Not Accepting the “New Norm”

December 15, 2016

Strange how perceptions change…Just three, four years back, we were emerging from “The Great Recession.” Customers started to come back, sales were being made, new homes were being built…”There was light at the end of the tunnel”! We welcomed and coped with the growing business, giving our customers the “Royal Treatment.” Yet now the situation has changed to the point where some days it seems we’re just a bit “Over-Customer’d.” We just can’t quite get done what we need to do by day’s end. And some customers are getting “Cranky” again! “Why didn’t you call me back like you promised?” Or, “You promised you’d have that order out by 11:00–it was three thirty when your driver showed up, and I had to send the crew home early!” Or, “I emailed you four times, to finally get a response from you!” And it goes on…Sadly, “We ain’t perfect.” And one of the biggest problems is how we need to hire more people, but can’t find any. The industry was kind of “gutted out” when the Recession lasted way too long! So, we’re struggling, but getting by. And maybe I could say, “We get it right…most of the time!”….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

Where Will They Come From and Long-term Survivable

November 16, 2016

Here’s something that everyone in our industry knows, and is painfully aware of: “Through the Great Recession, our industry was pretty much gutted, from top to bottom.” But now we have one of the strongest truss order files we’ve had in a long time. On the other hand, builders taking delivery in a timely fashion just isn’t happening. Again, no surprise…When we talk to our customers, even though they have this strong “Build” file, they can’t find near enough block masons, cement finishers, carpenters, drywallers, painters, etc. So, when folks ask “How is business?” my qualified answer is: “There is a real ‘Governor’ on our activity!” This lack of skilled workers, throughout the industry, has effectively slowed activity. And it isn’t just a lack of workers out there…Building Material Dealers are struggling through the same thing….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

Parenting Isn’t a Democracy

November 1, 2016

I’m sure folks that read my “Chronicles” have concluded that “One-liners” drive a lot of my learning and belief system.  Sayings such as: “You Can Only Expect What You Inspect.”  When you begin to think about many of them, they truly speak volumes. That’s how the one-liner title I’ve used–referencing “Parenting”–hit me. Of course we know that a newborn doesn’t come into this world with a neat computer chip that has pre-trained and pre-programmed that baby….They’re “wild little animals” and the training starts right after they’re born. Looking back in time, the child rearing “Model” has changed so much. Fifty or more years ago, you heard expressions like: “Only speak when spoken to,” or “Always say, yes ma’am, yes sir” and discipline could get pretty rigid and often unforgiving. Then when the 1960s and 1970s hit, it was an almost complete reversal…”Modern” child psychologists told you not to discipline… “Let them ‘find’ themselves”…Never raise your voice, or fuss—it might hurt their psyche for life! Many parents and family members were taught, “There are no “winners” or “losers”….Just hug everyone and the world will turn out ok…and so on. Today, there is an emerging model that seems to try to pick some of both…Just keeps on evolving!….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

A Most Misunderstood Word…

October 12, 2016

To keep you from guessing, the misunderstood word I’m referring to is “Service”…Have you ever thought about what “Service” means to us now? The market, our customers, the whole atmosphere changes along with economic times we’re in. In some ways “Service” inevitably fluctuates along with it. So now we’re on that “other side” of the cycle that started with the “Boom” (sales were really good!!), to when the bottom fell out (the six years of “The Great Recession”)…and now we’re back on the “good” side again. Yes, it’s great to see profitable sales again: Plenty of customers, new building projects, etc.  Life is good! So what about the strength and well-being of “Service”?….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Are You a “Maverick” Developer?

