Friday, July 27, 2012

Keys to Success from 57 Years of the Sawmill Business

The Baize Family team. Author Jordan Baize to the far right.
By Jordan Baize

Family photo from 1981
In today’s economy, a few years in business is something to be proud of, not to mention almost 6 decades.  Our family’s lumber manufacturing company, B& K Wood Products, is celebrating its 57th anniversary this April.  Companies like ours and Wood-Mizer haven’t just been lucky over the years or stumbled into good fortunes.  Our company has instead formulated a Company Philosophy for longevity and growth made up of some of the simplest ideas known to man, and I’d like to share these principles with you.  Caution: this is much simpler than what they teach you in business school!  Let’s get started.



Integrity - Establish relationships with business partners with a handshake and a solid word.

Not many companies can say they are selling to some of the same customers as they were 40 years ago, but ours can.  There’s no easy, cheap, or quick way of getting customers to buy the same product from your for more than four decades.  There is only one way to accomplish this: treat your customer with integrity.  Look at the customer-vendor relationship as a marriage. In 40 years, the customer will have plenty of time to find the faults in you (and there always are a few faults in all of us).  But if you have treated your customer with integrity for the length of the relationship, they should care enough about your organization to overlook those faults, or at least give you time to correct those faults without dropping you first.

Milling in 1959

Organizations should make it a point to serve customers, not just push products their way.  In the end, the only thing that generates customer retention is positive relationships that are built on integrity.  If the waitress at your favorite pizza joint is rude and unhelpful, the pizza you once enjoyed will start tasting worse and worse.  No product is good enough to overcome poor relationships.  Integrity wins in the end every time.  Not to mention it just feels good at the end of the day to be able to hold your head high.  Try it! It’s worked for us.

Diversification - Offer a wide array of products and services.

 Our company was started over 50 years ago as a side lumber and crossties operation only.  Today, sawmilling is still a big part of what we do, but it is not the only thing we do.  Nor will it ever be again.  We have adopted a more diverse range of products than just the standard lumber and tie variety out of necessity.  This has always been a strategic position of ours, and it proved its worth in 2009.  Countless friends and competitors of ours shut their doors for the last time that year.  At the time, most of them were still cutting the same side lumber and crossties we were cutting 50 years prior.  There is nothing wrong with consistency, but when times change, we must change with them or risk looking failure in the face. 

One of B&K's Wood-Mizer Industrial Headrigs
Diversifying your products and services to cover varying areas of the market is a necessity.  For instance, during the heart of the economic crisis when the housing market had tanked, we were not able to sell much of our inventory that ends up as cabinet facings, hardwood flooring, or stair treads.  Instead, we had to lean heavily on other products that we produce and divert those revenue streams (which were quickly drying up) down other avenues.  A few years back our wood chip market was soft so we went looking for another way to capitalize on our wood waste.  Because of that diversification, we are now Kroger’s largest producer of manufactured firewood, a new use for the same material our wood chips once came. 

Whatever It Takes – Manufacture products of unquestionable quality using both trail-blazing technologies and beaten-path tools of the trade.

  Our company has been around for a while and learned many things over the years.  We pride ourselves in not forgetting the many lessons learned through the decades, all the while not neglecting newer technologies and good, old-fashion hard work.  We feel like that is simply the only way to be consistently profitable in business.
Another Wood-Mizer thin-kerf headrig at B&K Wood Products
When our organization sets up a production goal, we meet that goal. Period.  Budgets and forecasting are useless if the top number on the income statement (gross revenue) is lower than expected.  Companies must aim to produce quality products in the expected timeframe.  Anything short of that changes the financial landscape of the company.  Use all resources necessary to get the job done on time—whatever it takes.

Thrive, Don’t Survive!

The B&K Wood Products facility

The simple active application of these ideals to our business has resulted in longevity spanning 57 years.  It’s important to remember that most people who have been successful have taken a few easy-to-understand principles that their grandfather could have taught them, and followed them without wavering.  Instead of avoiding failure, business owners and managers should instead be trying to attain greatness and longevity.  Thrive, don’t just survive—let’s go the distance!

For more information on products that have helped B&K succeed, visit Also, to see how thin-kerf headrigs can help your business increase profitability, watch this video: Ohio Valley Veneer