The ProSales 100 is as much a collection of individual stories as it is a tale of an entire industry. Here’s a look at one of six members of the club who all merit special attention, and all for vastly different reasons.

“Before things got tough, which started in 2006 for us, we used to flip a coin to make decisions,” jokes Mel Gutherie III, president of Gutherie Lumber. “When things got really tough, we invested in one of those Magic 8 Balls and have relied on that for our decision-making.”

It’s been a tough last few years for Livonia, Mich.-based Gutherie Lumber, but things are looking up as gross sales shot up 61% to $30.5 million between 2011 and the year prior. The company serves the Detroit market, where building permit issuance plummeted 90% from peak to trough over the last decade.

Gutherie's sale increase in 2011 was was third best in the PS100.
brian walker Gutherie's sale increase in 2011 was was third best in the PS100.

Mel credits his yard’s recent growth to the tough times, because his two biggest competitors either went out of business or left the market.

“As the market slowly recovered, we were able to pick up a larger share of the business that is going on,” he says.

It wasn’t all fun and games at the No. 76-ranked company. Sales withered from $22.6 million in 2007 to $16.3 million in 2009. During the toughest times, Gutherie Lumber had to cut its full-time staff by 70% as hourly employees saw overtime evaporate and salespeople collected fewer commissions. Management took pay cuts.

Mel says the company never got into debt trouble by extending credit or borrowing too much, practices that doomed many LBM dealers.

“When I suggested to my accountant about our competitors closing that maybe we should start gearing up for the worst, he laughed,” Mel says. “Maybe things weren’t as bad here as at other places.”

As for the future, the company plans on “smart growth” by concentrating on what it does best and by adding new products and services, such as windows and exterior door product lines, but only after careful research and deliberation.