LBM Journal’s Dealer of the Year Awards recognize three LBM companies of different sizes that epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit. By our definition, a Dealer of the Year describes a company in which leadership excels at identifying underserved—or emerging—markets, satisfying customers, and constantly working to grow and improve business.
Our 2019 winners—Sunroc Building Materials, Howe Lumber, and Taylor’s Do it Best Building Supply—represent vastly different operations. The common thread in these companies is their fierce commitment to finding ever better ways to serve their customers and their communities.
A commitment to community
Normally it’s a good sign when the governor stops in your store to let you know you’re doing a great job. For the staff at Taylor’s Do it Best Building Supply in Eastpoint, Fla., the honor was one they’d rather have avoided. Gov. Rick Scott’s visit followed two days after Hurricane Michael devastated the region in October 10, 2018.
Taylor’s Do it Best Building Supply’s commitment to the community it served during the disaster—including opening the next day and operating the store via flashlights—has earned the company this year’s LBM Journal Dealer of the Year award in the revenue category of under $10 million annually.
Taylor’s success story begins long before the company rose to the challenge of Hurricane Michael. In 1966 an uncle of current owner Kim Fish opened what was then a Western Auto and Hardware store in Eastpoint. When that uncle ran for sheriff the next year and won, he needed to take leave from the business, so he sold it to his brother, Aaron Taylor (whom the community calls Mr. Aaron.) and his wife Loretta in 1968. With Mr. Aaron now just shy of 91 years old and “mostly retired” (he still drives 75 miles to the office once a month) the Taylors’ daughter Kim and her husband Ken run the business today.
In 1984, Mr. Aaron moved the store to a new location and, anticipating a population increase in the 1,500-resident town of Eastpoint, built a 20,000 square foot building on an eight-acre lot. The company grew into it over the years, starting by heating and cooling just an 8,000 square-foot portion.
Over the years, Taylor’s Do it Best Building Supply continued to expand, but never filled the space completely by the time the Great Recession hit in 2007. When it hit, it hit the Florida Panhandle hard.
“We had a heck of a downturn here in Florida,” says Ken. “We went from what was a $15 million a year company to about $3 million.”
To help the company retain as much staff as it could, the Fishes and Mr. Aaron each took a 33% pay cut the first year. When the economy didn’t show signs of improvement, they took another 33% cut the next year. On the third year, they went without salaries.
“And now we’re back,” Fish says. “We’re blessed in a region that has a very diverse economy to be doing so well.” The fact that the store only sustained minor damage, and that the Fishes’ home and the homes of their 21 employees also were not lost to the hurricane really resonated with them.
“We thought that we were going to have some of our team members who were going to lose their homes, but we didn’t. Some of our employees had neighbors lose homes on each side of them. The man up above is looking out for us,” he says. And for that, his company did what it could to help the community, including helping churches at just 10% over cost.
The region’s economy—in Franklin County, Fla., which Ken says is the only county in the state with only one stoplight—has sustained not only Hurricane Michael, but also a massive fire that destroyed 36 homes in Eastpoint, as well as the complete loss of the area’s oyster industry due to red tide, a toxic algae bloom. Alongside the Great Recession, the region was affected by the BP oil spill in 2010.
Through the recovery from each of these setbacks, he says Do it Best Corp., his co-op, and numerous vendors have helped his company serve the community.
“When we got hit with the hurricane, Do it Best had four trucks specially run for us in a period of seven days, plus our regular truck, and we were running this all offline. They would take our orders by cell phone and input them by hand,” Fish says. Vendors donated to funds to help hurricane and fire victims. Taylor’s Do it Best matched the funds.
“It was amazing how well we were able to help the community,” he says. “It’s nothing more than teamwork, working together with your supplier and your team members here on site.”
Prior to and even through the damage and hardships the area has sustained, Taylor’s Do it Best Building Supply has continued to grow at a sensible rate, Ken says. The company now has its sights set on upgrading storage facilities to stock more inventory.
“The last couple of years we’ve been like a moving picture,” he says. “We’ve expanded, re-roofed, re-insulated, added all LED lights in the showroom, and an LED sign out front. We added the largest U.S. flag in the county now that’s 10’x15′, and we’ve added a veterans parking space.”
The company serves a customer base that is fairly evenly split along pro contractor and DIY retail traffic that together propels the lumberyard to $6 million in annual revenue. That number is trending upward in a big way, as Ken says he’s looking at a 20% year-over-year gain.
He credits his experience as a participant in a Do it Best owners’ roundtable that has taught him to maintain a diverse inventory that constantly adapts with technology and market trends.
“We are not afraid to introduce the latest and greatest products provided by our manufacturers,” he says, adding that he leans heavily on manufacturers’ representatives to help teach his customers how to correctly utilize the products they offer. Ken and the staff do this through field installation classes as well as a Lunch & Learn program.
“Our biggest opportunity is positive growth through an elevated level of customer service,” he adds. “We try to keep all of our customers happy and satisfied with the service we render. The upturn in the economy has greatly helped us to grow at a steady and manageable rate. In addition, we have had the two natural disasters that have devastated our community and we are helping people to put their lives back together.”