Broderick “Brody” Lovelace fondly recalls a lesson his mom taught imparted before her passing: “No matter what it is that you do, why not you?”

It’s something the South Carolina native embodied about a decade ago when a sales position opened up at Richards Building Supply; Lovelace watched as his boss interviewed multiple candidates with little success in finding the right person. Lovelace spoke up when the final day of interviews came and went with few prospects.

“I was the first person and the last person you see coming into the building. And the last day of the interviews, the boss was leaving and going back to Raleigh, N.C., and I said, ‘Hey, when [are] you gonna pull from your bench and get your all-star?’ That's all I said to him. And he called me that night, and he said, ‘I heard you.’ He said, ‘You think you can do it?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’”

That “why not?” wasn’t a simple shrug or misplaced confidence. Lovelace had spent years learning everything he could about distribution, starting at the bottom with cleaning and sorting returned materials.

“You know, I know the product, I know the people, I know the procedure. I've driven the trucks and the forklifts and done the office things. I've done everything – why not give it a shot?” he said. “I love people. I love to talk. I love, you know, smiling. All those things. I'm like, ‘Man, I can do this,’ and that's kind of where we are now.”

Nearly two decades of experience in distribution, combined with an appreciation for everything life has to offer — his LinkedIn profile shows he has a doctorate in positivity from “Living Good University” — has made Lovelace a valued territory sales representative for Richards Building Supply.

Learning the Ropes

In distribution, merger and acquisition is a norm: Companies expand their footprints and customer base with each acquisition, but they also gain access to the talented people running those businesses.

Such was the case for Lovelace. Initially, he worked at a group home for boys and girls at age 19 but grew weary of the demanding schedule. He knew he wanted to get into warehouse work, but after Walmart rejected him, an acquaintance working at a building products company gave him a job in their warehouse in March 2000.

“First day on the job, he gave me a shop rag and some Windex and two pallets full of returned vinyl siding. And I had no idea what it was,” he said. “So they're like, ‘Make this re-sellable.’ Everybody's like, ‘He's quitting. He's going to quit.’ And, well, safe to say I didn't quit.”

The business eventually closed down around 2002, and Lovelace found employment at Lifetime Exterior Building Products, working there for a year before Eastern Aluminum Supply of North Carolina acquired the business. Through it all, Lovelace learned whatever he could.

“I started in the warehouse, like I said, cleaning off returns, picking orders. The opportunity came up to drive one of the local box trucks. And we loaded those by hand,” he said. “It was more physical labor, and I did that for a while.”

RBS_Lovelace.jpegLovelace (back row center-right) with his team at Richards Building Supply.

He impressed his bosses at Eastern Aluminum with his hunger for knowledge, so much so that they promoted him to work in the office, where he picked up skills working with computers. In 2015, Richards Building Supply acquired Eastern Aluminum, bringing Lovelace on board. 

“They love on their people, they love on their customers, but they will set you a path,” he said of Richards Building Supply. “If you say, ‘Hey, I would like to become this, or I would like to do this,’ they find ways and structure how they go about putting you on that trajectory, getting you the result that you're wanting.”

As proven by his boss accepting his off-the-cuff application, Richards Building Supply set Lovelace on his desired trajectory. He now works as a territory sales representative to bolster the company’s greenfield in the Commerce, Ga. market, and enjoys the freedom his position offers.

“I got to speak at our meeting this summer, and I told them I’m kind of like a free-range chicken: I taste better when you let me roam,” he said with a laugh.

A People Industry

Every chance he has to learn something, Lovelace pounces — “why not” learn something new? It means he has plenty of answers for his customers but is humble enough to know he doesn’t have them all. He often leans on his contractors for advice when it comes to roofing. When he first started in sales, he says that he once tagged along with a contractor to understand their needs.

“You need to have that confidence that you know what you're talking about. So he took me to a job site in the rain. I'll never forget that day in the mud and rain,” he said. “I touched every piece of everything on that house. And he told me what it was, what it was for, and why they needed it.”

This attitude helps Lovelace overcome what he says is the biggest challenge in his market: the competition. He said he supports healthy competition, but differentiating yourself from other suppliers can be challenging in a saturated market.

He said in sales, you can’t be thin-skinned, as someone in his position hears “no” more than they do “yes,” but he said unless they say “absolutely not,” he will make himself available to those customers.

“The challenge to get them to give us an opportunity, give [me] an opportunity, that would probably be the biggest thing,” he said. “But what I've learned, and what other customers or new people would tell you, is that we are as advertised. If we say we can do it, we'll get it done.

“As long as somebody gives me an opportunity once, twice, after the third time, good luck trying to get them away from Richards,” he added.

When asked what the secret is to attract and keep customers, Lovelace said it boils down to honesty and availability.

“You have to be selfless. It's not about the money you want right now,” he said. “Everybody wants to sell big, make all the big money. Everything is on His time. Just put in the work [and] do the right thing by everybody; just do right and be there if somebody needs you, and that will carry you a super long way in this industry.”

Lovelace-Hawaii.jpgLovelace on a Richards Building Supply customer-company trip to Hawaii.

Naturally, being there for customers isn’t 24/7. When not working, Lovelace loves spending time with his wife and two teenage sons, whether on trips or heading to the gym with his boys.

A photo in his office can sum up the culmination of Lovelace’s philosophies. In it, a silhouette of three figures is set against a beautiful sky: Lovelace is in the middle, with two men flanking him. 

His wife snapped the photo in Hawaii during a company-customer trip, where Lovelace wasn’t happy about being driven to the top of a mountain. At the advice of his buddies, he walked to the cold summit to clear his head.

“I'm up there; I'm shivering. I'm shivering, and all of a sudden I feel this warmth around me that is, I cannot explain it, but I know it was my mom. Like I was the closest I ever felt to God in heaven that moment,” he said. “And I just started crying out of nowhere. I'm standing by myself out of nowhere.

“And then [suddenly], both of my bros come up, kind of on either side and put their arm around me; they're like, ‘We get it. It's okay.’”

Those two men are customers of Lovelace, who he said were people he initially didn’t get along with but are now two of his “greatest friends in the world.”

“Treat people fair, treat people right, listen to them and try to do the right thing,” he said.