Ronnie McGlothlin is bent on replacing his yard’s small-town identity with a regional one—but don’t think he’s forgotten its roots. Building Solutions, the latest incarnation of 38-year-old Bixby (Okla.) Lumber, in late 2011 picked up shop and moved 20 miles down the road to Tulsa. Last year, it added a location in Oklahoma City. “Bixby is a small town, and any time you tried to sell lumber in Tulsa, they looked at the location and said ‘It’s too far away,’” he says. Removing the company’s hometown and the word “lumber” from its title, McGlothlin says, reminds potential customers that the company sells more than just lumber to more than just Bixby.
So far it’s worked. Combined, the two locations posted revenues of $26.4 million in 2012, compared with 2011’s $14.5 million solely out of Tulsa. That means McGlothlin and his team are pulling ahead on a bet they placed back in 2008 that there was room for an “aggressive lumber company,” as McGlothlin says, in northeastern Oklahoma. That the company’s Tulsa yard once belonged to 84 Lumber, and many of its sales reps are ProBuild alums, suggests it knew which way the wind was blowing.
Sales Growth: 82% | 2012 Total Sales: $26.4 million | 2012 Sales per Location: $13.2 million | 2012 Sales per Employee: $538,776
“As lumber salesmen were struggling [during the downturn], we were having our best years,” McGlothlin says. “Our market share increased as the permits were decreasing. Our outlook on the downturn was that we were going to grow while other people in our market were decreasing.”
McGlothlin took advantage of his small footprint and local pedigree to keep operations above water as national competitors teetered. As the company continued to grow steadily by selling lumber and other building materials to one of the recession’s healthiest housing markets, McGlothlin built out his team. “I went out and asked all the lumber salesmen in Tulsa to join me,” he says. That brought in reps from ProBuild’s and 84’s local outposts.
Chief operating officer Todd Briggs, a former 84 general manager who came on in 2011 when Building Solutions bought that company’s Tulsa facility and inventory, says his new employer owes its success weathering the crash to nimble footwork and lean management. “We’re just an Oklahoma-owned lumberyard and that’s how we market ourselves,” he says. “If you want to see the owner, you pick up the phone and you call him and he’ll probably show up. That goes for me as well. We’re dealing with our customers directly on a daily basis.”
Five years ago, growth came from picking up new reps and their customers. Today, the dealer is focused on increasing the value of its transactions. “The fastest way to grow a business and increase margin is to sell more stuff to existing customers,” Briggs says. “Going out and finding new customers isn’t the most profitable game.”
Growing its footprint within Oklahoma was. Despite the market’s vigor, competitors exiting or contracting during the downturn left an opening for a rapidly growing company that could service local single-family custom and spec builders and, increasingly, production crews. When the time came to add another location, the decision as to where was clear. “We’ve had success in Tulsa competing against ProBuild and ProBuild is obviously a large player in Oklahoma City, so we felt like that was a realm that we were at least comfortable in,” Briggs says.
Since the first of the year, the company has added a cabinet shop at the old Bixby location and expanded its insulation and guttering divisions.
“Not only is that good for business,” Briggs says, “it’s good for customers to have one phone number that they can call.”