Steve Chelf
Ray Ng Photography Steve Chelf

Golf pro-turned-lumberman Steve Chelf and his big brother Dave run a yard 220 miles southwest of Denver amid a half-dozen mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. Here's how he adjusts to the area's ever-changing climate.

Shifting Sands. We have been–and this is probably changing–about 75% pro. ... We feel it stumbling pretty good now. Year before last, we were down 3%, and last year we were down 1.8%. We're budgeting this year 10% down.

Profit Departments. We budget sales for the year, then break that down among various profit centers ... so we can get a clear picture of who's strong and who's weak inside the company. We've tracked [each one] for three or four years. I compare current performance to the same month of the previous two years. But our curve can happen a bit different. Last year we had a severe winter, so our building curve started six weeks later.

Linking People, Profits. If I'm between $105 and $110 of sales per labor hour, I'm hanging in there OK. Last winter, I was overstaffed and was down to $65 to $67 per labor hour and lost my shirt. I see months in the summer where I hit $160 and we're going crazy and service is falling.

Seasons Change. December, January, and February are the pits. Business can be 60% down from what it is in the summer, so following a downturn [on our financial reports] is nothing new to us. As we came into October and November, my sales fell 47%. ...With my budget [tools], I was able to lay off people a week to 10 days before the falloff. It probably made a $30,000 net increase to our bottom line.