Dealer of the Year: Keim - LBM Journal

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"LBM Magazine"

As long as houses and communities are built, building material suppliers are vital to the development of the region. Although many timber distributors have taken on this responsibility and made continuous progress through new technologies to serve their customers, Keim has done this and at the same time strengthened the foundation of its own community’s traditions and culture.

Keim is located in the heart of one of the largest populations of Amish, Ohio, USA. It is a small town without legal personality. It has adapted to the challenges of serving modern markets (including cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland) and has The more traditional employee base is 70% of the old Amish orders. In the end, this company with a market value of $150 million continued to grow and develop.

Keim was founded in 1911 and now has fourth-generation family ownership. Initially developed from a logging plant to a supplier of construction materials. In 2007, the company's existing store was completed, combining 125,000 square feet of retail space.

It wasn't until the summer of 2019 that Jim Smucker signed the company's president to start business within the Keim family.

"The third generation, Bill Keim and his wife Eva changed the face of the company," Smark said. "They have greatly developed their business."

Smucker said that the logging yard in this small town is now a destination store. Keim is about 150 miles from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus, and is known for its quality and service in areas with ample major competitors.

Bill Keim has been in contact with his son Robbie since he was very young. Bill's stepson Eric (Eric) also started working for the company in 2010. When Bill was battling cancer, Robbie and Eric were promoted to leadership and eventually took over the business completely when Bill died in 2014. For various reasons, both parties have decided that they want to continue these daily tasks and now assume more active ownership roles.

Smucker said that as the first non-family member to lead the business, he was selected in part for the position because of his personal experience growing up in Mennonite. Smucker has a professional background in the family hotel business, and then served as the academic dean, and served in higher education. Because he understands the essence of family business operations and the culture of the Amish people, he was taken abroad.

"Many managers say that they are the ones who make the company successful, but what I say is the absolute truth. Our team is excellent. They are very concerned about providing services and quality products. This is why customers drive past 10 large box stores here. The reason for buying the Trex deck, and they could have bought it at any of these stores. Our slogan is "Build on Trust", which suits us well."

Smucker said customers will have a long way to go to do business with people they trust, and they will keep coming back every time they experience re-establishing trust.

Nearly three-quarters of Keim's 550 employees are Amish, which Smucker said is an important part of the company's strength to build a loyal customer base. He said that employees are trustworthy because they do not get commissions. They are selling quality products and helping customers understand how to best use the products.

Compared with large stores, we have a lot of expertise in the store. Smucker added that many of us have experience in construction or timber shops.

He said that Keane's employees are also very loyal. The company provides 20% of employees' pre-tax income. Everyone is working hard to serve customers, because when Keim performs well, so do employees.

In fact, the company’s performance is so good that it achieved $150 million in revenue last year, and this year’s performance is expected to be even better. What stands out among many other logging farms is the customer portfolio that drives Keim's sales. Although one third of the customers are professional builders, the other half are retail and DIY customers, and the other half are made up of artisan furniture manufacturers. As a result, the sales of wood for furniture and cabinets are good, while the stocks of logging plants such as logging, varnish and paint are not common.

And in terms of inventory, Smucker said Keim has also built a good reputation in finding the items it needs.

"Bill Keim (Bill Keim) always said,'You have to sell it.' Our customers know that if they are to drive to Keim for an hour, we are likely to have stock." Smucker said.

This concept runs counter to some of the “just-in-time” inventory practices of business school professors, but Keim's inventory reputation has been very effective for him during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Contractors and professional builders prefer to shop with us because we have materials," Smucker said.

Building on the basis of service and tradition is not just Keim's mission statement goal. Smucker developed a new strategic plan that involved buying a hardware store in Mount Hope, Ohio, an Amish community about 10 miles from Keim’s Charm.

Except for the hardware store (which Smucker says is best called an "outpost"), there are no plans for expansion in the near future. Instead, Smucker said he relied on fulfilling Bill Keim's commitment to the local community.

“Bill has helped other businesses locally and has always said that one of the main reasons for our existence is to strengthen the capabilities of more businesses in the community. There are many examples of how this family can help local businesses and help them succeed.”

As a result, Keim’s community focused on helping other companies start and share Keim’s broader market.

"As all ships rise, our ships also rise," Smucker said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Keim, Ohio, this concept has never been more obvious. Smucker said that because the area was facing a serious virus outbreak, he was reminded of his company's ability to promote the development of regional builders and craftsmen. The senior management team not only guarantees the next day delivery guarantee for orders from builders, but also for retail customers who need products such as hand sanitizer and tissues. Keim's staff even created a catalog from which customers in this area can place orders.

The bottom line of Smucker and Keim is the experience of employees and customers, not profit. But this does not mean that the company is not focusing on the future and serving customers in a modern way. The company is installing a new ERP system and has developed the so-called Keim University, which is a training center for employees, customers, and members of the wider community.

Keim also encourages its employees to participate in activities in the community and their homes. The company's working hours are extraordinary. On weekdays, Keim is closed at 4:30 pm, while on weekends it is only open on Saturday morning.

"We want our employees to have family time. This is important to the community," Smucker said. "Some people may think that we keep our profits on the table, but our vision is more holistic, which means that our turnover last year was only 9%. We think that profits are by-products. You will take good care of your colleagues and they will Take good care of your customers. Profit is a by-product, not our focus."

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