How To Lead Sustaining Change During Crisis: A Case Study
Brendan Deely, CEO of wholesaler-distributor Banner Solutions, is a transformative leader who is humble, hungry, and also understands the power of Do It Together (DIT). When the housing market collapsed in 2007 and 2008 Brendan was the CEO of wholesaler-distributor L&W Supply, then the nation’s largest distributor of gypsum wallboard and building materials, saw sales and profits plummet. Deely, who believes that “a downturn is a terrible opportunity to waste to transform your business,” sprung into action. But he didn’t do it alone.
Deely was hungry for innovation and transformation, yet humble enough to understand that no one person could have all the answers. In August 2008 he brought 30 cross-functional, high-potential employees together and asked them to help create the strategy that would propel L&W Supply’s future. The team went to work and took a “really deep dive into the industry.” They examined deeper than they ever had, analyzing:
- The industry from top to bottom
- The market size
- The competitors
- Their customers
- Their internal capabilities — what they were good at and what they were not good at
- Their internal capabilities compared to other industries
As the team began to process the insight, Deely needed to change their frame of reference, having concluded that the organization as a whole didn’t understand what “thinking big” meant. He set three guidelines for the team before he let them loose:
- Think big
- Change the industry rules
- Come out of this downturn stronger than we went in.
As the team came together they realized that meaningful service standards were non-existent in the industry. They uncovered the opportunity to bring their customers to a better future by quantifying service standards that the customers were looking for, that L&W Supply could deliver uniquely, and then designing the organization that can execute against this new vision and value proposition.
They needed to transform IT platforms, staffing structure, and more, and Deely could not make the transformation happen alone. Being hungry and humble led Deely to the DIT theory and as a result this transformative leader has created a new future for L&W Supply, its customers, and the industry.
At the time of publishing INNOVATE!, L&W Supply reported operating profit of $1 million compared to an operating loss of $2 million a year earlier, despite harsh winter conditions affecting the building material industry across the nation. This was the fourth consecutive quarter of operating profit and the fist time L&W has been profitable in the first quarter since 2007. As described by Jim Metcalf, CEO and president of USG at the time (of which L&W was a business unit), this L&W “value proposition really strongly resonates with our customers and is really getting some traction.”
This article was excerpted from Dirk’s book INNOVATE! How Successful Distributors Lead Change In Disruptive Times.
Founder | UnleashWD
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