“Service dictates our business. We do what we say we’ll do and we give our best estimates. We don’t blow smoke. If we know a truck won’t be there until 1:00, it doesn’t do anybody any good to say it will be there by 9:00.”
Morgan also doesn’t deal with track builders. There are just none of them around. In the Trico Lumber customer area, most of the job sites are several acres, or they are customers building on a lake. There are no builders turning 200 houses, one right after another, Morgan said.
It is because of a dedication to that smaller customer base that business at Trico has seen steady growth over the decades.
“During good times, our business just isn’t as good as a metro area, but guess what, it’s never as bad either when there’s a downturn,” he said. “Some of those metroplex yards were down 75% (during the Great Recession), but not us.”
Even though there is no shortage of competition within driving distance for his customers, Morgan said Trico stands strong among the dedicated contractors in his area.
“You’re going to have a certain amount who don’t think you can compete, but as far as legitimate contractors, most don’t shop at big box stores.”
Morgan said a big part of Trico Lumber’s success is that the company’s managers are hands-on and also serve as outside sales reps who develop working relationships with customers.
“We’ll deal directly with the framers and contractors instead of the actual builder on some accounts. We have good relationships with the builder and the framer. We get to know them individually. If a guy is a bird hunter, you take him a case of shotgun shells. Another guy you may take to lunch. Another guy you might deliver 12 barbeque sandwiches.”
The same hands-on approach is evident in Morgan’s management style. With three stores, Morgan has learned to develop and nurture young talent when he sees it, even if they’re starting out as a part-time yard hand.
Morgan said he approaches his hiring a little differently than most dealers. He likes to fill his yard positions with college students when he can. He said that even though he knows he’ll only have them for a few years, there are advantages to bringing on employees who are already dedicated to their education.
“They’re smart and they’re dependable,” he said. “Although I have to work around a part-timer’s schedule, it really works out well. I get them until graduation and I know that in advance.”
Morgan said that he has built a reputation in the area as a desirable workplace for college students. So much so, that he recently hired on the third in a set of brothers who has worked for Trico Lumber through college.
In fact, Morgan’s manager at the Jefferson store, Chris Skaggs, was just hired on to run the store less than two years ago. He was someone who had worked for Morgan through college and decided that he liked it so much after three years that he changed his major from education to business in order to pursue a career at Trico.
“His sister worked for me while she was in school, and then he did. He’s fairly young, but he’s aggressive and he knows what’s reasonable to expect from his yard hands,” Morgan said. “Like Judson, my son, he didn’t grow up with a silver spoon. Any of my managers can get on a forklift or get in a truck. I’ve always said that I’m not going to ask any of my hands to do something I haven’t done or wouldn’t do.”
Morgan predicts continued growth for all three of his locations— particularly the Jefferson store—by increasing the company’s digital presence.
Trico Lumber reaches out to customers via its website and social media channels, and just recently entered into an agreement with Orgill, it’s purchasing group, to expand its website and offer Internet sales.
Judson Morgan, Kyle’s son and manager at the Hughes Springs store will take over the businesses some day, but not anytime soon, as long as Kyle’s still having fun in the business.
“I don’t manage an individual store anymore,” Morgan said, “but I make it to all three of them four or five times a week. I might not haul Sheetrock these days, but I still do what needs to be done and maybe some days not on such a regular schedule.” n