Matheus Lumber president Gary Powell believes the source of his company’s success is its reputation. Like many dealers around the country, the company thrives on a decades-old reputation that spans the family business’s history. But what else does a company need to succeed? To Powell, the best recipe for success includes a little pinch of this and a little dash of that.

“You need to be as diversified as possible to survive,” he says. To Powell, whose company weathered the recession without losing any yards, the key to bouncing back quickly from the downturn is having your hand in many pots. That’s why the company opened new locations in Texas, Arizona, and Idaho—far from its headquarters near Seattle.

Matheus Lumber

  • Sales growth: 71%
  • 2013 total sales: $214 million
  • 2013 total sales per location: $35.7 million
  • 2013 total sales per employee: $2.5 million

Multifamily and commercial sales compose nearly all of Matheus Lumber’s business. But Powell isn’t attached to the idea. If there’s one thing he’s learned while steering the ship through rough seas, it’s that change can come quickly, and unless you’re careful, you may hit rocky shoals.

“Sooner or later, [multifamily] will slow down, and [the growth] will be in residential or something like that,” Powell says.

The company saw most of its new growth in its blooming drop-ship business. To date, the company ships materials to jobsites in 35 states.

“People call us from all over the place—different states than we’re set up in—to furnish materials for their projects,” Powell says. “That’s also why this has gotten a lot bigger in a hurry.”

The strategy is clearly paying off. In 2010, during some of the darkest times of the downturn, Powell and his company clung to plummeting annual sales totaling just $60.4 million. Three years later, the company’s total sales figures have more than tripled to a total of $214 million.

“I think that for the next couple of years we’ll continue to grow,” Powell says. But he humbly attributes some of his company’s success to the favorable market outlook: “The building environment is really good at the moment. It’s one of the best it’s been for a long time.”

And despite the explosive sales growth, Powell knows from experience that it’s still too early to declare victory. “If the economy’s good, we’ll do well,” he says. “But if it goes in the crapper ... then everyone struggles.”