September 14, 2016

This newsletter article starts out talking about me…and maybe what has happened to our industry in the last fifty plus years. At the beginning of my career, it really was a “Studs and Plywood” down-and-dirty kind of business. I believe many of us ran very “reactive” business models. You’d start out the day, orders came in, and you shipped them out in some kind of order. Some of that action was just the reaction to whomever was screaming the loudest! We bought specialty and commodity goods as reps and vendors stopped by–some of those reps called on a timely basis and some were “just dropping in as the notion struck them.” It was pretty casual, pretty loose a good part of the time. I even remember one competitor in the area that had a lumber guy who sat inside their main warehouse, on a nail keg…had a cash box at his side. If someone (like a “retail” customer) came in and he sold spruce boards or whatever, he just collected money and made change out of that cash box. And there was little paperwork that went along with it. I guess whatever cash was “over” from what he started with in the morning went into the company safe….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Continuation of A Certified Package Hits Your Desk

August 31, 2016

Several years ago, several of us were talking to a veteran commercial airline pilot…about how “neat” it was to fly all over the world. He commented: “Maybe not that big a deal…Computers do most of the flying…A little bit of real hands on,” but then he added…”It’s really hours of boredom and occasionally moments of sheer terror”!…Not that we really get “bored” in this business, but lots of the time, it runs along pretty predictably, and then you get hit up the side of the head…Like that aforementioned three-pound Certified package hitting your desk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

A Certified Package Hits Your Desk

August 17, 2016

Almost sounds like the beginning of one of those bad jokes: A man walks into a bar, and … Anyway, you’re having a good day…lots of deliveries going out…no rain, the check “that was in the mail”…actually came in!!  And no employee crisis…doesn’t get any better than that!  And then, your secretary brings in this one-inch thick white envelope (weighs about three pounds!). It arrived in the post “Certified Mail,” and in the upper left hand corner, you see this long name, Scleagle, Beagle, Meagle, and Farmsworth, P.A….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Creativity is Great… Just Not in Accounting

August 3, 2016

O.K. I guess it’s pretty obvious: Accounting isn’t meant to be super creative, unless you’re a Bernie Madoff type, and that only works for a while. As a company, we at Kimal pride ourselves in allowing a lot of “License” with Kimal Associates to constantly try a variety of “creative ideas.” As I walk around the company, I see frequent examples of tweaking many things to just improve the processes, and often they’re creative changes that make our customer’s experience with us “just a little bit better”! But this all happens in Operations. So although we allow that element, we are brutally tough in “making sure the numbers work” from an accounting standpoint…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Do You Ever Think “Legacy”?

July 20, 2016

Recently I was at a meeting with a group of business owners. We had a “Guest Speaker,” “Bob,” (not his real name) who painted a vivid picture of his last twenty-five years. Even though he was only in his fifties, he’d done many remarkable things: He started and sold a number of successful businesses and made a lot of money, and he’d written books that were published. He owned a home out West, and one in Florida. Yet when he described his “Life’s Story” up to this point, he didn’t end it with being so successful he could now start “kicking back” to enjoy “the good life”…rather, he was starting a number of brand new initiatives…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Dare We Think 40…

July 6, 2016

One thing I’ve always believed is that if you originally committed your “Human and Monetary Capitol” to be in business, you weren’t entering into it “just for fun.” The ultimate goal should be that you always get “To keep some of what you Kill!” So, with that in mind, even going back as far as my other life with the big Wickes Corporation–I had some “revelations” about this early on. First, I talked to my “contractor” base quite a bit. My main questions oriented around, “What do you want, need and expect in the way of services and products?” What I got in honest dialog was a pretty extensive grocery list of “things.” Lots of things!!…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 
 

Defining Your Relationship

June 8, 2016

Over the (dare I say) “many” years of working with our contractor customers, “Relationships” come into play. The good news is that ours is a business of establishing a “Relationship” with everyone we do business with. I still remember how years ago, a contractor friend of mine had purchased a Redi-Mix plant. He sold it a few years later, made a little money, but had an interesting observation about his experience. He said, “You know what the problem is in dealing with cement, cement blocks, etc.? The stuff has no ‘personality’…How do you ever sell this stuff and add ‘personality?’” Just kind of comes down to “Who has the cheapest mud and blocks out there.”

