The push for a $15 minimum wage is affecting you, whether you see it or not.

The announcement that all Amazon workers will earn no less than $15.00 per hour coupled with nationwide efforts to bump fast food workers and others to that level has created a new reason for employees in your business to feel underpaid.

They are likely talking about it in the break room, saying that if someone who walks into a fulfillment center warehouse or a burger restaurant with no experience is worth $15.00 an hour, then surely someone with lumberyard experience and product knowledge is worth a whole lot more. You are already paying more than $15.00 an hour, so you must be safe. Right? Don’t count on it.

So, what to do?

We recommend two proactive measures. The first is knowing where your rates of pay stand in your marketplace against other lumberyards. There are several ways to gather this information. Websites like and offer some insights on current wage rates for free. Recruiters are very aware of what clients are paying for experienced estimators, load builders, drivers, inside sales people, etc. Associations such as the NLRA often track and publish wages after surveying their members.

If you find you are underpaying for a particular position, the smart thing to do is increase those rates, on an employee by employee basis, rewarding those that are performing the job at an acceptable level.

Marginal employees need not get a boost. This often times cements your relationship with your best people… and pre-empts the likelihood that a competitor “poaches” them.

Secondly, an internal marketing campaign is in order. Let employees see in black and white how much you spend on them for all of their fringe benefits, and then break that down to an hourly wage value… this is called “the Hidden Paycheck”. If you cover $600 per month of health insurance cost, just that one benefit is costing you over $3.00 per hour. If they are on a family plan, that cost is much higher. Show them this, and include the costs of all the other benefits that you include in their compensation, including any retirement savings contributions made on their behalf.  This can be a real eye opener, and make employees appreciate your company more. Another message to communicate is that you value their work-life balance. Don’t underestimate this… lumberyards offer much better work hours, typically very consistent schedules, few or no nights, some positions include no weekends, and most are closed on holidays, etc. Ask anyone who has worked at a big box about how they had to plan their personal lives around an ever changing extended work schedule and you will gain a better understanding of your advantage.

Bottom line: By  proactively paying a competitive wage and proudly communicating your advantages , you will insulate your business, and have happier, loyal employees who don’t listen when competitors come calling.

This article was written by Tom Ford, President and Partner at Impact 180 Consulting Group & Lumber Contacts Inc. Feel free to contact Tom at, [email protected] – Phone 508-742-3404.


Tom is a “lifer” in the LBM business, with strong executive management skills, good product knowledge, and can relate well to people at all levels. He has been involved in retail, contractor sales, light manufacturing, distribution centers and supply chain planning, wholesaling, tool rental, installed sales services, and the acquisition of off-price and closeout merchandise. As President and CEO, he managed both public and privately held businesses, ranging from over 700 million annually, to supervising store operations of all sizes from less than 1.0 million to over 50.0 million within a chain context.