Past jobs took Peter Schiller from his native South to several parts of the U.S. and Europe. Now it has brought him to paradise through Honsador, Hawaii’s biggest pro dealer. But while the climate and scenery might be ideal, it’s neither cheap nor easy to serve pros on a chain of islands thousands of miles from the nearest suppliers.
Starting Up I am out the door by 5 a.m. for a 5-mile run. It’s been my routine for years and has proven to be a good way to clear the mind, review the plans for the day, contemplate business matters, and maintain my body. My wife and I then enjoy a cup of coffee together on the lanai [patio] as day is breaking over the Pacific while we talk with our kids back in Washington, D.C., and catch up on news. I’m typically in the office around 7:15.
Why Lumber Costs More Here Half the total cost is in the supply chain and the treatment required for termites. From Portland, Ore., we ship 25 to 30 racks of wood a week. To get lumber to seven locations in the islands, there are seven to eight touch points. When the wholesale price of lumber from the mills goes up, on the mainland that’s a controlling factor in the dealer’s price. But for us, because transport and treatment are a big share, that mitigates the impact of the higher wholesale costs.
Variety Store Hawaii used to have 4,000 to 5,000 starts a year. Now we’re about 1,800. So it’s important that we sell a variety of products. We have our own line of hardwood, of flooring, of granite countertops. We can’t say, “The market’s not big enough for that.” We’re now into roofing, electrical, and photovoltaic systems.
Selling on an Island Among the nine different European countries where I worked, sales teams were more tactical, with no emphasis on customer/vendor relationships. It wasn’t unusual for the top two players in many trading areas to command up to 90% market share, so they only needed a strong reactive service organization. In Hawaii, it’s about having strong customer relationships and strategic vendor partnerships. On an island, there’s no room to hide. Your reputation is really important.
My Yardsticks Hawaii is a very expensive and difficult place to run a business; there is no magic wand or textbook approach to success. Being deeply rooted in Hawaii and a household brand is our key.