Chris Hamilton

Scott Barnett had long dreamed of opening his own lumberyard. He finally did it in January 2010, teaming up with cousin Phil Cheeves to launch Barnett & Cheeves in this city 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Here’s what it’s like opening an LBM operation in a down market.

Starting Over I was at Ply Mart for 16 years. When you work for a $300 million corporation, and you’ve worked your way to the senior management team, you feel like that’s where you’re going to spend your career and that’s where you’re going to end your career. It kind of rocked our world when Ply Mart went out of business. After spending some time at Robert Bowden Inc., Phil and I decided to get our business plan together and go out in search of a loan. We wanted to do our own thing. We felt we could open a company and run it as lean as anybody in the industry.

Opening Day It was very nerve-racking. The first two months out of the gate we lost $25,000 and I was second-guessing myself—“Lord what have I done!” But after four months we were back to break-even and we’ve been profitable ever since.

Building Credit Our biggest challenge was getting vendors to extend us a reasonable line of credit so that you can function and operate. Everybody thought we were crazy for opening a lumberyard in 2010, and I think some of our customers were standoffish and didn’t want to get in bed with us for fear that we might not make it.

The Easiest Part It was just doing what we do every day, and that’s taking care of our customers. We had a customer base that kept right on placing orders.

TV Stars The first commercial was designed to let the community know that we were here and that we could help them with whatever their needs were for their next project. Our second commercial has been directed specifically at replacement windows, and we’re just going to do a series of commercials that talk about specific products.

My Yardsticks Profitability. At the end of the day, that’s really all that matters. If you’re not profitable you can’t grow and you won’t stay in business. We try to be extremely good to our employees. We kind of hand-picked everybody that works here and we feel like we have one of the best teams in the industry.