Our business model is quite different….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

You Are Remembered by the Rules You Break

May 18, 2016

You and I, we’re living in incredible times. We’re instantly surrounded by people to support and educate us though the worldwide web and social media forums. We’re overwhelmed by the crowd and sheer number of potential informative advice that often bombards us from every angle. Yet thirty, forty, sixty years ago, you weren’t able to call upon such wide-ranging help. More often than not, you “flew by the seat of your britches.” When situations, opportunities, issues, changes in the economy hit your    business–you name it–what did you do? More times than not, all you had to deal with it was…yourself! You’d sit alone with your thoughts, analyze, soul search, dissect, study, etc., and eventually, it was often that inner, intuitive side that kicked in, and you did something!  Often times you felt you had to “break rules” to move ahead….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

Would “Wood” Be In?

May 4, 2016

OK, I’ve been in this industry for over half a century and seen many changes….Things like “hollow core, exterior Luan doors” that might last five years, to today’s fiberglass doors with composite stiles, rails, jambs, etc., that are…kinda bullet-proof, and will probably outlast the owner of the home. In the last twenty five years or so, we’ve segued into many modern “engineered” products, composites and plastics that do remarkable things, and it goes on. So, what to embrace and promote next? Maybe one group of products that has huge potential has been hiding right here in plain view: “Wood” of all stripes…Western Red Cedar, Redwood, Southern Yellow Pine (SYP), Douglas Fir, Cypress, and many others….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

1st Regional Bank of … Kimal

April 20, 2016

Talking to a lumber guy about three years ago…Recession about over and seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. He said, “Hey, I finally figured out how to make a small fortune in the lumber business… (Pause!) You start with a big one”!! Old Joke and kind of a sick one. Many of us have “lived through it” and even though it’s better nowadays, the “scars” are still there. We don’t have a big fortune to back us up, so what do we have?….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
 

Commodities… A Follow Up

March 30, 2016

O.K., I’m often accused as the “Too Positive Person”…”Glass is Always Half Full”…etc. And yes, I admit to being “Positive” most of the time. There are those times, though, when “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck…just gotta be a duck!!” Translated, yes, there are true day-in-day-out commodities: OSB, Pine Plywood, Studs, even Hardi at times…And you just have to accept that if the “Market” (our builder business) says, OSB is selling at 5 to 8 points of maintained margin, then you ain’t gonna get 20 points…. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 
 

Not Always a “Commodity”

March 16, 2016

Over twenty years ago, I was introduced to Weyerhaeuser’s TimberStrand product–a true “Engineered Lumber.” Even though the sell price was going to be almost three times that of conventional lumber, I felt there was a place for it. I got it started on Boca Grande, where price was not such an issue. In fact, within a year it was “the hot new product” out there. Soon, I had it started in a development “Off Island”…A builder had placed a large order for all the framing on a two-story house.  But just before shipment, our salesperson was told….

                                                                                                                                                                                          

 
 

Preparing a Budget… Part Two: Owning It, Selling It

March 2, 2016

O.K. In Part One, “Preparing an Accurate Budget,” we’ve done the initial hard work.  We’ve met with all our Profit Center Managers to produce a “realistic” budget–one that should be attainable, and has input from all parties involved.  Something that should be doable, and not a “Pie in the Sky.” So, do we just put it to rest at this point….

                                                                                                                                                                                          

 
 

Gotta “Cap” Those Sales

February 17, 2016

Bet that got your attention! And a kind of “snarky” way to start. But—going back seven or so years ago, and “Riding the Recession Down” (or chasing the bottom, as one of our Directors described it) wasn’t a bit fun. Mighty gut-wrenching when you let someone go that’s been with you a long time, and in some cases, for twenty years or more….

                                                                                                                                                                                          

 
 

Separating Expenses from Investments

February 3, 2016

Remember the old STP commercial? …“Pay me now or pay me later.” It was about an engine oil additive that when added to the oil, would extend the life of the engine…“A small investment now would save big costs (expenses) down the road.” We’re kind of at that defining moment in our businesses. Now that things are more “normal” we can once again take a snapshot a year or two down the road…