US LBM is investing in technology and pushing market share gains as it continues its fast-paced growth, the company's chief financial officer told participants at a conference in Chicago staged by ProSales' parent company.
"Thank God for a mild Winter. We got off to a good start, but that has continued and we're pacing as strong as we've been all year," Rick Kolaczewski said Sept. 27 during Hanley Wood's Foundations Conference in Chicago.
The conference is for building material vendors, and Kolaczewski was invited to take part in a session entitled "Through the Eyes of Your Targets." The other panelists were Bruce Case, president, Case Design Remodeling, Bethesda, Md.; Saun Sullivan, chief executive officer, DSLD Homes, Baton Rouge, La.; and Joe Valerio, founding partner, Valerio DeWalt Train Associates, based in both Chicago and Palo Alto, Calif.
US LBM was founded in 2009 out of parts of Stock Building Supply that Stock had acquired over the years and then jettisoned during a Chapter 11 bankruptcy-law reorganization. It has roughly 40 locations in eight states and now ranks 13th on the ProSales 100, with 2011 sales of $452 million, up 64% from the year before. Its top-level management structure is exceptionally small and pretty much virtual; while the company officially is based in Green Bay, Wis., the CEO lives near Cincinnati and Kolaczewski works out of the Chicago area.
Kolaczewski, a former Fortune Brands executive, said US LBM has focused recently on growing market share, in part by developing partnerships with key brands. He also said the company has invested in technology to build up its value-added services, such as in its truss and millwork operations as well as doing takeoffs.
"We need to continue to be up to speed with the latest and greatest technologies," he said.
All the speakers were cautiously optimistic about current conditions and future opportunities. "We're crazy busy," Valerio said, while Case estimated his business is up about 10% from last year.
Sullivan said he's worrying more these days about shortages of materials and labor and less about a downturn. Still, he said of his fellow builders: "I don't think any of them are thinking, 'Hey, it's time to buy a plane, buy a private island.'"
US LBM's philosophy is to leverage all it can at current levels. That way, "If the market grows, great," Kolaczewski said. "If it doesn't, we're all the more effective and efficient."