Where is the Passion?
By David Garrett, executive director, EBMDA
f a man is called to be a street
sweeper, he should sweep
streets even as Michelangelo
painted, or Beethoven com-
posed music, or Shakespeare wrote
poetry. He should sweep streets so
well that all the hosts of heaven and
earth will pause to say, here lived a
great street sweeper who did his job
well.” That quote sticks in my mind
when I think about how some people
work their careers with passion and
some do not.
Do you know people in the lum-
ber and building material business
who do not have passion? It seems
they go through each day looking at
the clock, waiting for 5 p.m. to arrive.
The tasks they complete from one day
to the next are simply stepping stones
to heading home at the end of the
day. The highlight of their week comes
when their paycheck is handed to
In my estimation, someone who
works with no passion is cheating their
employer, their customers, and them-
selves. The fact that they are cheating
themselves is the saddest part of all.
And what is it that they are cheat-
ing themselves of? Pride in their work,
satisfaction in a job well done, happi-
ness in solving a customer’s need, and
determination to keep learning and
I had a conversation recently with
someone who analyzes the LBM indus-
try, the upticks and downticks, as well
as the criteria for anticipated profits
or losses. He told me that he has seen
a real loss of passion in this industry
over the last six years.
Given the trends that have de-
veloped over that time, I am not
surprised. The closures, mergers and
acquisitions, cutbacks in staffing and
the general uncertainty of the mar-
ketplace have all fed into a mentality
of survival. This environment has not
lent itself to being positive about the
However, in spite of my analyst
friend’s assessment, I see a change of
course taking place. I see dealers, gen-
eral managers, and suppliers all facing
their work with passion. Let me tell
you about a couple of them.
Nick Palermo is the general man-
ager at Beatty Lumber & Millwork, in
Upper Darby, Pa. He began his career
at Beatty by working in the yard, and
rose to the position he is in now. That
did not happen by accident. Nick tack-
les the challenges of his job with en-
thusiasm, commitment, and resolve as
if he is the owner. In fact, Eric Tucker,
the president of Beatty Lumber, says
of Nick, “He has contagious enthusi-
asm. He gets fired up and works hard
to spread that enthusiasm to the sales
force.” When I see Nick at work, I can
see the passion in his eyes.
Another person who has lived his
life full of passion is B. Harold Smick,
Jr. This distinguished gentleman of
the LBM industry has held leadership
positions of all kinds in his community
and with both Eastern Building Mate-
rial Dealers Association (EBMDA) and
National Lumber and Building Material
Dealers Association (NLBMDA).
Harold makes the past so relevant
to the present. There is no one I know
other than Harold who more consis-
tently wants to know what is happen-
ing in your life. Most people will talk
all day about their life, but Harold
wants to know about yours. The long
average tenure of the employees of
I.S. Smick Lumber, in Quinton, N.J.,
is reflective of the passion that Harold
exhibits and shares every day.
Oh, that quote at the beginning
of this article? That came from Martin
Luther King, Jr. Passion can be found
in all walks of life. Go and be the best
street sweeper you possibly can!
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