Standing on the levee in Winona, Minn., just up the Mississippi River from where Laird & Bros. rolled off the first logs in 1855, founding the company that would eventually become United Building Centers (UBC), it's hard not to feel a sense of community. It's UBC's official 150th anniversary celebration, and it seems like the whole town is on hand as UBC thanks customers, vendors, employees, and the community over food, reminiscing, and down-home Winona hospitality, celebrating a company that started in this small town and grew to become the nation's third-largest dealer in its now parent company, Redmond, Wash.–based Lanoga.
Even as UBC has blossomed into the 170-location organization it is today, components of its small-town, community-based roots have held true. The company has fostered an employee culture and, like many in the industry, attributes much of its success to the power of its people. “You and your families are the lifeblood of UBC,” UBC president Dale Kukowski told the crowd at the celebration. “You are what made us survive for 150 years.”
“Our people have always had a lot of resolve to stand hard times, resolve to meet customers'wants and needs, resolve to be good citizens in their community, resolve to be successful,” concurs vice president of sales support and development Bryan Rice.
And the culture expands well beyond the Winona roots, as all of the yards are encouraged to get involved in their communities and build strong relationships in their markets. Yards are decentralized, giving locations autonomy to operate in ways that best suit each customer base.
But even with a deep-rooted sense of community, UBC is also about remaining on the cutting edge. “While we have many years of tradition ... we're also very, very progressive,” says Rice, pointing to design; showrooms; installed sales; purchasing, distribution, and manufacturing under the Timber Roots umbrella; and management information systems as just a few of the areas in which the company has maintained a leading edge.
As UBC embarks on the next 150 years, this progressive attitude and employee-centric culture will continue to be vital to its success as the company continues to grow organically and through acquisition. “We're simply about doing a lot of little things right and treating people right,” says Rice. “There's no question that people, in everything we do, are the heart and soul of this company.”