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Old Monroe Lumber

Starting Out

In a time when “startup” online companies were becoming a business buzzword in the late 1990s, Creech and Finley took the startup mentality and applied it to an industry that they both loved.

The two co-owners’ journeys to the lumber and building supplies business differed. Finley got into the lumber life straight out of college. An ad in a newspaper promised inside and outside work at a large chain lumberyard, which sounded more interesting than a desk job at the time. Finley took the position and eventually worked his way up into management. He then took his sales experience to an independent lumberyard, where he worked for Boone Creech as an outside salesman.

Creech, who had cut his teeth in the oilfield and pipeline industry, was also fairly new to the LBM retail business. He had recently worked his way up into management when he hired Finley. After working together for a number of years the two realized that they both wanted to be in control of their own destinies.

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“From there, we took the idea further that we could do better with our own lumberyard,” Creech said. “Within a week we were writing up a business plan in my basement and within five months we were in the facility and trying to get it opened up.”

‘Whatever It Takes’

From the planning stages of Old Monroe Lumber Company—which its owners call OMLC—a simple, three-word motto guided the business partners as they shaped their company: “Whatever it takes.” That same motto guides them as they continue to plan for the future.

“When we started in 1999, we were surrounded with competitors who had better facilities, more lumber, more trucks, more forklifts and a better location than we had,” Finley said. “We were able to outsell and outwork them because we had some of the best people in our industry. Owners that don’t understand the value of their people and those who don’t take steps to attract and retain quality people are going to struggle. Take great care of your employees and customers, and word of mouth will do the rest.”

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old_missouri_lumber_company-3Today, that “Whatever it takes” motto has led OMLC to a point at which the competition is even sometimes a customer. “It’s not uncommon to have a Lowe’s truck in our yard,” Finley said. “That comes from us just never saying never. An old manager once told me that ‘any customer is a good customer’ so we treat them just like we would any other customer. We don’t make them come in the back door. They lean on us for product knowledge as well as lumber lengths and species they just don’t stock.”

Creech said that the area independent lumberyards are more competition for OMLC than the big box stores. Finley added, “People in our industry are always talking about how to deal with box stores. I just don’t see them as a problem. They could move across the street from me and I wouldn’t lose any sleep. People will still pay for service and product knowledge that they won’t get there. Yes, they will advertise a ‘loss leader’ price on a few items, but head-to-head on the complete project, they are no problem for us.”

OMLC started out with four employees. The first deliveries were made behind a pickup truck with a gooseneck trailer, and were unloaded by hand. Seventeen years later the two owners are still very hands-on with the business. Besides management and purchasing, the two are actively involved in day-to-day sales as well as helping walk-in customers at the counter.

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“We’ll do anything from estimating to answering the phones,” Creech said. “‘Whatever it takes,’ it all comes back to that motto. We don’t put ourselves above anyone else who works here. We’re all on the same level.”

“Every once in a while I even get my hands dirty working with our mechanic,” Finley added.

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