Wood Industry Market Leader: Skip LaBella, Closet America
November 4, 2014 | 9:16 pm CST

“Since an early age, I’ve always possessed the entrepreneurial spirit,” says Skip LaBella, president of Closet America. “I knew I wanted to grow a company, build and invest in the employees, and provide the foundation to make it successful. The opportunity to enter this industry presented itself to me, and it seemed like a natural fit.“

LaBella took the diverse experiences of working for his family’s small firm as well as his work at large organizations, and turned it into a winning combination at Closet America. “In my opinion, my success lies in the combination of the small business ‘roll up your sleeves’ management style, mixed with the ability to create and foster a strong professional corporate culture,” he says.

LaBella continues, “I knew that in order to be a market leader I needed to differentiate Closet America through our ability to consistently innovate and invent. Therefore, shortly after we were founded, we added the manufacturing capability to our product line, thus creating a vertically integrated company. We knew that in order to provide our clients with the best service in the industry, we needed the highest-quality products, and thus, control the manufacturing process.

“By vertically integrating the company, Closet America gained the flexibility to customize every product, recover immediately from errors, and most importantly the ability to provide our clients with a consistently high-quality experience. Looking back on this decision it’s even clearer that manufacturing our product is critical to the success of our company and to being who we are today.”

Good employees have also been a critical component to the company’s success. “Hire the best people and give them the freedom and support to be successful,” was the best advice LaBella says he’s been given.

And with the mantra of “Anything worth doing should be done to the best of your ability,” LaBella says, “We remain steadfastly dedicated to building a profitable and sustainable corporation — one that provides a good value to our clients, a good environment for our employees, a good citizen in the communities we serve and a good representative as a market leader in our industry.“

He adds, “The quote, ‘make a customer, not a sale’ rings especially true in our company. Closet America has proudly embraced a higher appreciation for our customers, and recognizes that they are truly the heart of our company and the reason we exist.”

Customer service recognition also has come from groups such as Guild Quality and Angie’s List. In addition, Closet America’s service and technological innovations have been documented numerous times in the exclusive report, WOOD 100: Strategies for Success.

Also documented have been the community engagement efforts, including: Habitat for Humanity, local schools and organizations in the greater Washington DC area.

When not at work or helping the community, LaBella enjoys spending time fishing.

Quick Glimpse:

• Number of years at the company: 7

• Number of years in the industry: 7

• Word or phrase that describes you? Competitive

• Who have you tried to emulate in business? "Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is one of the most amazing merchants in the last century. Overcoming his own fear of failure, Walton grew his business from a single store to one of the world’s largest companies. As a leader he was accessible, responsible, empathetic, cohesive, and nimble — all qualities which I try to emulate in our corporate culture every day."


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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 karen.koenig@woodworkingnetwork.com