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How To Increase Profits by Owning the Manufacturing and Installation of Products

This week’s episode comes to you from the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI) trade show floor. We wanted to hear from contractors and manufacturers who are dealing with the challenges of today’s industry — so we chatted with someone who’s both and has seen all of it.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Episode

Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

Dan Wies from Wies Drywall is an experienced contractor who talked with Zach about his family’s business and how they’ve pivoted to help more customers and grow their business. We met up with him at the AWCI trade show to talk shop.

Creating Community Within The Building Materials Industry

Dan Wies is a third-generation drywall contractor in St. Louis, Missouri, and he’s Vice President of Wies Drywall, a 51-year-old company that his grandfather started. As a commercial drywall contractor, Wies Drywall handles the “metal, studs, drywall, ceilings, taping — all those things.”

How to Pivot in the Building Materials Industry To Grow Your Business 1

But the family business has evolved a bit over the years, and we talked to Dan about how they’ve adapted to a growing construction market. “Out of that company, we spun off this other business,” explains Dan. “It's our offsite construction business called Wies Offsite.”

Wies Offsite manufactures wall studs to help builders with the framing process. “So we have a roll-forming facility where we have some roll-forming machines [and] do the whole design-build aspect of making studs,” says Dan.

Dan’s time in construction and his experience in business resulted in his involvement with the AWCI (Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry), where he became chair of the Emerging Leaders program.

The program supports professionals who are committed to supporting the future of building and construction. “There's this big need to really help our industry,” Dan says. “Our workforce is aging [and] our ownerships are aging.”

Emerging Leaders offers classes and a community for contractors, manufacturers and service providers who apply to the program. ”We are all leaders in our own way,” Dan explains, and this program is great for those who want to become leaders or improve their leadership skills.

Build Relationships With Impactful Communication

We talk frequently on the podcast about the labor shortage and hiring in the construction industry, but retaining current team members and employees is just as crucial. The AWCI trade show is part of a solution for companies and contractors who need that support and community.

“People coming in fresh to this, they don't know any of that. So it's also to help them understand the value that a construction association provides,” Dan says. The AWCI offers the community that professionals need and is a way to learn about products and systems to drive success.

For manufacturers who want to connect with this community, Dan gave us ideas for how to effectively communicate with industry professionals.

  • While it is important to reach out after a trade show, Dan suggests waiting more than a week to send an email. “If I was a manufacturer and putting together a standard operating procedure about a follow-up policy after a show, it would not be in that when it's super fresh in the contractor's mind, it would be two weeks later, three weeks later,” says Dan. “I'm always a huge fan of handwritten thank you notes,” he adds.
  • Get personal with people. Communicating with a targeted yet personal approach can take leg work, but Dan emphasizes how much we need personal connection in the industry. “Whenever we start viewing people as a dollar sign, people sense that,” Dan explains. “We have to really have a relationship and create that relationship. Our businesses are completely based on relationships.”

In construction, many of the relationships we create are based on how we support and help each other. “Helping is the new selling,” says Zach.

For Wies Offsite and other manufacturers, helping isn’t just an effective strategy. It’s how businesses actually grow, and Dan told us more of his company’s story.

Capitalizing on Project Opportunities

“You learn things from picking up, just like everything else,” he explains. After watching talented professionals spend countless hours on tasks that could be automated, Dan got frustrated and started asking questions. “Why are we having them do that? That's a very mindless task that they don't like.”

That frustration stuck with Dan for several years. “I wanted to start this prefab, offsite construction business a decade ago. For me, I love people, and I love maximizing people — and doing that is through having our own roll-forming machines, doing our own 3D modeling on the projects.”

Offsite and prefab construction projects are on the rise, and Dan believes that manufacturers can embrace this surge of opportunity. “There [are] all kinds of different opportunities when we expand,” he says. “So none of these practices are new. What is new and different is that the technology base that we have is a lot more. We can iterate a lot faster.”

Finding ways to make building more efficient for everyone has made Wies Offsite a valuable partner for builders and even potential competitors. “[Our material supplier] helped me a lot [in] a lot of different ways because at the end of the day, I'm still buying products from them, and I'm still buying a lot of products with them,” Dan explains.

At the end of the day, it’s about doing the job efficiently and effectively with a commitment to truly helping customers. “I'm not afraid to say where our products don't work. I'm not afraid to say … ‘We can't do that,’ or ‘I can't compete with that,’ or just being honest.”

Want Even More Insight?

There’s a need for this kind of honest leadership in the construction industry, especially as older generations of professionals retire and make room for other people to step up.

“It starts with you, it starts with the leader. It starts with the leader of the team,” he says. There are opportunities that come with change, even if the changes in construction feel chaotic. Dan believes that leaders can embrace (and overcome) that change when they keep their people in mind.

“I’m all about culture, and our company's culture is huge to me. I've been part of toxic cultures, [and] I've been part of great cultures,” says Dan. “It’s really just caring for people, ultimately.”

Be sure to listen to the full interview for more great conversation and insight.

You can reach out to Dan Wies here or check out AWCI for more information on their programs and services.

Have any questions about your post trade show communications, send us an email at [email protected] — we’d love to help you out!