LBM Journal‘s Dealer of the Year awards recognize four 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 2020 winners—Kuiken Brothers, Gillman Home Center, Lang Building Supply, and R.T. Griffis & Sons—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.
Photos by Bobby Haven
Lang Building Supply: Outlook is bright on Georgia coast
In an area as historic and well-preserved as Brunswick, Georgia and the nearby Golden Isles, it takes a special kind of lumberyard to provide high-quality, craftsman- inspired products and services to builders and remodelers maintaining the area’s reputation for one-of-a-kind coastal living. That is why Lang Building Supply is LBM Journal’s 2020 Dealer of the Year in the category of sales from $10 million to $50 million.
A member of the LBM Century Club, the family-owned company has supplied the Brunswick area for 115 years, operating from its current location since 1905. Like the community it serves, Lang Building Supply itself is historic, considered to be one of the oldest continuously-operating businesses in the county.
Led by President and CEO Blase Grady, Lang Building Supply has been owned and operated by four generations of the Lang family. In 2015, when Hubert Lang III decided to retire, he looked outside the company for leadership.
“It took me about three minutes to say yes and leave Atlanta for the coast,” Grady says. “The Lang family name has a longstanding good reputation, and it’s something we’re very proud of, and I take pride in continuing that.”
Grady was recruited from Atlanta, where he had spent nearly 30 years in the building supply business. He had grown up in the business, having worked through high school in Augusta, Georgia, where his family still operates Mulherin Lumber Company. Grady says he credits his father, Don Grady, at Mulherin Lumber, and Sonny Calhoun of the former Williams Bros. Lumber in Atlanta, as his mentors in the industry.
“They taught me passion for our industry, hard work and to surround yourself with quality people. They helped me develop tools to be a leader in this industry.”
Serving the Golden Isles
As the leader of Lang Building Supply, Grady is the first non-family member president, CEO, and partial owner overseeing a $15 million operation that has seen tremendous growth in the past three years. With sales increasing nearly 91% since 2015, net profit has risen 5% in the last four years and Lang has paid off over $1 million in long term debt during this period, all while strengthening the company’s reputation for servicing a customer base of 90% builders and contractors that work on high-end, custom properties in sometimes hard-to-reach coastal island lots.
“Especially on the islands, the job sites are small and tight and it takes a lot of smaller trucks to get in and out,” Grady says. “I tell our employees that we like customers that need extra service. We’re as close as anybody and we have the equipment to get it there and do it right. Just by geographic location and experience, we’re leading this market.”
A steadfast elimination of company debt has allowed Grady and his team to make major capital improvements to the facilities in recent years, improving operational efficiency. Upgrading technology and replacing equipment and fleet trucks have improved reliability and reduced maintenance costs.
Grady has grown the business substantially in the last three or four years, he says, and has managed to do so without adding significantly to the company’s headcount. Of the 25 company employees, two serve as outside sales reps calling on builders and remodelers.
“We hire the right people, train them, and get the right people in the right positions,” Grady says. “It’s all about maximizing productivity.”
Along with the company’s maximized productivity, Lang Building Supply focuses on maximizing service.
“We out-service our competitors with quality products, and professional service,” Grady says. “And we offer competitive pricing with a first-rate delivery team.”
While CDL drivers are hard to find in the area, where much like the rest of the country the labor market is tight, Grady says even with the recent retirement of some core long-term employees, a team built for the future is key to keeping his operations running smoothly.
Grady’s philosophy of providing value-added services to his customers has strengthened Lang Building Supply’s reputation as the go-to provider for quality craftsmen builders and remodelers.
“Anyone can sell 2×4’s and OSB but we try to add more millwork sales, engineered wood floor packages, and special-order lumber and building materials,” he says. “We have a full-time truss designer who works closely with our sales team and customers on designing floor systems. We have two full-time millwork specialists who do takeoffs, order and sell the millwork packages. They work closely with customers and our outside sales team. An experienced, professional, knowledgeable and motivated staff that is focused on particular product categories gives us a leg up on the competition.” With no tract builders in the market, quality products fit for custom properties make up the core of Lang Building Supply’s inventory.
“One of the first customers I met down here told me to never bring Atlanta quality lumber here,” Grady laughs. “Even though we have price conscious customers, we sell the premium grade at whatever we have to in order to make the contractor price guy happy. We’ll never sell a lower grade product just to meet a price request.”
The same attention to detail applies to service, Grady says. His philosophy is that “we’re all salespeople” at Lang Building Supply. “Yard workers, drivers, anyone. We’re all there to service customers and if somebody needs to get something today, we’ll get it there today. If they call and ask for it, we’ll make it happen. I have very high expectations for myself and for my employees. Every order, every customer, every job is important to us. Every day, every order, we’ve got to uphold that reputation.”
Upholding the company’s historic reputation is paying dividends in the community. Last year, Lang Building Supply was named Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce 2019 Small Business of the Year. As the company sees success, Grady ensures that Lang Building Supply is on the right projection for the future.
“We are a heavy second home market that prospers in good economic times but is slow to recover after a downturn,” he says. “We have had some good years since the Great Recession but are cautious about the coming years. The big changes we’ve made in the last couple of years are setting the business up for the future.”