Old School Ain’t Bad

Friday, August 28, 2015

No one will deny that the world is changing rapidly. Doesn't seem all that long ago when we started using "Fax" machines. Imagine! Sending an "image" of a Purchase Order thousands of miles to be perfectly duplicated… Quickly replaced with PDF files and the like. And Analog was going to be the next best thing... but going Digital suddenly replaced that. Now I look at the latest version of "Smart" phone that I have, an Apple iPhone 6 Plus. More horsepower than was going on in the "Computer Room" at Wickes forty some years ago. (That was a strange room. Probably 800 square feet, with rows of "machines" clacking away, and the room held at a steady 58 degrees as I remember!)

Considering how our technology moves in leaps and bounds, we may even be "paperless" one day, but don't bet on that one! Anyway, even for those of us that are kind of "Old Timers," there’s lots of neat stuff going on to learn about and use. So, two points I'd like to make. First, is our continuing interaction with "The Real World"…i.e. the one where you are in constant contact with (gasp!) real people. I do feel our personal, up front, eyeball-to-eyeball interaction with folks is more important than ever. This includes interaction between our "Outer Customer" (the builders, remodelers, retailers that we see daily) and yes, those wholesale companies we purchase from. Those field reps, in my humble opinion, are more valuable than ever. They "pitch" and train us on "the latest and greatest"… And then we have our “Inner Customer”...all the Associates in the company that we work with on a daily basis, interacting “One-on-One” as a total team.

What I’m saying is how walking down the hall to talk to "Joe" beats tapping out a quick message on your device. Face to face, just plain old "Listening" is almost becoming a lost talent and art. Sometimes we've become so mesmerized with that "Device" that actually doing something in person almost becomes difficult. No, I'm not suggesting we “go back”...Just don't lose those interpersonal skills that are almost more important than ever. I'll mention one other thing. I still hand write my schedule in my "Day Timer" every day. Something neat about looking down at that piece of paper that I "created,” because even the sloppy writing is personal. It’s my own individual touch, my hands-on communication. It is Old School but a way of "easing" into the new brave world of computers, I-Pads, etc.

So, let me touch on another area that I feel is changing rapidly. Simply put, the system behind the products we stock, promote and sell to our mix of customers tends to get pretty sophisticated too…We have metric "Models" to track inventory turns and ways to grade everything very scientifically. And it often becomes "Turn It or Burn It"... (An old Wickes thing about "controlling" inventory to a certain predetermined annual number.) Great to a point. Of course no one wants to sit on "dead" inventory. I actually took a different approach when we opened our new high-tech, drive-thru Sarasota Center. It hit me that it’s still a "Lumber Yard" and although not very "Glamorous," we still sell plenty of studs, siding, decking, etc. Anyway, I not only decided that we'd carry ample inventory (didn't start by fixating on rigid turn criteria) but to initially stock heavy. And second, we targeted product like Spruce Boards--yes, plain old garden variety #2 Spruce as well as what is the best out there. Through our research, we wound up with Gorman Spruce...Grade is great, sanding is superb, and they even slightly ease the edges. So, we focus more on "Quality" than “Price.” Products that have become sort of "Special Order," like Western Red Cedar, and Cypress...Knowing a lot of it was used in homes many years ago, and that folks would use it--if it were available--we started out stocking quite heavy. Pretty darn neat when a Roofer comes in, and loads his trailer with four hundred lineal feet of 2X10 Western Red Cedar, and heads out the gate...Paid for and all!! These folks are learning they don't have to wait a week or two for a large order of Cedar or Cypress...Just pull it out of the rack and go!!

I would like to talk more about the "Wood" side of our business in future letter, but will end this one for now. I feel we've kept enough of "Old School" that it tends to set us apart...We certainly won't slow our move into the brave new computerized world ahead, but hopefully we can keep enough "Old School" to make us stand out as a true Lumber Yard...Good Selling!

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 8/28/2015

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