With the announcement that McCray Lumber and Millwork received the 2021 ProDealer of the Award, the McCray team accomplished something unprecedented in the lumber industry. In the space of 16 years, the Overland Park, Kan.-based pro dealer become the first to earn recognition as both the “Independent ProDealer of the Year” (2005) and the “ProDealer of the Year” (2021).
Between those honors, the company checked all the boxes for what the ProDealer of the Year stands for: innovation, growth and performance in accordance with the values of the lumber and building material industry. The unprecedented achievement occurred during an unprecedented year of challenges, shortages, mandates and uncertainties.
HBSDealer spent time in Edwardsville, Kan., and spoke with company executives about the McCray way, how the company has adapted and grown since 2005, and what it believes are the keys to its future success.
The conversation featured:
• Hatch McCray, co-owner;
• Steve Haynes, chief operating officer; and
• Gene Bosley, vice president
With seven locations, including a distribution center, a multi-family division and a millwork showroom and production facility, here’s how the team described its strengths:
Steve Haynes: This award is about our people. Our success is simply because our employees are the best. Through Covid-19, shortages or heavy workloads, their great attitude makes for a winning formula as they strive as a unit for customer satisfaction. We are thankful to our customers, suppliers and our families for helping us succeed.
Hatch McCray: It’s always about the people, the employees and the customers—that’s what we believe makes us unique and special. That’s probably an old answer, but that’s how I feel.
Gene Bosley: We have a lot of people with tenure. There’s Dan Hoschouer, out at our counter right now, and he is going on year 38. He’s a few years ahead of Steve [Haynes], and there’s a whole group of long-time employees.
During 2020, McCray Lumber sales increased double digits to $134.5 million. That growth was achieved during challenging conditions for employees and customers. Here’s how the team handled the pandemic.
McCray: At first, everything was a big unknown. But I have to say that when I think about our employees, everyone was scrappy and resourceful. They figured it out all the ways around the minefield and how to take care of our customers and keep our business going. And even Steve [Haynes] brought out what we called his “Mr. Freeze wand” — our COO was walking around on Saturday spraying and disinfecting the place. So, we were all in. We had to send the message to everyone: “Hey, stay focused, follow the guidelines, and we’re creating a safer work environment for you.”
Bosley: Education during that period of time was really important. We were having conference calls every day, sometimes twice a day. We’re in two states and 15 municipalities and there was a lot of discrepancy about certain businesses closing, who’s closing when, what are the rules? Can we do it? And the employees live in all the different communities. So, they were coming in with questions and saying: “Hey, well, here’s what I heard.” There was a lot of moving parts. And everything was moving so fast.
Steve: I think one of the things that I was very proud of in our company—and all of our employees—is that we didn’t react and make cuts. It really was a good feeling to have everybody rally around the business.
The other major historical event since 2005 was the housing market depression that hit around 2006. Here again, the company takes pride in its handling of the crisis.
Haynes: When we went hit the downturn, we learned how to go lean. And as a result, we have become very good multitaskers. And we’ve learned to live and thrive in that environment, and that’s been good for us. We bought a new computer system at the downturn. We bought all new trucks and new forklifts—anything we could. The McCrays [brothers Hatch and CEO Chandler] invest heavily back within our operation. So, it’s made us more efficient. And that was an important part of the ramp up. We fix what we need to fix, and we upgrade what we need to upgrade. And that puts us in a pretty good position, I think.
Bosley: For technology, I talk to other people in the industry who are in the know, and they say, “You do what?” We went to a new point-of-sale system. We’re on Agility DMSi, which gives us a lot of insights. Our internet phone system allows our team to answer a phone at their home as if they’re at their desk. I actually have more communication with my sales guys now, more efficacious communication, because we do Zoom calls as opposed to me picking up the phone and calling eight guys and explaining to them why OSB set a record high.
McCray: Things will continue to change faster than ever before, and you’ve got to adapt to them and adapt to the new technology. There’s no question. I think a lot of people think of the industry as old school and maybe stale. But, boy, that would be a mistake to think that. We’re surprised all the time at all the changes that are happening, and we have to adapt.
Haynes: I think that’s the great thing about being with a family owned business: We don’t have to take the pressure from anybody else. We can make those decisions and stay focused on what we think is important to succeed.
The business that won the 2005 Independent ProDealer of the Year Award, has maintained its laser sharp focus on the pro builder and contractor. But, in many other respects it continues to evolve into something new — new customers and new strategies. The company evolved from taking a hands-off approach to the remodeling market to becoming the National Association of the Remodeling Industry Vendor of the Year in 2017.
McCray: For so long, we were very reliant on single-family new-home construction. Probably up until 10 years ago, I’d say it was probably 90-plus percent of our business. Then when the downturn hit, we realized we had to expand into other segments of the market. Gene [Bosley] spearheaded the remodeling big time for us, and we chased some commercial stuff and got into rehab projects and different types of segments that allowed us to not be more multi-dimensional. We cast a larger net now, and that’s really expanded our business.
Haynes: We were the company that said, “contractor sales only,” on the door in 2005. When the downturn came, that sign came down. Every piece of lashing that we could sell or tube of caulk was important.
McCray: We were considered off limits to so many people. Then they realized we were open for them, too.
Bosley: When the downturn hit, I went out to our little picnic table outside and took a phone call from the president of a division of Pulte Homes. He said, “As of tomorrow, we’re out. We’re leaving town.” They went from our largest customer to zero. Stopped in the middle of projects. Well, it certainly helped to have that remodeling base in place. And It’s grown substantially since then.
While adapting and growing the company has maintained, a focus on the pro customer, a strategy that’s built into the McCray DNA.
Haynes: “There’s a 100% laser focus on the Pro customer. That’s just who we are. We sell a lot of products here [in Edwardsville], but the front door is locked. And it’s been locked since March 2020. We had a meeting recently when I said, “What’s the problem with keeping the door locked for a while more until we’re well beyond this?” And there was none.
Bosley: “I piped up and said ‘Man, keep it locked.’ I like monitoring who comes through the door. If it’s a homeowner or someone looking for a deck, it gives us an opportunity to greet them immediately and say, “Hey, welcome. We’re all on the phone. Give us a moment. Feel free to browse around.” We can set the expectation that we’re helping our pro and when we can, we will help them. And we do help them.
Haynes: “It hasn’t cost us anything. It’s still friendly here.
And everybody gets it.”
Hatch McCray is immediate past president of the Midwestern Lumberman’s Association. He is also a past attendee of the NLBMDA Legislative Summit. This latter event brings dealers from across the county to lobby their representatives on Capitol Hill on issues such as the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act, reasonable OSHA Crane Rules and other regulatory matters.
McCray: We experienced a case where we delivered windows out to a site. We didn’t build the windows. We didn’t install the windows, and yet, here we were in the middle of a lawsuit. I remember the conversations we had, “Why are we in the middle of this mess?” Clearly, the windows were defective, and the fault was a combination of the product and the installer. And yet we’re in the middle of it. We ended up paying dearly. It was frustrating.
A lot of these legislative issues are a big deal for us. They really do matter. Think of all the things going on now , it’s more important than ever to be involved. Some of the issues about overtime from the Department of Labor, everyone’s dealing with it.
Quality vendors are also part of the McCray way.
McCray: “I really believe in sticking with high-quality vendors and companies, and our core group of vendors hasn’t changed very much. And that’s by design. It’s important to find suppliers who are going to be committed to this industry and who are going to do what they say they’re going to do. We pick people that are going to be around for a long time. just like we’re going to be around.”