Wood Industry Market Leader: Gat Caperton, Gat Creek
October 30, 2018 | 1:29 pm CDT
Gat Caperton, president & CEO, Gat Creek

Gat Caperton’s business philosophy can be summed up in three simple words:  Fast, flexible and simple.  “This is something that’s far easier to say than to execute.  Still, we remind ourselves of this mantra regularly.  When achieved, it’s powerful and fun,” said the president and CEO of the residential furniture maker.

Caperton said he sees Gat Creek as a mission-driven business. “Many call this a ‘Triple Bottom Line’ or ‘3P: Profits, People, Planet’ business,” he said. “I like to say, ‘sustainability starts with sales.’  If we don’t sell anything, we’ve no way to improve any of our bottom lines.” Projected is 25 percent growth in sales for the multi-million dollar manufacturer.

While Caperton enjoyed his school’s wood shop, it was in college that he developed a real passion for manufacturing. With a semester left in grad school, Caperton, who had read Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s “The Goal” and “concluded that Lean Manufacturing could prove transformative,” would soon purchase Tom Seely Furniture in a high leveraged buyout, moved to West Virginia, get married and go to work manufacturing furniture. “Twenty-two years later, I’m still working, still married, and still in debt.  So, success!”

He added, “My proudest achievement might simply be surviving.  This factory spent almost four years on death’s door during the Great Recession.  Our vendors kept us alive and our bank never gave up on us.  Business is good again.  I never imported furniture.  I never quit.”

Aiding Gat Creek’s efforts has been the implementation of lean manufacturing. “It allowed us to cut our production lead-time and inventory by two-thirds,” Caperton said. “Today, we build a wide range of product to order in 28 days and turn our inventory 12 times a year.  This level of working capital efficiency is what allows us to invest in our factory and survive international competition. 

“Last year, we began a large investment into our Gat Creek brand, including updating the catalog, website and customer service.  I’m hoping this proves to be my ‘smartest thing’ for 2018-2019,” he added.

Knowing that a business is only as strong as its people and community, Gat Creek supports a range of organizations focused on youth and public safety.  “My personal focus is on education, sustainability and economic development,” said Caperton, who also serves on a range of organizations.

In his free time, Caperton enjoys being with family.  “My wife, Susan, and I have three teen-aged daughters that we love and love to be around. I enjoy sports...but about a decade ago found that I knew more about princesses than quarterbacks.”

Quick Glimpse:

Education: BA in Economics from Davidson College. MBA from the University of Chicago

Number of years at the company : 22

Number of years in the industry: 22

Word that best describes you: Tall

Business mantra: We have three key tenets here: Fast, Flexible & Simple.  This is something that’s far easier to say than to execute.  Still, we remind ourselves of this manta regularly.  When achieved; it’s powerful and fun.

Best advice: (paraphrased) “Many people have the will to succeed, but success comes to those who have the willingness to prepare to succeed.”

Who have you tried to emulate? My Dad.  He and his friends taught me all kinds of good stuff, much of it by example.

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