34 blueprints for good business: WOOD 100 Strategies for Success
October 6, 2020 | 4:47 pm CDT

Acquisitions, expansions, new markets and changes in workplace procedures, are just a few of the ways these 34 WOOD 100 firms grew sales and improved their long-term business prospects. What follows are some of the methods put in place by the 2020 WOOD 100 class, which includes cabinet and casework manufacturers, closet and home organization providers, residential and contract furniture producers, architectural woodworkers, store fixture manufacturers, wood component manufacturers, and more.

Now in its 31st year, the WOOD 100: Strategies for Success highlights the innovative as well as tried-and-true initiatives put in place by 100 North American wood products manufacturers to grow their businesses. Here's what some of them had to say about their business strategies:

Alvic USA LLC, Auburndale, FL —  Demand for high-gloss, European design boards in North America has helped spur Alvic’s U.S. expansion, and a sales growth of 5.6% in 2019.

Using proprietary technology, Alvic USA manufactures high quality, high aesthetic, and high performing UV lacquer and TSS panels and components for contemporary commercial and kitchen/bath cabinet spaces, said Kevin McDonald, vice president sales.

“Success is due to a culture of continuous product and process improvement and a commitment to reinvestment to ensure the company is armed with the most advanced technology,” he added. In 2019 Alvic added a short cycle press line, lacquering line, two cut-to-size saws connected to a fully automated storage system, single panel JIT storage, and two edgebanding lines at its plant.

ConceptWorks Inc., Elkhart Lake, WI —  A manufacturer of architectural millwork, point of sales fixtures and tradeshow exhibits, ConceptWorks attributes its success to its “ability to challenge the norms of the industry ” and exceed customers’ expectations “through innovative thinking and a relentless desire to be the best at what we do all day, every day.”  The company also credits the hard work and attention to detail of its employees.

“We really pride ourselves on building our team with the right people,” said Adam Schneider, president and CEO. “We have built a pretty robust application and interview process to ensure both a skill and cultural fit.”

ConceptWorks also invested in technology, including Microvellum software, a hinge borer and insertion machine, and an edge borer.

Fine Finish Factory Inc., Escondido, CA —  Business continues to be steady for this small but strong custom cabinet shop, which recorded a sales increase of 7.8% in 2019.

President John Hagen credits his employees’ skills and quality design work for Fine Finish Factory’s growth and high ratings in customer satisfaction.

The company works with a network of contractors and design firms for projects. Its specialty is high-end veneer work utilizing mitered joints. “We’ve been honing those skills,” Hagen said. “At the start it took a lot of repetition, but we have come up with ways to do it in a timely fashion,” with standard machines at the 2,000-square-foot shop, including an Altendorf sliding table saw.

Hagen and his team also handle the installation of projects.

St. Croix Wood Components, Luck, WI —  Customer diversification and diverse product offerings are two ingredients in the component manufacturer’s success. There’s more.

“We invested in the company culture and employee engagement:  recruiting, hiring and training for key positions,” noted Justin Briski, director of Sales and Dimensional Products.

The company also instituted system and process improvements to increase its quality, speed and accuracy, and recently expanded to accommodate a larger rip saw line, and new Leadermac moulder.

St. Croix Wood Components serves the cabinet, furniture, and commercial fixture markets. Products include: cut-to-size blanks, edge-glued panels, dovetailed drawers and drawer fronts, face frames and cabinet parts, mouldings, panel products and flooring.

Malouf, Logan, UT —  Bedding specialist Malouf expanded its product range with its acquisition of home furnishings producer Salt Flat. The acquisition added furniture manufacturing capabilities of more than 500 initial SKUs across six categories: living room, dining room, bedroom, outdoor, storage and office.

“In the past, people have known us as a bedding company, but over the last year, we’ve added bedroom furniture to our lineup,” said Mike Douglas, vice president of sales. “These line extensions have been well received, and when we had the opportunity to acquire Salt Flat, it made perfect sense. We’re excited to build this brand and offer Salt Flat products to our partners.”

In the short span since acquiring the firm, Malouf has already debuted new products at High Point.

Steelcase, Grand Rapids, MI —  The contract furniture giant was named a 2020 honoree of The Civic 50, an initiative of Points of Light. Steelcase’s 2019 endeavors included work with: LEADeres, a leadership program serving the LatinX community; ReDI School, a non-profit that breaks down barriers to opportunities for refugees; and Public Thread, a woman-owned and operated business that created a model for how to care for people and the environment.

“At Steelcase, we believe business can be a force for good and, by leveraging our scale and resources around the globe, we can make a real difference in the communities where we live and work,” said Kim Dabbs, director of social innovation at Steelcase. “This recognition honors our commitment to helping others reach their full potential.”

