Al E. Bavry, President Emeritus, Kimal Lumber
About thirty eight years ago, and after an eleven-year stint with “The big corporation,” KIMAL Lumber Company was born in 1981…not exactly a vintage year. We were in a recession. But we had assembled a small team of dedicated associates, and decided we’d get through this recession and build a strong full-service lumber company. What a great beginning time…To that great beginning team, and our loyal customers: Thank you all!
I wouldn’t deny that those first half dozen or so years were a struggle. But we soon started a small basic door shop, followed by a small, very basic Truss plant (I remember setting the big blade of the very used Clary component saw with a wood wedge jammed in, to “Lock” the blade so it wouldn’t start changing as it was cutting!), and then, the Englewood Center, as we continued to grow. Our credo was simple…“Take care of the customer”…“Take care of our people”…“Do the right thing!” Not just “Things right!” And as we grew, I remember a friend saying one day, “Al. What I love about Kimal Lumber Company, is you folks do about anything you want to do–as long as it isn’t Illegal, immoral, or unethical!” Those few simple comments kind of sum us up. And what we still are today.
Of course there were speed bumps along the way. I have to say the worst was the recent “Great Recession!”…Still don’t know what was “Great” about it! And a one-liner we “coined” as we went into it…The way we were going to survive was “To sell our way out of it!” I’ve told the story many times. We went from almost two hundred and fifty associates down to a low of sixty-one. Talk about a humbling experience…But again, the great team rallied as never before (it’s always about people) and we not only survived, but came out on the other side stronger, leaner, more focused than ever. And again, thank you. What a great team of dedicated Kimal lumber folks!
So the Kimal “family” continued to get stronger. But, after thirty-some years, another element came into the picture. We hadn’t developed an Exit plan…A way for shareholders to leave, realizing the value of the investment. And to be clear about one thing: As this talk gained traction, I made it understood with our Board, that I would never (underline never!) be a willing partner to selling to one of the big, mostly public companies that are in our industry. I won’t name any of them–we know who they are. I reminded the Board of how these big companies, in their propensity to run “by the metrics”… bottom-line driven, sometimes at any cost…have resulted in an almost perfect record of ruining great companies!! So, the question put to me was, “Well, Al, where does that leave us? Who else would buy us?” My answer was pretty straightforward. I said, “We just have to find a company, a private company, with the same values, integrity, etc., that we have. A company that shares a similar culture. One that puts the value of its people first, with that conviction Take care of our people, and they’ll care of the company.”
A little over a year ago, we found such a company to sell to, and maybe in truth, they also found us. That company is Gulfeagle Supply. In talking to them, and learning about their business model, their values, etc., they so mirror Kimal Lumber that the fit turned out to be almost perfect. So, officially Friday, August 31st, KImal Lumber Company ceased, and starting Tuesday, Sept 4th, Kimal Lumber-Gulfeagle Supply begins. During the last week of August, we (both Kimal and Gulfeagle associates) went around the company and held meetings at all Kimal locations, so every associate heard the story. There was equal presentation from us (Kimal) and a number of Gulfeagle folks. My presentation to everyone began, “What a great conclusion to our thirty-eight year run, and now what a great beginning for the new entity!”
As for me personally, something happened along the way on this phenomenal journey. What I have dedicated myself to, and accomplished (my small contribution, if you will) ceased to be a “Job”…it segued into having the best hobby in the world that you’re passionate about, and being able to work in it and enjoy it each and every day. Yes, I requested, and they requested, that I “stay on.” I’m committed to a number of years. A L.O.N.G. run to continue to do what I love to do.
If you aren’t getting tired of my articles yet, I’ll continue my organic writings about our industry. You’ll continue to see me here and there. The Kimal associates will continue to be “My Family” although now, we’re going to be a much bigger family! And an exciting conclusion to this news…which goes under the heading of “All of us are better than any of us.” Gulfeagle Supply has great ideas and BMP (Best Management Practices) and so do we. So, we’re already talking excitedly about how we can “pull the best from each other” to create hybrids that exceed what we had separately. So, I’ll end with this…Pretty neat when “You can be living the Dream!” I include the whole Kimal family. And now, an even better version of “Living the Dream.” I wanted all of you out there to hear (read) this from me. In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of buzz (white noise all around) “Did you hear what happened to KIMAL?” But you just heard from me. This is my/our continuing story, and I’m going to stick with it…Ain’t it great having sawdust in your veins, and working in this industry?
All for now. Good health and great selling.