LBM Journal’s 2022 Dealer of the Year awards, sponsored by Epicor, 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. While these companies represent vastly different operations, the common thread is their fierce commitment to finding ever-better ways to serve their customers and their communities.
Photos by John Klippel Photography
Capital Lumber Company
Butch Heimsoth uses just four words to describe how he and Capital Lumber in Cheyenne, Wyoming came to be named an LBM Journal Dealer of the Year: Take care of customers.
Those four simple words have served his family well, since his grandfather, Ivan and father, Ed, purchased the business in 1965. For 57 years, the Heimsoth family has served the Cheyenne area. Butch, who once worked for his father, uncle, and aunt, now shares responsibilities for operating the single-location lumberyard with his sister, Mandy, and has since 2009.
One of Butch’s earlier memories working in the lumberyard is filling balloons with helium and handing them out to other children who came into the store. It’s one of his fonder early memories of contributing to the business, he says, but not the first. That would be dusting the shelves, something he was decidedly less fond of doing as a child.
Today, Butch oversees operations as the president of the company, while his sister serves as the company controller, and two daughters play key roles in cabinet design and fleet dispatch. His son works part time after school, and his wife, Angie, helps with inventory control and customer service. His dad, Ed, still stops in every day.
“It’s nice to have him around because I can still bounce things off him now and then,” Butch says.
Just like his father before him, Butch doesn’t offer anything to his children that they don’t earn on their own in the company. He asks that they “Set the tone. Work as hard or harder than anyone else.”
The family atmosphere at Capital Lumber extends well beyond just those tied to the Heimsoth name. Butch takes pride in the fact that everyone who works there really knows each other, knows spouses, and knows their kids’ names, and they all look out for each other. “Sometimes a kid needs to come in before school because the bus isn’t running. We all look after each other’s kids, and that’s the kind of family vibe we’ve got.”
Butch says once when a customer noticed young children coloring in an office, the customer asked if he was running a daycare or a lumber business.
“I’m running a family business,” Butch said. “It’s what I’ve known, so it’s what I do.”
Butch says looking out for team members and their families is an aspect of the company culture at Capital Lumber of which he’s most proud.
“They’ve weathered the storm with us when the economy was in a downturn, but we’ve been blessed to keep people whole.”
During the Great Recession the company didn’t go through layoffs or cut hours. Instead, Ed Heimsoth pulled from his own personal 401(k) plan, and never halted anyone else’s retirement plan match.
“That’s just not something we would do,” Butch says. “My dad said, ‘if you give me a solid, honest day’s work, I’ll give you a solid, honest day’s pay. You share the fruits of the labor with your crew. You take care of them.’”
With a customer mix of around 80% pro builders, Capital Lumber is well-positioned to serve a growing market in the Cheyenne area, as more homeowners are in search of pastoral, Western locations for retirement, second homes, or working remotely.
The full-service lumberyard employs around 24 people, Butch says, most who are specialists in specific product lines such as building materials, doors and windows, cabinets, or flooring.
“We don’t have part-time people who come in just to check the register. They’re all salespeople who can also solve problems and understand projects.”
By serving as product category experts, the staff at Capital Lumber is best suited to partner with builder customers and connect those customers with homeowners looking for installed products.
“If they’re not successful, we’ll never be successful,” Butch says, recounting the “take care of customers” philosophy that earned his company more than $15 million in revenue in 2021. Recent growth through outside sales has led to more commercial business as well.
A big part of taking care of customers in a single-location operation is making the customer experience in the showroom and yard as welcoming and beneficial as possible. To do so, Capital Lumber has recently undergone a complete reset of the store, updating the sales floor, shelves, and displays.
“We tailored it toward what I call ‘professional DIY’ folks, people who want a quality tool even if they only use it once or twice a year,” Butch says. “They value quality and the knowledge at Capital Lumber that comes along with it.”
Whether competing with other independents in the area or big box retailers, Butch says the team at Capital Lumber is second-to-none. Once an employee develops into a product expert, it’s far less likely they’ll leave the company, he says, adding, “Our employee length of tenure really goes against the norm, with several folks having been here 30-plus years.”
To prepare for any loss of knowledge when someone does leave the company, Butch says most of the Capital Lumber team is cross-trained. It’s not an official apprenticeship program, he says, but it’s close.
“We cross train our team members outside and inside. Someone from the yard can recommend a product inside. They know what and where it is and if we don’t have it, we can source it.”
Serving Cheyenne means serving the whole community, Butch says. As such, Capital Lumber takes pride in supporting community organizations that need donations, whether it’s youth sports or charities.
“In 2009 when the market crashed my dad turned donations over to me and said, ‘take care of the people who take care of you.’ The Cheyenne community was taking care of us, so we continued to provide sponsorships and donations even if it was more than we were taking in that particular day.”
Capital Lumber’s customer-first philosophy is deeply ingrained in the company’s operations. In fact, Butch says that he personally would rather look at service levels than revenue trends.
“Are we taking care of customers? If we are, then we’re going to do alright. We’re not a transactional company, we’re more relational. That’s what our company culture reflects.” He shares the example of others who may over-stress about covering margins on every single delivery. “We don’t look at every single transaction as hitting our mark or making more money. We make 20- or 30-year customers by building relationships.
“The focus isn’t always on the margin, it’s on taking care of the customer.”