More master plans

Burke Architectural Millwork LLC, Livonia, MI
Michigan’s first WBENC Certified Women’s Business Enterprise in custom architectural millwork, the “company is community driven to bring awareness to the great careers in millwork manufacturing.” CEO Kelly Victor-Burke conceived and worked with the Department of Labor, Urban Institute, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan’s Workforce Intelligence Network, Schoolcraft College and sister millwork shops and educators on a new Registered Apprenticeship, “Millwork Manufacturing Specialist” that is awaiting final DOL approval.

Beech Tree Woodworks, Olympia, WA
Put in place at the custom cabinet maker are “position agreements that were very clear, with job roles and responsibilities,” said CEO Nicolas James. “This allowed for defined roles in tandem with communication protocols that were clearly established.” Sales rose 15.8% in 2019, and the growth trend looks to continue in 2020 and beyond.

Green Grove Design, Canandaigua, NY
President Scott Grove credits employee skills for the custom furniture and architectural millwork/reproductions firm’s 27.3% increase in sales in 2019. “We offer a unique skill set, along with quality service and creative solutions.”

Norm Tessier Cabinets Inc., Rancho Cucamonga, CA
The custom cabinetry and components manufacturer has worked to optimize its operations and increase efficiency. “We have less staff and are working towards finding the right people, but with the limited pool, using our team to its best advantage is our main priority,” said David Beavers, CEO.

Acacia, Porter, TX
“As a team, we have little fear of failure because the acceptance of our own responsibility is high,” said Will Fuller, president of the high-end commercial millwork furnishings and furniture maker. “We understand our assignments and what success looks like. We know that any and all needed support to reach a goal is readily available. We watch the backs of our teammates and thus understand that we are unlikely to get very far down a lesser path before someone in a caring way suggests a trajectory or method reset. For us, this brings about real freedom to experiment, grow and make big happen.”

Elipticon Wood Products Inc.,  Little Chute, WI
Sales at the architectural millwork firm grew 6.7%. “By concentrating on operational efforts we have streamlined the business operations and have an additional location next door,” said Patricia Heckner, co-president. “The employee skills continue to help Elipticon grow. Along with being 100% employee owned, we are driven to succeed.”

Morantz Custom Cabinetry Inc., Lauderdale Lakes, FL
“We moved to a 50% bigger facility, invested in a new Brandt Ambition edgebander and have increased our builder and designer relationships with full home packages,” said Tzvi Morantz, president. “We also built a larger showroom and as new products and samples come onto the market, our vendors know to bring us several sets of samples so that I can give these to my builders and designers for their own showrooms.“ 2019 sales grew 19.2%. 

Shaver Innovations LLC, Greensboro, NC
Owner Larry Shaver, attributes the cabinetry firm’s 11.1% sales growth to “staying the course with high-quality raw materials, high-end hardware and not being afraid to charge for what we can do. We deliver what our customers expect.”

Bareville Woodcraft Co., Leola, PA
CEO & GM Edward Oberholtzer credits the companies partners for its success. “The retention of good help, and the experience that they bring to work is key,” he said. The company supplies solid wood steam bent furniture components, serving primarily the chair and furniture industry. The company recently added a warehouse forklift and  Cameron gang ripsaw system.

Lexington Manufacturing, LLC, Minneapolis, MN
“Lexington’s success is attributed to delivering consistently on quality, performance and customer service,” said David Claypool, director of sales. “Significant to delivering on these attributes and rapid growth is Lexington’s commitment to EOS for coordinating and execution at all departmental levels on the company’s strategic initiatives.” The component firm supplies the window, door, furniture and millwork industries.

Svoboda Ind., Kewaunee, WI
President/owner Mike Bloniarz credits his employees' skills with helping the custom wood products manufacturer stay on course and “adjust from losing one of our biggest accounts.”

Page Woodworking Inc., Grand Rapids, MI
The cabinetry and specialty woodworking firm moved into a 24,000-square-foot facility with state-of-the-art equipment from Stiles Machinery and Hocker dust extraction. “It was obvious in early 2019 that we were going to need a larger space if we were going to increase sales and improve quality and delivery. “Even when the country was starting to shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, we were able to work with our local agencies and key suppliers to provide 100% on-time deliveries to our clients,” added Adam Page, president. 2019 sales grew 21.1%.

Woodworking Designers Inc., Boca Raton, FL
President Antonio Marin credits the cabinet firm’s “attention to detail in the manufacturing process, a great team, and excellent customer service,” for its 7.9% sales growth.

Arizona Western Fixture & Display Inc., Phoenix, AZ
Along with “our attention to detail and customer service when issues arise with clients,” the design and manufacturing firm implemented an automatic inventory system and purchasing system, said Pamela Narcy, treasurer. The firm, which provides unique and innovative display, exhibits, and architectural woodworking, projects 2020 and 2021 sales to be good.

