Despite the challenges facing the components industry, Lewis Lumber President Keith Atherholt has never doubted his decision in college to enter the wood products industry.
|Keith Atherholt, President, Lewis Lumber Products|
|• Education: BS, Forest Products, Pennsylvania State University
• Years at the company: 19
• Years in the industry: 31
• Words that best describe you: Energized and Driven.
• The persons you have tried to emulate in business and why: I have had the fortune of looking to many inside and outside the industry: My partners (Marc and Mel Lewis) operated their sawmill business well through the thick and thin; my own father and father-in-law both have helped me in understanding
employee expectations and motivations; and I glean as much as I can from my peers and through industry associations.
He worked as a road salesman for 11 years before joining Lewis Lumber 19 years ago. “We have grown in size and product offering here at Lewis Lumber since our beginnings in 1991,” Atherholt says. “Dwight Lewis (founder of Dwight Lewis Lumber Co.) was very progressive and supportive of our ideas at the distribution side of the business. Since then, his sons (Marc and Mel) continue in that same support.
“I count it a blessing to be surrounded by extremely dedicated and loyal employees. Our administrative team has been together for seven years now and this is very important as we continue through industry challenges.”
Atherholt also credits the support and relationships with customers and vendors in helping the company survive these challenging times. “The past two years have by far been the most challenging; that would come as no surprise to most. Our revenues fell, and costs in some areas rose. After years of expansion to meet demand, we are challenged with cost cutting to meet revenue short falls.”
As a result, Atherholt says, the company has worked to find other ways to increase sales revenue while drilling down into its operating costs. “We have tried different methods of processing and outsourced certain aspects of our production. We are challenged with processing smaller orders in a quick time frame and cannot take advantage of larger run times to cut costs per unit measure.
“These are challenges in every business today,” he adds. “Our motto is: Don’t Give Up! We are willing to try new things, but also willing to step away from an order.”
Atherholt says as Lewis Lumber moves forward, it will continue to develop new products “as changes in the industry alter customer expectations.” Among them: thermally modified products, FSC-certified components, “and an emphasis on outsourcing offers with our state-of-the-art rough mill,” he says.
“First and foremost is to position our company at a comfortable profit level. That is not out of greed, but out of a sense of peace. We will be a far more effective company in all aspects when reaching stable financial goals,” he adds.
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