Big Creek Lumber’s Big Tech Focus
In an area that has survived both a dot-com bubble burst and the Great Recession, builders are still fielding plenty of calls for highend building construction, a trend that bodes well for the company supplying materials for those buildings.
Big Creek’s newest location is in Atwater, Calif., where the company has an increased store space, a covered lumberyard, and operates its recently-added delivery dispatch system.
Serving Silicon Valley
Three of Big Creek Lumber’s five pro-dealer locations that division manager Kevin Dussault oversees are along the coast in Northern California, where larger new home construction and major remodels are common. To keep up with customers’ expectations in these markets, Dussault has taught his staff to adapt to changing technology and service expectations, and to continually make an effort to better understand buying behaviors in the market. “We want to know which customers are buying and what services they need,” he said. “Because our markets between the five locations are so different, we want a feel for each of those markets and where our place is in it.”
Big Creek Lumber was founded in 1946 by Frank McCrary, Sr. and sons Frank “Lud” McCrary, and Homer “Bud” McCrary as a small sawmill and logging operation. Big Creek began its first retail lumberyard as a way to help meet the other building materials needs of its local lumber customers. Big Creek now operates a redwood sawmill and forestry management group headquartered in Davenport, Calif., in addition to the five professional builder retail locations in Watsonville, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Atwater and Paso Robles, all in California. The company is locally recognized for selling its own sustainably produced, high quality redwood lumber direct to end users.
The closely held family owned company’s leadership team consists largely of McCrary family members. Janet McCrary Webb, President, oversees the company’s wholesale division. Vice President Ellen McCrary Rinde oversees HR and Vice President Ken McCrary oversees the IT department. Dussault was brought into the company’s leadership team for his longtime experience in the pro-builder industry. Big Creek is growing at a level that Dussault said is now stronger than before the Great Recession. Big Creek’s retail division employs 113, including six outside sales reps serving a customer base of which 85% is made up of professional builders and remodelers.
Taking advantage of available technologies in retail, delivery, and business operations is a big part of growing a healthy company in such a technology-focused area of the country. Dussault said he keeps up with industry trends through LBM conferences and by networking with other LBM dealers from around the country.
Big Creek Lumber offers online quotes, an online store, pre-delivery notifications, and 24/7 online account access to keep up with expectations that pro and DIY customers alike now demand. An online showroom lets customers view products, see specs, get installation guides, warranty information and print brochures. Outside sales reps can also do this for customers from tablets in the field. A new quoting system allows staff to run quotes on products on the Big Creek website and review options online.
“A good number of our customers can be more tech-savvy than anyone else. We’ve had to make sure we have the tools in place to serve them,” Dussault said. “Premium services allow Big Creek to take advantage of margins competitors can’t achieve.”
The staff at Big Creek also keeps up with new advances in marketing to reach customers in the most convenient way possible. By relying on sales consulting rather than selling, Big Creek reps can combat lowball offers from competitors that are focused solely on price and not on advice and direction.
“Our belief is, if you do it right, they’ll be your customer forever. Our customers come back because of the genuine concern and partnership that Big Creek offers. Part of our success is the closeness that we have with our customers,” Dussault said. “I spend about 80% of my time outside of an office. I spend a lot of time in our yards and with our customers.
If I see a trend in something that our customers are doing, I want us to be extremely responsive.” Branch managers at each of the five locations are empowered to make decisions without the need for a chain of command, Dussault said, which means the company can react immediately to trends and customer needs.
Branch managers that Dussault oversees have often been promoted from within the stores. Managers are recognized and developed through a specific leadership training program that Dussault has implemented.
Dussault also holds quarterly manager analysis meetings in which managers grade themselves in areas of safety, yard cleanliness, continuous learning, and succession planning at their branches. Career planning with employees doesn’t just benefit Dussault and the branch managers. Employees themselves see their career path as a set of attainable goals toward career longevity. As a result, Big Creek sees employee retention levels unheard of by competitors, he said. The average employee has been with Big Creek for 10 to 15 years. Some have been on staff for nearly 40 years.
“Our number one focus is our people and our customer’s success is our employees’ first priority,” he said.