At Atlantic Plywood, Employees Are Greatest Resource

Art604_Wojick_w150.jpgSince it was established in 1974, Atlantic Plywood has grown from a single location to nine branches dotting the U.S. Northeast. At the heart of this thriving operation is a 50- to 60-person sales team, which may be the distributor's biggest asset. That's because, according to Vice President of Sales and Marketing Marty Wojick, the sales force does so much more than sell; it is also a resource for customers. “We want to have the same relationship with our customers that we have with our vendors: the “we're in this together” type of thing” he says. “We want our customers to know that we are here for them, we are carrying large inventories of the top products in our industry, we can offer next-day delivery in all of our markets, and we are going to provide unparalleled service.” That kind of high touch, Wojick believes, provides value to and cultivates a certain loyalty in Atlantic Plywood's customers, making it a keystone in the company's success. 

The company has been fortunate to retain many members of its sales force for 15 years or more because, as Wojick explains, once people are introduced to Atlantic Plywood, they tend to stay for the long term. “We don't turn over a lot. We don't lose a lot of salespeople,” he notes. “People just don't leave Atlantic.” Well, actually, they do – but often not until it's time to retire; and the company is now starting to see more and more of its sales associates approach that junction in their lives. While it's bittersweet to watch seasoned and valued employees bring their careers to a close, Wojick and others in upper management recognize that recruitment and retention of fresh talent is crucial to the company's long-term success. “We realize that we need the best people in the industry,” he affirms. “Good people will provide not only good customer service, but will also become a resource for our customer.” 

Capturing the interest of young professionals in the first place, however, is the challenge that lies ahead for Atlantic Plywood and other distributors, given the seemingly unglamorous nature of the industry. Wojick says his company makes recruitment a priority, aggressively pursuing outstanding candidates and even creating positions, where possible, to introduce new people into the industry and the firm. That includes a young, new marketing director who in just a couple of years has made a big impact on the department by steering its focus toward social media and demonstrating the promise that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer. It also includes the young head of the IT department, who has helped Atlantic Plywood to create what Wojick describes as a very unique and sophisticated CRM system that facilitates sharing of information both within the firm and externally. The marketing and IT directors are examples of the kind of tech-savvy and resourceful new employees that Atlantic Plywood is counting on to build on the firm's position as a market leader and usher it into the future.

Wojick, who himself has been with the company for 30 years, confesses that he and others were skeptical of the social media strategy – until the dividends began paying out. “Me, personally, I probably would never have gone there,” he admits. “But for this generation – even customers – social media is a reality; and we have to embrace it, not fight it. It's all about tailoring content and providing a message fitting to each individual and customer market, really trying to brand Atlantic Plywood with our customers and vendors and get them to think of us first.”

As for the CRM system, it has been in place for three or four years now and is constantly being tweaked for improvement. The technology is so very innovative, according to Wojick, for the industry overall and especially for a distributor like Atlantic Plywood. “Our outside salesmen, when they wake up in the morning, all of the information is processed from what happened yesterday and is on their tablets,” Wojick explains. “From their dashboards, they know exactly what their sales are, what they're budgeted for the month, what their pace is for the month, etc. They can look at a customer and gather all the information they need before they go in and see that account.” In addition to sharing information between both inside and outside sales people, sales managers, product specialists, and other Atlantic Plywood employees, the CRM system even allows the distributor to communicate data to its vendors. “They can't see everything, but we can show them what we want them to see,” Wojick continues. “They'll be able to see exactly what's going on — projects we're working on — and if they can help us to capture that sale, I think that's pretty unique and it's something that we do very well.”

Sharing data with vendors is one way that Atlantic Plywood, as a distributor, aims to add value to these relationships. While Wojick believes distributor-manufacturer ties are very healthy at the moment, he does stress that “realistic goals need to be set so that both parties understand results in the market. By doing so we're able to share more information — both from the distributor side and the vendor side — and really partner up in order to gain market share.” He also credits membership in the NBMDA for close to, if not all of Atlantic Plywood's years in the business for facilitating connections with vendors and even other distributors. “When I think about it,” Wojick speculates, “I bet you every single one of our major product lines that we have been able to take on in the last 15 years has been because of our relationship with NBMDA and the networking that we do at the fall and spring conventions. It's just a wonderful opportunity. NBMDA brings great value, and I can't imagine us ever not being a part of it.”

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