One Good Company Deserves Another

Miller’s Custom Cabinets has grown into just the right size for brothers Danny and Kenny Miller, with a new solid surface division adding plenty of potential.

By Sam Gazdziak

     
Miller’s Custom Cabinets/

Signature Solid Surface

Excelsior Springs, MO

Year Founded: Miller’s: 1986; Signature: 2001

Employees: Miller’s: 25; Signature: 3

Shop Size: Miller’s: 12,000 square feet; Signature: 3,500 square feet

FYI: Miller’s Custom Cabinets runs about $13,000 of cabinets through its shop every day, while Signature Solid Surface, its solid surface branch, runs about $3,500 worth of countertops. Half of the solid surface company’s work comes from other local cabinet companies.

 
   
     

Like many other woodworking companies, sales are a continual concern for Miller’s Custom Cabinets. Only there, it’s a problem of having too much work, not too little.

“In the last five years, we’ve been trying not to grow,” says Danny Miller, who founded the company with his older brother, Dean, in 1986. “Since Dean retired three years ago, we’ve tried to keep things status quo. We like the size that we’re at now, and we try to keep it like that. We still grow a little bit every year, but we turn down a lot of work.”

Danny Miller serves as president for the company, which provides residential cabinetry for new home construction. His younger brother, Kenny, serves as vice president. Miller’s supplies residential cabinetry for new home construction in a 50-mile radius of the shop, which includes north Kansas City, Liberty and St. Joseph, MO. Both men act as salesmen, along with Dana Hayes, who is the company’s first “official” salesman. He was hired a year ago when the work got too much for the Miller brothers to handle, Danny Miller says. “It got to the point that Kenny and I were working 80 hours a week trying to deal with customers and run the business.”

Miller’s supplies cabinetry for houses in a wide price range, from $120,000 entry-level houses to homes that cost $1 million or more. Regardless of the cost of the house, the work is always handled in the same way, Miller says. “We have great a great employees that allow us to do high-quality work, make very few mistakes, run a tight schedule and always be on time. Without some of the key employees we have, we could not operate at the volume we do now.”

     
 
The showroom in Miller’s headquarters highlights both its cabinet-making abilities and Signature Solid Surface’s countertops.  
     

Entering the Solid Surface World

While Miller’s Custom Cabinets is at an optimal size, its two-year-old solid surface branch, Signature Solid Surface, got off to a quick start and is still growing.

Miller says that he had been selling solid surface countertops out of Miller’s Custom Cabinets’ showroom for two or three years, but he never found a supplier he was satisfied with.

“I’m a little bit of a control freak,” he says. “I don’t mind dealing with outside companies as long as they do what they tell me they are going to do, and they do it right.

“I just didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t control pricing, control scheduling, control workmanship,” he adds. Miller says he felt that there was a good market for a solid surface business and that he and his brother could run it without adding too much to their existing workload.

Miller says he is not an experienced solid surface fabricator, so he knew the first thing he needed was someone with plenty of experience. He found that at his then-solid surface supplier.

“The owner and I weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but he had a production manager, Dave Taylor, that I really liked,” Miller recalls. “I told him I wanted to start a business and offered to give him a partnership in the business if he wanted to do that, and that’s what he did.” Taylor has been working with solid surface material for 10 years.

Miller and Taylor then sat down and determined what the size of the shop should be and what tools were needed. Miller’s Custom Cabinets’ 12,000-square-foot shop didn’t have room for the solid surface division, and Miller did not want to build a new building. He eventually found a building available for lease about a mile from the Miller’s cabinet shop.

     

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