The elegant post-Civil War homes that grace Richmond, Va., were built in part with materials and labor from Siewers Lumber & Millwork, started by a German immigrant in 1884. Today the yard, run by fourth-generation president Freddy Siewers, gets 80% of its business from remodelers. Siewers Lumber is known for its custom millwork shop; it keeps 30 kinds of wood and more than 300 molding patterns in stock. Sales dipped in 2007 but are recovering at the yard, which does about $10 million to $15 million annually. Siewers, 50, gets advice from his father and uncle, and he runs the 45-person yard as part of management team that includes two brothers, a brother-in-law, and a cousin. A fifth generation of Siewers is on the payroll. Here's how Siewers makes sure the company will be around for decades to come:
Watch expenses. "I look at everything, from advertising to Vepco [the power company]. It's all broken down by percentage of total expenses. ? Payroll is the biggest burden."
Keep up with builder news. "It's just talking with people. Richie [Siewers' brother] is responsible for sales. We meet each month, but we also talk a lot to each other and report if we hear that so-and-so has jobs. With our competitors in town, we're on good terms and we sit and talk about business."