MK Designs LLC, Honey Brook, PA
The maker of custom cabinetry, built-ins and wine cellars “raised prices and cut out unprofitable repeat clients,” said Mark King, president. The strategy resulted in a 25.6% increase in 2019 sales, with projections for 2020 also good. “We’re currently experiencing record sales and profits despite COVID,” he added.

Thelen Cabinets, Farmington, MN
President Chad Thelen “implemented additional capital equipment and better vendor relations to further enhance the efficiencies and productivity of our small team to meet tighter deadlines, remain more competitive in our key market and deliver an even higher caliber of product to our end users. These actions and planning have contributed to an overall increase in profits while providing a top tier environment for employees,” he said. 2019 sales rose 3.0%

Architectural Millwork Mfg. Co., Eugene, OR
Sales at the finish millwork and wood paneling firm jumped 34.9%, with Jarold Stump, vice president, also optimistic for 2020. “We increased the number of projects bid on and marketing contacts,” he noted. The firm also added a rip line and panel saw to aid in production.

Diplomat Closet Design, West Chester, PA
The home organization firm “with white glove service” attributes its 26.6% growth in 2019 to its strong team culture. “Last year we focused on processes and people. We wanted to make sure we had the right person in the right seat,” said Laura Bryan, director of marketing. “We also worked hard to build a strong company culture where every employee is respected and valued and everyone has a voice.”

Leeman Architectural Woodwork, Powder Springs, GA
Sales at the architectural millwork, retail fixtures, POP and caseworks firm grew a whopping 61.1%. “We created an executive team and implemented the EOS program, changed our sales strategy, and invested in new technology with machinery and software,” said Kailey Hawn, marketing coordinator. “From initial prototyping to large-scale production, our expert design engineering and manufacturing capabilities make us a turnkey solution for any project.”

M. Bohlke Veneer Corp., Fairfield, OH
The veneer, lumber and wood products producer “streamlined communication across departments and upped our marketing game,” said Amanda Lemcke, marketing associate. The company, which recently invested in a Kuper veneer slicer, projects good sales for 2020 and 2021.

Arauco North America, Atlanta, GA
Arauco’s acquisition of moulding and millwork producer Prime-Line “further executes on our commitment to create higher value for our customers through product diversification, expanded services and supply chain efficiencies,” said Pablo Franzini, president.

Steves & Sons Inc., San Antonio, TX
The company broke ground on a 100,000 square-foot addition to its door manufacturing operation. The expansion is expected to be completed in early 2021.

USA Millwork, Manassas, VA
In 2019 the architectural millwork conglomerate got even bigger, with the acquisition of Mission Bell, an architectural millwork manufacturer based in California. The USA Millwork portfolio also includes Cabinets by Design (Georgia), Freelance Millwork (Colorado), IBS Millwork (Virginia), Mission Bell (California) and O’Keefe Millwork (Wisconsin), with a combined manufacturing footprint of nearly 400,000 square feet.  

Fellowes Brands, Itasca, IL
The company announced a new division, Fellowes Contract Interiors, unifying three brands to serve the industry: Trendway, ESI and AeraMax Professional. “Bringing together these great organizations under the Fellowes Contract Interiors division allows us to leverage each other’s capabilities, while strengthening our market position. It also allows us to take our partnership with our dealers to the next level as we provide new growth opportunities for their business,” said Mark Rhoades, president of Fellowes Contract Interiors. 

Olon Ind., Georgetown, ON
With the component company’s ramping up of its new Purdeco panel division, Sylvain Duchesne, vice president of sales & marketing, said, “We are no longer limited by offering individual components to the woodworking industry – we can now provide a full program: door and accessory mouldings, center panels, slab doors and casegood panels all in the same color and material.”

Wellborn Cabinet, Ashland, AL
The cabinetry manufacturer completed the construction of a 105,000-square-foot rough mill lumber processing facility located on-site at the Ashland, Alabama plant. The company says the addition allows Wellborn to effectively double the capacity of its current rough milling process.

Patrick Ind., Elkhart, IN
“The acquisition of Maple City provides the opportunity for Patrick to capitalize on our existing hardwood door manufacturing expertise and capabilities, increase our RV content per unit, and expand our footprint as a premier supplier to the RV market,” said Andy Nemeth, president & CEO.

Viewrail, Goshen, IN
The custom floating stairs, railing systems and stair components maker announced plans to double its footprint and invest more than $12 million to increase production.

Read more 2020 WOOD 100: Strategies for Success

Marketing Initiatives

Business Strategies

Productivity Enhancements

Technology Integration

Product Innovations

Customer Service

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]