It’s busy season for John Schiltz and his eight-person crew in the small town of Ely, Minn. By now he should be used to the cycle. He’s been working from the same desk for the last 27 years after growing up as the son of a manager at a since-closed yard nearby. When his town of 3,400 triples in size during the summer, it’s all hands on deck at his small yard.
Our contractors come in first thing in the morning, but summer residents are constantly walking through the door. Saturdays are just nuts here. Very fun, very fast-paced. A lot of them ask for contractor referrals. Some of them are staying up here a little longer. We call them “leaf peepers.” Still, monthly sales drop below $200,000 during the winter.
Team Work I delegate, but I also dive in. I try to lead by example and am not afraid to get my hands dirty. That way, I never have trouble asking my team to do a job I tackled in the past myself. I unload trucks, stock inventory, place orders, do the invoices, and even go on deliveries. Most of my employees have been here for so long that they just know what to do. We all have to get involved.
Sight Setting Our goal is to increase sales by 10% each year. We peaked at $5 million in 2008; now we’re doing a little more than $3 million. This year’s numbers aren’t there yet, but we have a few big projects lined up. It’s going to be fun to see the numbers at the end of the year.
Social Skills Twitter is our research tool. We use Facebook to share information with homeowners and promote our contractors partners. Houzz and Pinterest are good for sharing project photos and coming up with new ideas. It’s hard to track the return on that investment. We view social media as a way to stay in front of our customers.
Holiday Mix My family owns a tree farm, and around the holidays I’ll throw 30 of our trees in the parking lot. It gets the person who otherwise wouldn’t come to the lumberyard to come inside and pay for their Christmas tree and see our store.
Building Ties I base our success on the customer relationships that develop through the years. I waited on contractors today who were here when I first walked through the door. They’re still here, they’re still doing business. To me, that’s success.