An Oklahoma Success Story
The president of T.H. Rogers Lumber calls Dorothy Kennedy one of the wisest people he knows.
She’s 101 years old, a stockholder in the Edmond, Oklahoma-based company and widow of the company’s former president and chairman R.S. Kennedy. She’s been around T.H. Rogers since before World War II, and has seen the company expand, thrive and change.
Shortly before talking with HBSDealer, T.H. Rogers current president and general manager Jonathan Kennedy spoke with his grandmother Dorothy.
“She stated that early on in our company’s history, when there was just a handful of stockholders, a sense of entitlement may have existed,” Jonathan said. “In her opinion, seeing this attitude disappear with the emergence of employee ownership is probably the best thing to happen to our company in its 115-year history. I am in 100% agreement with her on that issue.”
That’s high praise for the company’s Employee Stock Ownership Program, instituted in 1993. More than just a symbol of the company’s emphasis on teamwork, the program allows staff to share in the growth and prosperity of the company. Today, employees own about 40% of T.H. Rogers.
Of all the changes since the company was founded in 1901 (even before Oklahoma entered the United States of America), the ESOP was the big one, Jonathan said.
T.H. Rogers is not one of the high-profile LBM companies you read about in the investment pages. But that doesn’t mean it’s not high-performing. And it’s earned its success one store opening at a time.
The secret, according to Kennedy: Protect the brand in local markets.
Since 1901, it has grown to 34 locations and operates also in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. The company runs a diverse fleet of units in small to medium-size towns. In some places, the yards employ two people. In others, 20 or so. From northwest Oklahoma to eastern Missouri, each store is different. And in some of these markets, T.H. Rogers is the only game in town, he said.
“We strive to be good corporate citizens and to truly be part of our communities,” Kennedy said. “The majority of our store managers and employees were born and raised in their store’s communities, so we really do have a hometown feel to our operations.”
And even in downturns when competitors from the bigger cities attempt to reach out and grab some share, T.H. Rogers believes it has a strong defense.
“The saying that has been around our company for a long time is: ‘All things being equal, customers would rather shop with someone they know and trust,’” Kennedy said. “We try to be very mindful of that motto.”
Like any dealer, there are challenges, and Kennedy rattles off several.
There’s the need to improve the use of technology. In this area, the company has set a goal to boost employee training in an effort to increase knowledge of technology tools.
There’s federal regulations — from the Affordable Care Act to federally mandated overtime rules. Navigating the ACA is a serious issue, Kennedy said: “Successfully dealing with continually increasing health care costs will be vital to our company’s future.”
And there’s the constant task of recruitment. On this last point, Kennedy says the ESOP plays an oversized role in attracting people. Beyond that, he has learned to put the horse in front of the cart.
“We are constantly on the lookout for quality people,” he said. “I have decided that if we find a good prospective employee, it is better to hire them first and find a place for them later. If you wait until you need them, you could be in big trouble.”
And there’s the emphasis at T.H. Rogers: quality people.
“Finding and keeping good people isn’t just the No. 1 priority with regard to our company’s success and longevity,” he said. “It’s probably Nos. 2 through 10, as well.”
# # #
T.H. Rogers will accept the Pro Dealer of the Year Award during the 2016 Pro Dealer Industry Summit in Charleston, S.C., Oct. 25-27.
West Coast Lumber & Building Material Association elects 2017 officers and directors
The West Coast Lumber & Building Material Association (WCBLMA) announced its officers and directors for 2017 at its annual convention in October in Monterey, California.
After honoring current president Sean Fogarty, Osborne Lumber, Newark, California for his tenure between 2015-2016, the convention looked to next year's president, Victor Fresca, VP of Dixieline Lumber in San Diego. Fresca has been with Dixieline Lumber since 1991 in various positions and is currently the area VP for the Southern/Central California and Arizona local markets.
The officers and directors for 2017 are:
President Victor Fresca, Dixieline, San Diego CA
First Vice President Mark Boone, Champion Lumber, Riverside CA
Past President Sean Fogarty, Osborne Lumber, Newark CA
Treasurer Vic Hausmaninger, CPA, HBLA CPA's Irvine CA
Corporate Secretary Ken Dunham, WCLBMA, Folsom CA
Govt. Affairs Chair Augie Venezia, Fairfax Lumber, Fairfax CA
Dealer Director Barrett Burt, Ganahl Lumber, Pasadena CA
Dealer Director Matt Endriss, Central Valley, Napa, CA
Dealer Director Frank Addiego, All Bay Mill & Lumber, American Canyon CA
Dealer Director Lindsay Olson, Crenshaw Lumber, Gardena CA
Dealer Director Rick Deen, Nichols Lumber, Baldwin park CA
Dealer Director Marc Mizgorski, Hayward Lumber, Monterey CA
Associate Director Glenda De Frange, Straight Line Transport, Huntington Beach CA
Associate Director Brenda Radmacher, Esq., Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman Law Firm, Los Angeles CA
Associate Director Barry Schneider, Bear Forest Products, Riverside CA
Associate Director Thom Wright, Exterior Wood, Washougal WA
Associate Director Tom von Moos, Western Woods, Chico CA
The West Coast Lumber & Building Material Association has members in 23 states, China and Canada, though the majority are in California. WCLBMA has approximately 330 member firms in lumber and building material dealer and associate categories.
WCLBMA is one of 13 regional trade organizations affiliated with the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association, headquartered in Washington DC. It represents more than 3,000 lumber and building materials dealers nationwide.
High achievers recognized in Vermont
Joe Miles of r.k. Miles and Sterling Golder of Britton Lumber Co. have contributed mightily to the LBM industry over the years. Their efforts were recognized by the Vermont Retail Lumber Dealers Association (VRLDA) last month.
The VRLDA presented its 2016 Lumber Person of the Year award to Joe Miles, president of r.k. Miles, Inc. Sterling Golder, sales manager at Britton Lumber Company in Fairlee, Vt., received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
These awards recognize individuals for their significant contributions to the lumber and building materials industry as well as to his or her local community.
The VRLDA presented the following biographies.
Joe Miles: Born in Bennington and raised in Arlington, Miles is the third generation to lead r.k. MIles which was founded in 1927 by his grandfather, Richard. Miles, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, began his career by working his way up the ranks and taking over leadership of the company in 1992. Since that time, Miles has expanded the company to include additional locations in Vermont and Massachusetts.
In addition to leading the expansion of r.k. Miles, Miles has served in several key industry leadership positions including: chair of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (2015), and president of the VRLDA (2014-15). Additionally, he has been involved in many local organizations including the Manchester Select Board, board member and chair of Hunter Park, and board member and chair of the Friends of the Manchester Elementary and Middle Schools.
Sterling Golder: Born in Hampden, Maine, Golder graduated from Hampden Academy in 1969 and went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Maine, at Orono in 1975. Since graduating college Golder has spent his career working with lumber and building material dealers across the Northeast including the past 29 years at Britton Lumber Company.
During his distinguished career, Golder earned Salesman of the year in 1980 and 1981 at American Forest Products, served on the CertainTeed Distributor Advisory Board, and has been involved with the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA) as an Associate Member with 2 different companies since 1978. He also served his community as a Recreation Board member in Hartford, Vt. for 8 years and has coached various youth sports.
Both Miles and Golder will be recognized, along with fellow Lumber Persons of the Year from across the Northeast, at 2017 LBM Expo in Providence, Rhode Island on Feb. 16, 2017.