(L to R): Jim Carr, Jim Bartelson, Chuck Curl, Kathi Orlowski, Mark Erickson, and Mark Palmer, Blue Book Services, Carol Stream, Ill.
Identify, Analyze, Monitor and Benefit With BLUE BOOK SERVICES
By Terry Miller
Carol Stream, Ill.—Blue Book Services, based here, provides its customers with in-depth business and credit information on company’s operating within the North American Forest Products industry. The firm’s comprehensive database provides real-time information on suppliers, buyers, brokers, and transporters. According to its leadership team, Blue Book ratings, reports, and accurate information help suppliers (mills, remanufacturers, wholesale distribution yards and wholesalers) to make safe, sound and informed business decisions.
In business since 1901 providing credit ratings for the produce industry, Blue Book Services began serving the lumber and forest products industry in 2009. And “tremendous forward progress was made this past year,” explained Jim Carr, President/CEO of Blue Book Services, “due to the active participation and support of thousands of lumber companies in the U.S. & Canada.”
Rich Huber is a credit analyst at Blue Book Services.
The scores of companies referred to above took just a few moments and verified the content of their free Blue Book listing. A lumber company listing typically includes basic contact information –address, phone, fax, e-mail— and important operating facts: business classification (i.e. “secondary manufacturer”), species handled, products offered, and services provided.
Blue Book’s Business Analyst Project Manager Kathi Orlowski said part of what Blue Book’s listings bring to the table is credit information. “Many of the members that we work with are credit managers of small to medium sized businesses,” she explained. “They’re financial officers or company owners that are looking for reliable credit information. Some companies don’t use any other service, so what we offer to them is an additional piece of information that they’re not going to get from the prospect itself. In some cases, the company applying for credit is going to give the ‘good’ references. You’re not going to get the ones that are paying slower. But when our customer pulls a business report from our system, what they see is aging information from industry contributors coming directly to the Blue Book confidentially.
Inside this display case are mementos and memorabilia from Blue Book Service's 110-year history.
“They’ll also see Equifax information on bankruptcies, liens, judgments against the company, dates of those, as well as information from banks which is really hard to get in some cases. We get information from nonbanking companies such as utilities, service companies, and others within the trade that may not be submitting to the Blue Book ‘directly’ as of yet.”
“Our lumber company database is approaching 17,000 records—and still growing—because we are reaching out to all lumber companies in North America—including mills, secondary manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and industrial accounts—to validate their free Blue Book listing,” said Carr.
“We offer a plethora of information that will help support the credit managers analysis about extending credit lines or not,” Orlowski added. “Also I often get positive feedback from our clients in terms of how fast our response time is. For example, I had one customer call me up and he said, ‘Kathi I really need this company listed in the database so I can pull the Equifax information.’ He got the report within an hour and he looked at it and decided to go with C.O.D. for that customer. Turns out we gave him an edge to minimizing his risk with a customer reported to be slow-pay.”
Blue Book's Business Analyst-Project Manager, Kathi Orlowski
Becoming a Blue Book member is both easy and relatively inexpensive. Interested companies can simply call 630-668-3500. Memberships are for one full-year and two subscription options are available. Both include the complete suite of information, reports and tools, with the primary difference being the number of authorized users (2 or 5). Lumber professionals can join for around $500 (U.S.) because of limited time discounts presently available.
“Most companies will relate the Blue Book to the old Lumbermen’s Red Book,” Executive Vice President Jim Bartelson explained. “Once they make that connection, the light bulb goes off. Of course there are some huge differences in the Blue Book and the old Red Book, one of them being the depth of data, the ability to pull credit reports or business reports with Equifax information and then the accounts receivable aging data is a huge value to those companies looking for credit information on how a company pays their bills. Also we’ve attended and participated in industry conventions including the Southeastern Lumbermen’s Association, the Mississippi Lumber Manufacturers Association, British Columbia Wholesale Lumber Association, and recently, the National Hardwood Lumber Association. We’ve heard from many companies that we’ve spoken with at these meetings and conventions that are so thankful to have another service out there that has replaced the Red Book. We saw a void and a need and we’re working together with the industry to fill it.”
Subscribers (or members) are currently benefiting from this listing data in two important ways through Blue Book Online Services (BBOS).
Members can use BBOS to conveniently and cost effectively search, sort, and review listings, of individual companies or entire market segments. Beyond that, users can save searches (for future use), record private notes on companies, or create custom lists to closely monitor new customers or high-risk accounts.
Sample Blue Book listing
“Blue Book information and reports are currently assisting lumber companies— everyday—in making safe and profitable business decisions,” summarized Carr, “and we encourage those not yet taking advantage to learn more by requesting a free introductory webinar.”
The developing partnership with the lumber industry serves as the solid foundation through which Blue Book is able to deliver value back to current and future lumber members. Carr explained, “We work ‘hand-in-glove’ with the fresh produce trade and the consistent result is accurate, timely, and reliable information. Thankfully, we are seeing the same working relationship develop with the lumber industry.”
“For example, an ever increasing number of lumber companies—from mills to secondary manufacturers to wholesalers—are routinely submitting their accounts receivable aging information,” Bartelson said. Displayed in Blue Book business reports (from unspecified sources), the expanding amount of A/R aging information is another important tool to evaluate credit risk. “In a challenging economy— where every dime counts—this is real tangible benefit.”
For companies now considering submitting their A/R aging data, Blue Book Services understands the challenges of multiple priorities and resource limitations. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it rather easy to safely submit A/R aging data in standard formats. In fact, companies using accounting applications such as DMSi Agility software or WoodPro software will find it a real snap because of the special utility built right into it.
The combination—of a powerful lumber industry database teamed with current credit data—cannot be found elsewhere. This fact is one reason why Blue Book Services is one of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association’s (NAWLA’s) “recommended and approved service providers.”
Blue Book Online Member Landing Page
BBOS was first launched at NAWLA’s 2009 Traders Market and several product innovations were introduced at the 2010 convention recently held in Chicago.
“The enthusiastic industry response—in the form of verified listings, more subscribers, and increased data—confirms Blue Book is on the right path,” concluded Carr, “We are proud to be working closely with lumber professionals to develop a best-in-class credit rating resource which will reliably serve member companies and strengthen the industry.”
Blue Book Online Home Page
Blue Book Services' corporate headquarters is located in Carol Stream, Ill.