Third-generation lumberman Scott Yates has 41 years in the business at his family’s yard in downtown Denver, Colo., but Yates’ focus spreads far beyond Denver Lumber. As the new chair of NLBMDA, Yates works to keep abreast of coming legislation and changes in regulations that affect dealers across the country, and encourages them to add their voices to the political debate.
As a business owner, it's my responsibility to get involved with the political process both locally and nationally. It's an uphill battle to get dealers involved, but I'm proud to announce that there will be nine of us in D.C. this year representing the Mountain States region, our largest attendance from this region yet.
Absolutely I was guilty of [not getting involved], until Walter Foxworth [of Foxworth-Galbraith] took me under his wing and convinced me of the importance and civic duty in staying in front of our representatives. Past Chair Cally Fromme put it very well—she estimates that only 6% of the national dealers are actively involved in our regulatory and legislative efforts that benefit 100% of the dealers.
Working the Process
I was able to secure a $1,000 LuDPAC (Lumber Dealers Political Action Committee) donation to help Cory Gardner in his bid for the U.S. House. He picked that check up at our lumberyard, and it was love at first sight. We met Cory while visiting then Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado; Cory served on his staff. We met with him the following year also, and started to solidify our relationship. Cory moved back to Colorado and served in our state House, and we continued to keep in contact. He then won a seat in the U.S. House, so once again we were meeting with him in D.C. in his new role.
Cory really appreciates a third-generation business. I'm convinced that his yard visit put us first on the list to announce his run for the U.S. Senate [which he did at Denver Lumber in 2014]. He also asked me to introduce him at that event, what an honor! Some would question why we go back to D.C. annually and grind it out with our visits to the congressional staff, but that story is a great example of the grand payback for all of our early efforts.
Keeping an Eye Peeled
What our regional and national associations can do is be a watchdog. If we go back 25 years, they did a lot of things to help our businesses, like helping us train our employees and certify our equipment. Now it’s better for us to provide those services ourselves. So the niche they can fill is to be our regulatory watchdog. What makes me nervous going forward is what the state and federal governments do to overreach.
It’s scary when I see how much regulatory stuff is coming. When I think of OSHA, I think of the Crane [Derrick and Hoist Safety] rule. In OSHA’s world they think that every person operating any kind of crane should have the same training and certification. I heard just recently they are trying to add lumberyards to that rule. The overtime rule is coming on my radar. It doesn’t affect Denver Lumber, but still I’m keeping an eye on it. The new levels are way below where I pay people. But you do have to worry about people in other parts of the U.S. where wages are lower.
Closer to Home
During the recession we sold to anybody, but about two years ago, I let our sales force know to drop the customers who weren’t performing. We don’t have the hardware and other consumer lines. The Lowes and Home Depots do a great job of that, so we leave it to them. When consumers come into our business, it really disrupts everything. For instance, they don’t understand the concept of framing materials. If you sell somebody 100 boards, only 90 of them will be perfect. Contractors understand that; consumers want to pick all the boards.
We offer excellent service and great materials. That’s how we compete. We serve small, medium, and big builders, as well as custom builders and remodelers, plus we do some light commercial work. The current mix is the best we have ever had, very diversified. Denver Lumber’s goal is to remain flexible to our customers’ needs, which seem to be continually changing.
I’ll be 59 in May, and the plan for me for the next 10 years, I’ll still be president, but with limited duties. By then, I’ll be serious about retiring.