LBM Journal’s Dealer of the Year awards, sponsored by Epicor, recognize 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 is 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.
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For a company to succeed in its market for 104 years and counting, Jay Andrew, president of Henry Poor Lumber said the formula is quite simple: “Clear, consistent communication, feedback, and interactions with everyone.”
It could be a lesson from Robert Fulghum’s classic book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” For Jay and his entire team, it’s a lesson learned in the yard and behind the counter at Henry Poor Lumber, the business he owns with his father in Lafayette, Indiana.
Founded by partners Henry Poor and Ed Munger in 1918 and originally known as Ed Munger Lumber Co., the company was renamed to Munger and Poor Lumber Co., and eventually Henry Poor Lumber.
Over the years, the company was purchased by Frank Taylor, who had married Marge Poor, daughter of Henry Poor. As a close family friend of Frank Taylor, Jay’s father, Jim Andrew, worked for the company during high school, and, after a brief career in urban planning, joined the business full time in 1972 and eventually purchased it in 1983.
Jay’s path was similar to that of his father’s. He worked at the lumberyard growing up, and after graduating from Purdue University he gained experience working outside of the industry before returning to join his father’s team.
Today, Jay and his father are partners in the business. Jim is celebrating 51 years with Henry Poor Lumber. “To me, he’s our Ambassador of Good Will,” Jay says, referring to his father’s role in the company. “He’s always interested in what the team’s doing. He prides himself on knowing people’s names, their family, and what they’re up to. He also has done a tremendous amount for the local community.”
The company has continued to grow since passing the 100-year mark in 2018. While the bulk of the company operates out of the main lumberyard location in Lafayette, Henry Poor also operates a satellite sales office with three outside sales specialists about an hour away in Kokomo, Indiana.
At the main lumberyard, Henry Poor recently invested in expanding its yard and outdoor storage areas with concrete, making it easier to run forklifts and load trucks. The resulting 50,000 square feet of staging area is complete with racking storage.
The company also operates a standalone flooring store called Flooring Express, which it opened in 2011. Jay says that business at Flooring Express increased dramatically during the pandemic while homeowners were looking to remodel and reconfigure their homes. “A lot of lumberyards saw deck and remodeling sales increase. For us, we also experienced an increase in flooring.”
Operating under the same corporate umbrella, the standalone flooring store allows the company to expand relationships with current builder customers and also connect with new customers who may not venture into a lumberyard. Flooring Express is housed in a refurbished sporting goods store, where the 31,000 square-foot facility is the area’s largest in-stock floor covering showroom. It is set up to show customers the latest design styles and trends and give them the opportunity to step foot on their future flooring experience.
About 70% of the flooring materials sold through Flooring Express are sold installed. That installation experience has also transferred to the Henry Poor side of the business, where the company is increasingly involved in the multi-family segment, turnkey framing, siding, roofing, trim, inside doors, and fireplaces.
The company has also added a full-service door shop that General Manager Jeff Renie was integral in bringing online, Jay says. “No other independent lumber dealers in our area have done that and it really has helped us earn more business. We handle it all here in house and we can control quality and lead times and help stabilize price.”
Total Team Effort
The overall company customer mix is 50% new home construction builders, 25% multifamily and general contractors, and 25% retail walk-in, the majority of which comes from the flooring store.
In all, there are 64 team members supporting the lumberyard and flooring store, of which Jay says, “It’s a total team effort. Our team is our number one asset. Number two is our inventory and number three our customers. As a leadership team we are reminded to take care of our team first. If we take care of our team, they will take care of our inventory and our customers.”
About half of the company’s employees have been with Henry Poor for at least five years, and 20% have been on board for over 10 years. Several team members that started in entry level positions have worked to join our delivery team, our sales team, and our leadership team.
“We do something called the Hammer Club,” Jay explains. “Every five years people become part of the Hammer Club, and we say they’ve been ‘hammering out excellence’ for five years, 10 years, etc. We have plaques at all facilities showing who is in the Hammer Club. We give out jackets for Hammer Club members at 10 years. They wear those here, at home, on the weekends in the community, and it shows pride in who they are and who they work for.”
Team members like the general manager at Flooring Express and the director of accounting started in entry-level positions and worked their way up in the company. The top salesman joined on while in college and the yard manager, who first started at 15 years old answering phones and helping with accounting, just celebrated her 10th anniversary with the company, Jay says.
“Each team member is critical to the success of our business. Jim Andrew reminds the team that they all ‘hold the steering wheel at some point.’ The Andrew family gives the team the opportunity to take ownership of their work and lead the charge when the time comes.”
That team effort has pushed revenues to the top of the $10 to $50 million category in which the company has been named Dealer of the Year for 2023. “We just came off a strong year and we’re cautiously optimistic about the next few years,” Jay says. “By taking care of the team and continuing to develop and recruit new team members, we are positing ourselves for future success.”
The Henry Poor and Flooring Express teams participate in many local initiatives to get students and young adults interested and excited about the building materials industry, including field trips to the lumberyard and jobsites for the local career academy along with speaking at local high schools. They also actively engage in the C2E (Construction Careers and Education Expo). This annual expo established by the Builders Association of Greater Lafayette shows area students the endless career opportunities in the construction industry. The 2023 Expo had 550 students in attendance.
“We’re always looking for good team members that are high-energy, aren’t afraid of a little hard work and learning something new,” Jay says. “We’re looking for people with a willingness to learn, who want to be part of a winning team and are solution-focused. We’re presented with people’s problems every day. We are the technicians who can successfully help them through that situation.”
Which brings Jay’s story back to his company’s practice of “clear, consistent communication, feedback, and interactions with everyone.”
“We hope that helping customers with their problems means that, ideally, they’ll buy products from us. But if not, we’ll refer them to the best place for help. That’s what we do to take care of our customers and help them grow and grow the right way.”
Helping customers “grow the right way” also means that Henry Poor is posed to grow the right way. For the Henry Poor Lumber and Flooring Express teams, that means growing smarter rather than faster. “We’ve got a lot of good momentum right now, and momentum is expensive and hard to create. If we found an opportunity with good momentum behind it, we’d take a look, but as we continue to grow, our goal is to continue to support our team and our customers and make sure that growth is right for them.”