In their words: The US LBM story

The mailing address for US LBM Holdings is Green Bay, Wis. But don’t be fooled. The CEO lives in Ohio. The HR chief in Boston. The COO in New Jersey. And the marketing director is in Chicago.

The system of a permanent, floating headquarters is by design. “I don’t want to be handcuffed to a building,” says CEO L.T. Gibson. “One of the ways to avoid a big corporate culture is to avoid a big corporate office.”

The non-corporate corporation is one of the themes that emerged repeatedly as HCN spoke to several of the US LBM executives for their take on what makes US LBM Holdings the kind of company that can grow from a standing start to No. 14 on the HCN Pro Dealer Scoreboard in a mere four years.

US LBM executives showed a remarkable similarity in their description of the company culture. Three key ideas were repeated: local autonomy for the eight operating companies, clear lines of communication and the desire for continuous improvement. And on top of it all are the buying power and synergies that come with eight operating companies.

US LBM Holdings is growth-oriented in two ways: It continuously looks to make acquisitions, as it did in April with the acquisition of Shelly Enterprises. And it seeks to bring its resources to the local markets to help the operating companies achieve their individual growth strategies.

“Our companies have leading positions in their markets,” said CFO Rick Kolaczewski. “We expect them to grow faster than the competition.”

Here’s what else we heard that paints a picture of the 2013 Pro Dealer of the Year:

• “When I look at our business, I think part of what makes us work is the mix of the personalities. There are people with long histories in the business. Then Randy Aardema [EVP supply chain] and myself come from the vendor communities, and we see it with a different perspective. It makes for some good conversations.”

— Rick Kolaczewski, CFO (formerly with Fortune Brands)

• “I think if there’s a misperception, it would be that we buy a company, give them some money and leave them alone. Actually, our goal is to give them a lot of guidance. And we share best practices. And that’s the fun part — the part that leads to growth.”

L.T. Gibson, CEO

• “If there’s a decision on credit underwriting, that’s handled right here by me and Greg [Belcher]. And we can make decisions very quickly. In my previous two companies, the underwriting took two or three days. And sometimes you don’t have two or three days. It’s the same with purchasing decisions. If I have a customer who needs a preferred supplier, I can act quickly. “

Doug Jones, president, Edward Hines

• “We want our operating companies to be able to act like independents in the local market, reacting to market changes and customer preferences. And we don’t dictate any product lines or brands to our operating companies.”

Jeff Umosella, COO and president, Universal Supply

THE “NEED TO KNOW” OF US LBM

►Its entire model is built on speed, providing lean efficiency to its subsidiaries and customers.

►It’s currently eight operating companies strong and is concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast.

►US LBM Holdings provides corporate oversight — IT, human resources and financial clout — to its divisions.

►It’s the 13th largest lumber and building materials distributor in the United States, and it’s only been around for four years.

►Its subsidiaries operate virtually independently, with their own management structures, brand identities and capacities to serve their local markets.

►There’s little in the way of a political hierarchy; indeed, the company motto is “together, we are building momentum.”

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