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Leaders of Lumber: 84 Lumber’s Maggie Hardy Knox

Location autonomy allows for quick decisions and success at 84 Lumber.

BY Andy Carlo

With nearly 250 locations in 126 markets within 30 states, 84 Lumber relies on autonomy at each store to help drive decisions and success. 

“Providing that flexibility enables our stores, and the company overall, to thrive. We’re more concerned about being the best instead of the biggest,” says 84 Lumber President Maggie Hardy Knox. “For us, it all happens at the store. That’s where we have the most direct access to customers. When we’re planning company wide changes, we first need to make sure that they’ll benefit our individual locations.” 

Diversity, based on geography, is also part of the philosophy behind the autonomous business model. For example, in Tampa, Fla., about 85% of new homes are built by top 20 builders. In Riverhead, N.Y., 84 Lumber’s customers have a focus on large-scale custom homes. And in Pittsburgh, 84 Lumber’s backyard, there is a mix of custom, remodel and commercial builders. “Who our customers are depends on where they are,” says Hardy Knox.

Customization and convenience is another aspect that drives the dealer. The Eighty Four, Pa.-based company’s focus is always on giving customers what they need, she said. “Today, it’s all about customization and convenience.” 

About 40% of 84 Lumber’s sales are from special orders. If products and materials aren’t in stock, 84 Lumber will either source them or create exactly what the customer wants through in-house, custom design. 

Installation and builder services are another core focus: framing, windows, doors, interior trim, siding and insulation are available in more than 50 markets. In total, services account for 15% of sales. Roughly 200 installation managers oversee what and when 84 Lumber installs while ensuring quality and safety. 

“Our installation program also supports our manufacturing capability,” Hardy Knox said. “To give customers added benefit, we can manufacture and install wood components as well as interior and exterior doors. We’re constantly evaluating these programs to ensure the highest standards and performance.” 

Assisting at all levels of 84 Lumber’s business is its investment in technology. “Technology has been one of our biggest recent initiatives. We’re a service provider, so we’re making tech upgrades across our organization — from order processing to installation services — that help our associates give customers a better experience.”

Ultimately, improved efficiency is the goal. Two years ago the company brought Chief Information Officer Paul Yater on board to breathe new life into the dealer’s systems and processes: improvements that drive convenience for customers and associates alike. Hardy Knox says 84 Lumber is working on additional enhancements that will help the company be more productive, competitive and agile. 

“It’s an exciting time at 84,” she said. 

But perhaps driving most of the success is the agility and flexibility within the company’s culture along with finding the right associates to fit that culture. 

When a competitor recently closed its doors in southern New Jersey, 84 Lumber brought in many of the dealer’s former employees. 

“It’s not rare to face some obstacles when integrating new associates, but our team provided the necessary support to make the process as easy as possible,” Hardy Knox says.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of HBSDealer.

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