Recession-era fretting at Builders FirstSource (BFS) about sales and savings has been replaced by new, growth-era concerns about truck drivers, installed sales staffing, and using technology to serve increased demand, a ProSales visit with two top BFS executives found.
Morris Tolly, senior vice president of operations at the Dallas-based company, and Chad Crow, its SVP and chief financial officer, noted that BFS is adding an average of 350 new accounts each quarter.
“We’re definitely in a growth mode,” Tolly said during an interview last month at BFS’ facility in Point of Rocks, Md. “We certainly feel like the worst is behind us,” Crow added, saying later: “We have had an increase in overtime because we were gushing [with businesss], like everyone else.”
The housing crash savaged BFS, shrinking it from $2.34 billion in revenue and 6,600 employees in 2006 to $700 million and 2,500 workers in 2010. Sales rose to $779 million last year, but BFS posted a loss from continuing operations of $64.6 million. Sales since then have continued to grow—they jumped 32% in the second quarter from the year-earlier period—and while operating losses remain, the executives are sanguine.
“If you’re telling me that nobody else is losing money, I’d have trouble believing that,” Crow said. “Housing starts dropped 77% (during the crash), and a lot of companies haven’t survived.” The investment funds that own a majority of BFS’ shares—primarily JLL Partners and Warburg Pincus—continue to support the company strongly, he said.
BFS’ growth pains often deal with personnel. For one thing, so many truckers have left that profession that “the competition for drivers is going to be tremendous” in much of the Southeast where BFS operates, Tolly said.
Crow said there are similar problems finding workers for installed sales projects. “We lost a lot of people [during the downturn],” he said. “Getting them back is going to be a challenge.” He sees similar issues finding field supervisors for projects that BFS manages on behalf of builders.
With people so busy, the company has sought ways to reduce needless work. One way it’s doing that is with web-enabled software that allows anyone with a computer or iPad to access the day’s tasks, update a project’s status, and even open up building plans. BFS staffers said the recently rolled-out programs already have improved workers’ efficiency because they no longer have to spend hours calling central office or each other to learn a project’s status or pass along news about a task that was accomplished.