social media.
In the face of all of these challenges, we have to stay in the game and remain relevant. This means keeping up with our customers and our dealer network, as well as the next generation of employees.
Q. What changes have you seen in the building products industry in recent years?
A. I think the Great Recession left an indelible imprint that remains with us today. Since then, we’ve become a little bit cautious and conservative in regard to stocking inventory, extending credit, overhead expenses, trucks and logistics. We see it all throughout our supply chain.
Q. In your opinion, what sets a top distributor apart from its competitors?
A. It starts with top-tier products. To win in the market, you have to offer products that solve customers’ problems and meet their needs. At Web-Don, we try to think outside the box when it comes to product selection, to take some calculated risks on innovative new products and products with purpose, by which I mean products that save lives and/or have safety embedded in them. An example we carry is LumAware, an advanced photoluminescent technology that helps individuals locate exits, fire extinguishers, trip hazards, etc., in the dark.
The other key factor is people. Success depends on committed employees who believe in your mission and loyal customers who trust that your service, quality and pricing will make them successful.
Q. What do you see ahead for the NBMDA, the building products distribution industry and the association’s member companies?
A. I am a huge cheerleader for the NBMDA. I see the organization continuing to grow and become an even more valuable resource. NBMDA adds tremendous value for its members, from education and training to benchmarking, networking, tips about tools, methods and technologies. Plus, NBMDA members are top the leaders in the building products industry. We are peers and colleagues who support each other, share best practices, commiserate when it’s a down quarter and celebrate when it’s a good one. I am very proud to be a member of the NBMDA and honored to serve as its president this year.
Q. What is the most important thing you would say to your peers in the industry?
A. Accept and embrace change. Change is inevitable; we cannot ignore it or avoid it. It is happening fast, and we need to move with the times. I would encourage people in this industry to learn something new each and every day—and to forever banish the phrase, “This is the way we’ve always done it here.”
Q. What would you say to someone who is considering a career in this industry?
A. We know that competition is alive and well in the building products industry. We need to stay innovative and lead rather than follow. This is a terrific industry that offers opportunity for career growth and advancement to those who are willing to work hard. It’s a business in which you can be creative and help solve problems for people. And the people in the building supply industry are friendly, enthusiastic, and eager for the leaders of tomorrow to join us.