About a dozen years ago, the leaders of NEMEON — the purchasing cooperative of independent, locally-owned roofing and siding distributors from around the country — had the foresight to start nurturing the next generation of leaders. The move to create the Next Gen initiative was part self-preservation and part shared desire to improve processes and procedures among the collaborative companies dedicated to the trade.

The organization has annual meetings and offers networking opportunities for companies invested in NEMEON’s core vision: Promoting pride and prosperity industrywide through unity, value and partnership.

The goal is to train the future leaders of its member companies, many of which are longstanding family businesses. By developing them for success, the hope is their respective organizations will thrive in their markets and continue to grow the financial value of the family enterprise.

NEMEON-O'DONNEL_200px.jpgDave O'Donnell

Meetings are focused on leadership training intended to lay a foundation for future leaders to emerge and mentor others. It gives dedicated employees of any age the opportunity to think about the big picture while working within their current company roles. It’s a way for members to receive a similar exposure to what the leaders of their organizations experience from their NEMEON memberships.

The meetings include speakers from different aspects of business ranging from peer company presidents and manufacturer executives. Attendees also are exposed to professional speakers who teach and coach leadership, change-management strategies and other business-related skills.

Specific topics often discussed are organizational health, succession planning, financial implications of ownership change, and leading workforce.

Looking back, it’s hard to describe the effort as anything but a success, said NEMEON President and CEO Dave O’Donnell.

“When I look around the room and see all the engaged Next Gens at the meetings, we hear of them visiting each other’s [businesses] to get ideas that they might incorporate into their business,” O’Donnell said. “We have seen Next Gen members grow into owners and we have seen members’ children graduate and enter the industry. Each year when the group meets, you can really see the bonds that have been formed over the years.”

Next Gen Member Carmon McCulley said he appreciates the motivation he receives from the group to strive for more.

“I always want to learn and do more,” said McCulley, general manager with Northwest Drywall and Roofing Supply, in Kalispell, Mont. “I appreciate a group who also has [the] same aspirations and the Next Gen is working on making younger businesspeople better.”

NEMEON Next Gen members meeting

Originally, NEMEON leaders thought having the younger generation meet once a year was a good way to see how they operated differently, and then educate their older co-workers about new innovations in the market. But that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“What was surprising was to see the younger generations all agreeing that this industry is very relationship-driven,” O’Donnell explained. “Getting close to your customers and suppliers is integral to developing a sound business plan.”

O’Donnell said NEMEON isn’t just relying on the Next Gen members to turn the tide of the roofing industry’s workforce challenges. He said the organization aims to increase its promotional efforts in high schools, colleges, and universities to educate students on various opportunities the building materials industry provides.

“This effort should include technical schools as well as traditional high schools and colleges,” he said. “We just need to see more of that effort at all levels. Industry growth will be stymied if we limit our talent development to simply ‘stealing talent’ from our customers and competitors.”

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