"Living off the grid" has become au courant among green advocates, but for Bill Keim's customers, it's old news. Keim Lumber Co. is in the heart of Ohio's Amish and Mennonite communities. The Amish tie up their horse-drawn buggies on Keim's hitching post, then come inside to buy solar panels and electrical tools that employees have converted to run on compressed air, hydraulic power, and rechargeable 12-volt batteries. Keim took command 45 years ago at age 20. Since then, his yard has grown into a 120,000-square-foot extravaganza that won the 2007 ProSales Excellence Award for Showroom Design. Sales are "in the high 50s," Keim says, and 60% of the customers are pros. Here's how he keeps track:
Current vs. past window sales. "That tells you how many homes you're building or not building. Last year , we were way off. This year, we're a good amount ahead."
Framing lumber. "I look at our board footage in stock, and see how much we've moved per week or per month."
OSB sales. "It's an important price item. It's one of the first things builders look at. If you're good at that, you get the whole order."
Daily sales. "I look to see if it's up or down. That gives you an idea of what's happening right now."
Sweat equity. "I ask our guys who build the loads if they're busy or not."