Extreme makeover: Distribution edition
When Mansfield, Mass.-based Boston Cedar announced the kickoff for its new lineup of decking, railing and trim products, the moves were described collectively as a “Game Changer.”
The building products distributor brought in hockey legend Bobby Orr to help spread the word about its new suppliers: RDI, KOMA Building Products and Trex Co.
But the even bigger game changer came more than a year ago, when CPG Building Products, the parent company of AZEK, announced the acquisition of TimberTech. What happened since then was a major realignment of distribution for CPG’s new one-two punch, and — in the words of one industry executive — a “massive, national wave of change.”
“The ultimate goal is for our AZEK business and TimberTech to join forces,” said Eric Jungbluth, CEO of CPG, when the original game-changing announcement was made. In addition to TimberTech manufacturing wood-fiber decking and AZEK manufacturing PVC trim, both make a PVC deck board and railing system, and have competing lines of distribution. Jon Vrabely, CEO of Huttig Building Products, a longtime TimberTech distributor, said that across most trading areas, TimberTech had two distributors and AZEK had two distributors. With the merger and rationalized distribution, “it meant two distributors in every trading area who had TimberTech or AZEK are now out of the mix and are looking for new product lines.”
For Boston Cedar, which is credited for helping AZEK build its brand in the Northeast, the wave of change meant more AZEK/TimberTech players in its trading area. So, the distributor decided to go in its own direction.
“Boston Cedar didn’t want to play in that crowded market, and I don’t blame them,” said Steve Sallah, CEO of the buying group ENAP, whose members are customers of Boston Cedar and CPG, among many others.
Across the country, similar decisions are still reverberating.
For St. Louis-based Huttig, the decision came down to a choice between staying with TimberTech and adding AZEK to its product offering, or starting over with a different brand. Huttig chose the former.
In November, Snavely Forest Products signed a deal with Versatex PVC Architectural Trim out of Greensboro, N.C. In Dallas, Snavely added TimberTech to its AZEK offering. Also in November, Versatex Trimboard announced a deal with Dixie Plywood and Lumber of Savannah, Ga. And the list goes on.
At Boston Cedar, chairman Rob Ankner had high praise for his new partners’ “high integrity, financial strength, forward-thinking product innovations and unbending focus on all aspects of exceptional customer service.”
No matter how the deals are described, dealers might find themselves in the middle of competing loyalties.
“The question for a lot of our members now is do they stay with Boston Cedar, or do they stay with AZEK,” Sallah said. “Long-term answer is, I don’t know.”
From lumber to the legislature
NASHVILLE, TENN. — Like most of us, Alan Clark worries about the direction of legislation and politics. Like few of us, he got himself elected to the Arkansas state senate.
Clark, the VP and chief operating officer of two-unit Clark Lumber Co. in Hot Springs, Ark., is also the state’s senator for the 13th district. He was part of a wave of recent Republican party victories in Bill Clinton’s backyard. Clark’s legislative class has the first Republican majority in the Arkansas state legislature in 138 years.
In addition to sponsoring bills, such as the Public School Choice Act of 2013, and opposing the death tax, Clark expects to be in the thick of the affordable healthcare debate as it winds through Arkansas. (“Obamacare is not the answer,” reads his campaign website.)
He credits the quality staff back in Hot Springs for allowing him to take part in state government. “It’s a part-time job, but it’s really a full-time, part-time job,” Clark said.
During the 2013 ProDealer Industry Summit held here in October, Clark told HCN he didn’t have ambitions for higher office. “But then again, I didn’t have ambitions for this office, either,” he said.
Lesson number one: Don’t keep score
Not everyone has the opportunity to work with their spouse. Pat and Susan Thorne have found a way to make it successful.
The two co-owners of three-unit Pat Thorne Lumber of Chillicothe, Mo., have discovered some ground rules that promote a healthy business.
“There are probably three things that work for us,” said Pat Thorne during his 2013 Independent Pro Dealer of the Year acceptance speech. “Number one, we don’t keep score. Number two: We don’t care who is right; we just try to get it right. And number three: we don’t take work home.”
The HCN Independent Pro Dealer of the Year award recognizes an independent dealer for community involvement, service and values. Thorne accepted the award during the ProDealer Industry Summit in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 23.
The Thornes’ community involvement is illustrated by their participation in a recent church group mission to Mozambique, where they helped build a church in the East African country. “A truly great experience,” Thorne said.
“We feel we owe our success to our employees, our customers and our vendors,” he added. “We think it takes all three to give the business the opportunity to grow.”