WOOD 100 companies post excellent gains in 1997, and look forward to even greater ones in '98 and '99
The results are in, and it's clear that 1997 was a very good year for the members of the WOOD 100. The companies in this report racked up sales of more than $826 million and grew by an average of 31.9 percent -- the highest average growth in five years and tied with 1991 for the second highest growth in the nine years of the WOOD 100. The early returns for 1998 also look good, as 78 percent are forecasting double-digit growth. One might think that things couldn't possibly get better for these companies, but 40 percent of them are predicting their "best year ever" in 1999 with an additional 50 percent predicting a "good" 1999.
In an attempt to uncover the reasons these companies have been and plan to remain so successful, the editors of W&WP asked WOOD 100 executives to cite the single most important factor in their companies' recent prosperity. The answers were culled from companies both large and small -- some with staggering rates of growth and others with more modest rates. The responses to our questions cut across those lines and showed that no matter the size or shape of a company, certain things set the WOOD 100 members apart from the pack.
Thirty percent cited increased productivity -- usually as a result of capital improvements such as added plant space or new machinery purchases. The second greatest number, 24 percent, gave the credit to their employees' skills and/or dedication. Still others thought marketing programs (19 percent), new product development (12 percent) and quality control improvements (six percent) had the most to do with their company's growth. Nine of the 100 supplied their own answers, which included customer service, diversification and increased market focus.
Here's a sampling of what we heard.
ÃÂ¢?ÃÂ¢ James Bonito, CEO of New England Clock (No. 5): "We took over a company that hadn't put any money into equipment and couldn't produce clocks in a reasonable amount of time. We reengineered the product, purchased state-of-the-art equipment and turned it around."
ÃÂ¢?ÃÂ¢Richard Nickelson, president of Woodtech Ind. (No. 9): "Our people are our biggest asset, as they have gained experience and shown their unending support."
ÃÂ¢?ÃÂ¢ Jim Kreber, president of Wooden Mallet (No. 13): "Customers are constantly looking for new products, and with their help, we try to expand our product line to meet their needs."
ÃÂ¢?ÃÂ¢ Fariba Shaygun, director of sales and marketing for Eurodesign Cabinets (No. 16): "We decentralized a lot of our field control, and made cooperative teams between manufacturing and installation and came up with a formal quality control team."
ÃÂ¢?ÃÂ¢ Barry Nash, president of N2 Millwork Services (No. 21): We are pursuing more public works projects. Hotels and schools now account for 30 percent of our work."
While things are looking up for these companies, they keep a wary eye on factors that could spell an end to the boom. Finding and keeping good workers is the chief concern among these WOOD 100 executives. Thirty-five of the 99 who responded listed it as their top concern while 23 named it their second and five their third-biggest concern about the future.
Davids and Goliaths
Acknowledgements: Rich Christianson, Barrett Kilmer, Larry Adams, Sam Gazdziak and Chad Sypkens compiled this report with the assistance of Karen Koenig, Helen Kuhl, Dan Aske, Blanca Hernandez and the rest of the W&WP staff.
Additional copies: A limited quantity of copies are available. Phone Blanca Hernandez at (847) 634-4347 for prices and ordering information.
The 1998 WOOD 100: The Tenth Annual WOOD 100 of fast-growing wood products companies will be published in September 1999. For information on participating, phone Rich Christianson, editorial director, at (847) 634-4347, ext. 652; fax (847) 634-4379 or e-mail at email@example.com.
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