Brand Vaughan Lumber’s continued success has been built on the foundation of dedicated team members.
To give our team members more opportunities to grow and find their own personal success at the company, Brand Vaughan launched its Leadership Program in 2019. The first round of the program finished up recently, despite the pandemic slowing coursework down earlier this year.
Brand Vaughan Lumber has remained successful (and in business) over the past 75 years because of the people who work here. For the past two years, BVL was named one of the Top 50 Workplaces in Atlanta, and we’ve been working to maintain that status every year, not as a vanity award but as a reflection of how we treat our team and how we innovate our culture to meet their needs.
While Jim Hershey has been at Brand Vaughan for a few years, he has been teaching leadership outside of BVL since 1990. Jim combined his love of employee growth and his knowledge of the building materials industry to help Brand Vaughan come up with a way to keep investing in our most valuable asset: our people. Thus was born the BVL Employee Leadership Program.
“The idea is that it will grow leaders in our business,” says Jim, who believes this class will help the team stay successful in their roles at BVL while giving them additional building blocks (and opportunities) for success.
And sometimes that means career changes at BVL. “Our top salesman at BVL started out as a truck driver,” says Jim.
Giving employees that kind of leadership opportunity has helped BVL build a tight-knit team, one that lives up to BVL’s mission of simplicity, clarity and empowerment at the company.
“Enablement is the opposite of empowerment,” according to BVL president, Jon Vaughan. “We don’t want to do the hard tasks for you or show you ways around your struggles, we want to empower you to figure out the right solution.”
The Leadership Program at Brand Vaughan was established to further that idea of empowerment and a solutions-oriented culture.
“Leaders are not just bosses,” explains Jim.
The program at BVL was launched last year, and team members at BVL can enroll as students. It’s an instructional course, meeting twice a month, and much of it is self-guided.
“They’re assigned three books, and we want students of the program to develop a habit of reading,” explains Jim. “We’re looking for enthusiasm. You’ll learn how to teach yourself.“
Program participants include people from Sales, Operations, Administration, EWP and Support Services. The students have a wide range of experience, including team members who are new to the industry and some with several decades of experience in construction.
One of the goals of the program was to be inclusive of all employees, to give everyone the same kind of opportunity. “Leadership is doing the right thing when no one else is looking, and speaking up if something doesn’t make sense ... no matter who you are at the company,” says Jim.
Sixteen employees went through the program as a cohort, and despite the complications of a global pandemic, they finished the coursework in about a year.
“The people in the program were chosen for their attitude, aptitude and potential,” explains Jim.
The participants learn about leadership together and have both individual and team assignments. Topics include management versus leadership, budgeting, the importance of sales and team dynamics. Students are required to participate and eventually present on these topics.
“They wind up with a new team of people who aren’t their usual teammates,” says Jim. “When they start presenting, they really bond.”
In the next Leadership Program cohort, Jim plans to have the most recent graduates participate and present on at least one topic.
“Getting people comfortable and sharing their ideas is the goal here,” says Jim. “We want to establish the idea of sharing and being a positive influence on the people and world around them.”
Eventually, Brand Vaughan plans to offer a mentorship component in the Leadership Program assigning mentors to each class participant. This helps prepare more team members to become leaders so that the next group can succeed in the program. It also encourages a culture of servant leadership and giving back to the people around you.
It’s an intentional approach to company-wide leadership. It’s also a sustainable way to keep BVL’s mission-driven culture alive and thriving for years to come.
Since being established in 1946, Brand Vaughan Lumber has been through a few economic crises. We survived those partially due to the leadership we had in place. The Leadership Program is one way we’re grooming the next generation to ensure our company can stand up to the challenges that inevitably lie ahead.
Learn more about BVL’s approach to leadership and what continues to make Brand Vaughan Lumber one of the best places to work in Atlanta.