Wood & Wood Products catches up with Bill Weaver to talk about his career, and where he sees his company in the future.
Did you always envision having a career in this industry? What steps led you to this point?
Since childhood I was fascinated with woodworking. At age 22, I was about to be discharged from the Navy and decided to make furniture and cabinets. I started as an apprentice in a two-man shop, and then worked in some larger shops. Woodworking was very seasonal where I lived, and while I loved woodworking, it was difficult to feed a growing family not working 12 months of the year.
One year I was laid off in the middle of the winter and answered an ad for a cabinet salesperson for a larger company. I decided if I could make cabinets, I could sell them. This opened my eyes to the possibilities within the cabinet industry and I decided to go back to college and take sales, marketing and general management courses. While going to college full-time, I worked in the industry in a cabinet shop, sold cabinets and managed a cabinet outlet. I also had three children by then. Those were long days!
I then went back to work for DeWils Industries, a regional cabinet manufacturer, and became vp of sales and marketing. In 1995, I joined Canyon Creek Cabinet Co. as vp of sales and marketing and in 1997, became executive vp. In 1999, I became President and in 2000, CEO. Never did I envision at the beginning of my career that I would be where I am today. It has been a very rewarding career full of great experiences. I think what led me to where I am today was a great love for the industry and the desire to excel in as many aspects of our business as I could.
What experiences have helped you to be successful?
The first experience that was helpful goes back to my childhood. My father was a small businessman and I worked for him growing up. This gave me a fundamental understanding of business, sales and marketing, and customer service.
The second was starting in our industry on the shop floor. Having a solid knowledge of the production side has greatly helped in the understanding of what can and canât be done in a manufacturing environment.
The third was gaining kitchen design and selling experience, and the fourth was the general management experience I gained along the way.
All of these experiences gave me a very good understanding of most aspects of our industry and the fundamentals that combine to be successful.
What has been your proudest achievement as it relates to the industry?
I have won numerous awards over the years; my wall is covered with them. While I appreciate them, I think my proudest achievement has been to work with so many great people at Canyon Creek. In taking what was a small company on the verge of bankruptcy when we took it over in 1995, and building it into a major regional company. The company is financially secure, run on sound business principles and well known in our markets and the industry.
The second is to have served as president of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn. (KCMA) for two years, and in helping develop the KCMAâs Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP). It was a great honor to be chosen by my industry peers to serve in this position.
What has been your greatest challenge and how have you overcome or are overcoming it?
I am currently in my greatest challenge. The economic times we face are unprecedented in my lifetime. I believe it will be worse than the early 80âs. On a personal level, while I have been through down times in our industry, this is the first time I have had to lead an organization through such drastic times.
We are working our way through this by applying sound fundamental business principles in financial and business management, product development, communication with our employees, education and adapting to our times. We are working diligently to keep all areas of our company aligned and our energy focused on what is important. We are also managing in âreal timeâ and making changes as fast as the need becomes apparent. This is the time that 36 years experience in our industry pays off.
What key strategies have helped you improve business?
At Canyon Creek Cabinet Co., the first key strategy that helped us improve was in 1995 when we changed from making low-end builder cabinets to manufacturing higher-end custom cabinets. We created a marketing plan and built the organization to penetrate the higher-end custom market. We then assembled the talent necessary to fulfill our strategic vision and have surrounded ourselves with competent people. The next was to build a factory that could produce custom cabinets in high volume.
I think the most significant strategy we have used over the years is to build an organization that is in tune to the ever-changing circumstances in the marketplace and is nimble enough to quickly adapt.
What are your goals for the company over the next five to 10 years?
Previously we projected our goals over a five to 10 year period and modified them gradually as times changed. We now manage our current realities against our strategic plan and adapt quickly. We think in much shorter time frames for strategic planning as the landscape is changing quickly. Unfortunately, I do not believe the economy and the housing industry has found bottom yet and this influences our current goals heavily.
In a general sense, our immediate goals are to manage our business to continue to be profitable, adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. Our goal is to take additional market share through enhanced sales efforts and new product offerings. We are taking the opportunity during this downturn to enhance our manufacturing capabilities and strengthen all aspects of our company.
Over the next five years we will continue to grow our market share and expand geographically. There are many tactics below this but the overall plan of growth and expansion will remain, albeit in a smaller market. Ten years is a little hard to see right now except in a very general manner.
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