Waco, Texas—In spite of the worst economic downturn since the great depression, Dakota Premium Hardwoods LLC is not merely surviving. It is thriving. Boasting the highest growth rate in the industry since its first year and the largest geographical footprint in the region, Dakota Premium Hardwoods has defied the odds from the very beginning. At the peak of the recession in 2007, Price Brashear, CEO and founder of the company, decided to do what many considered unthinkable—open a Hardwood products distribution company.
Dakota Premium Hardwoods’ beginnings were humble but effective, with Brashear brokering lumber from his living room at the end of 2007. Three short months later in March of 2008, he opened his first distribution center with a physical location in Waco, Texas, which still serves as the headquarters of Dakota Premium Hardwoods. With a family background in the forest products industry, Brashear saw an opportunity to meet the needs of cabinet manufacturers to trim carpenters and everything in between. Brashear knew from experience in the industry that an innovative business model was the order of the day.
The company has a comprehensive offering of all components and products that a cabinet manufacturer, furniture maker, trim carpenter, commercial millwork or hobbyist needs.
Dakota Premium Hardwoods, with distribution centers in Waco, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin and Houston, distributes all domestic species of Hardwood lumber in mostly 4/4 thicknesses. The company purchases approximately 14 million board feet annually.
Dakota Premium Hardwoods has a comprehensive offering of all components and products that a cabinet manufacturer, furniture maker, trim carpenter, commercial millwork or hobbyist needs. The company offers Hardwood lumber and Hardwood plywood from domestic and import manufacturers; functional cabinetry hardware; profile mouldings and cabinet facings, finishes and paints; panel products; veneers; adhesives and abrasives; and high-end specialty products.
Brashear and his team have created a delicate balance between being customer-centric and supplier-focused. Dakota Premium Hardwoods’ success is based on meeting customer needs through fostering relationships with the highest quality manufacturers in the market. “As a distributor, we are focused on providing value for both our customers and our suppliers. We want to be the preferred channel of distribution for our suppliers by understanding their strengths and selling those strengths as part of the Dakota package. A win-win approach keeps our suppliers and our customers happy with the solution and the products they are getting,” he said.
From lumber to plywood, moulding, adhesives, abrasives and all the components needed for their specific application, a customer can obtain one-stop-shopping at Dakota Premium Hardwoods.
Brashear took a leap of faith that his knowledge of the industry and innovative ideas would make Dakota Premium Hardwoods a success.
“In 2008 I looked around the industry in a post-recession economy and saw that manufacturers of Hardwood products were streamlining and downsizing. We were in a transition period where manufacturers realized pre-recession times were over, and now we must start doing more with less in order to survive. So that created a greater need for the Dakota Premium Hardwoods’ distribution model. Pre-recession, everybody had time to shop around and the volumes were high enough that they could justify getting full truckload quantities from different sources,” he said.
“Now the volumes have dropped, capital is more scarce, and efficiency is the focus. Dakota offers a service that’s very valuable and appealing because the customer can get everything they need in one phone call; one-stop shopping with knowledgeable staff, competitive pricing and world-class service, from lumber to plywood, moulding, adhesives, abrasives and all the components needed for their specific application.”
Reflecting on the company’s beginnings, Brashear stated, “A lot of people thought we were crazy for starting up in a down economy. But absolutely the single strongest attribute of our company was opening during the recession. We had the mindset that if we could make money in these times, we’re going to soar after the hurdles.”
In March of 2008, Price Brashear opened his first distribution center with a physical location in Waco, Texas, which still serves as the headquarters of Dakota Premium Hardwoods.
It turned out that 2008 was the perfect time to enter the market with an innovative customer experience and platform. Dakota Premium Hardwoods has achieved a 30 percent growth rate year-over-year since its inception. Brashear believes that the company has been able to do this by being well capitalized even amidst explosive growth, which can overwhelm many small businesses, ultimately leading to their demise.
The fiscal health of Dakota Premium Hardwoods and starting a business based on a customer-centric model are essential to the company’s success, but Brashear attributes the lion’s share of the company’s success to the culture and the team members. “People ask us why we’re doing so well when others are simply surviving,” he explained. “It would be easy to copy the product and to copy what we do here, but you cannot copy who we are. Our culture is customer-centric. We’re focused on providing solutions and going above and beyond.”
Brashear also indicated the experience base of the company’s team contributes to the overall achievement of Dakota Premium Hardwoods. “We understand probably more clearly than other distributors what can and cannot be done in a concentration yard environment. It makes us very effective in being able to provide solutions for our customers. We understand grade and we understand the importance of timber regions. We’ve worked hard on building relationships with our customers and providing a custom solution to their problem. Whether that means rip to width parts or custom profiles for moulding, we listen to the problem and we design a solution.”
The company offers functional cabinetry hardware from premium branded manufacturers such as Blum and Knape & Vogt, Hardwood plywood from domestic and import manufacturers, profile mouldings and cabinet facing, finishes and paints, panel products, veneers, adhesives and abrasives, and high end specialty products.
When asked about lumber procurement, Brashear said the firm has a broad base of suppliers that they value and work closely with on the Hardwood lumber side. “We go into the customer’s facility and see exactly what their application is and then we go back to the supplier base and custom tailor what we think will work for the customer on a case-by-case basis. The vast majority of our stocking lumber is Appalachian Hardwoods. Our focus is to strengthen our customers’ businesses. We have proven ourselves not only with small businesses but also with businesses that are in the several hundred million revenue range. When we discuss entering a relationship, our focus is how to establish a solution that will make their facility more efficient, save them money and also make them money. Inside the walls of Dakota Premium Hardwoods, those are the things we’re talking about. Every time we provide that specific type of service, the customers come back. We are not simply selling a product here. In order to develop a long-term value proposition to a customer, you have to know their business. What’s unique about our business is that we’re not selling a commodity; we’re selling the entire package. Our tag line says it very clearly, ‘distributing success one relationship at a time.’”
Brashear attended Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas, and the Harvard Business School Owner President Management (OPM) Program. Brashear also sits on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Board of Directors Emerging Leader Council. In addition to President and CEO Price Brashear of Dakota Premium Hardwoods, key personnel include: Chief Financial Officer Patty Smith and Chief Operating Officer Joel Evans. Distribution centers are operated and managed by an accomplished and dedicated team of managers.
Giving back to the community, Dakota Premium Hardwoods contributes significantly to the Young Life organization.Young Life reaches out to more than one million middle school, high school and college students around the world each year in friendship and faith. Founded in 1941, Young Life is a non-denominational Christian ministry committed to making a positive difference in the lives of kids through the friendship and influence of caring adults.“For adolescents and kids that are in high school, this program focuses on teaching them the gospel and God’s love,” Brashear said. “Our ability to share the rewards of our growth and success in an avenue like that is critically important.”
The majority of the firm’s inventory is Appalachian Hardwoods.
Dakota Premium Hardwoods is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Association and National Building Materials Distribution Association. For more information visit www.dakotahardwoods.com.