FREMONT, OHIO – During the 150th anniversary year of Gordon Lumber Holdings Company, long-term employees are sharing their insights about growing their careers in the building products industry. The “home grown pride” exhibited by these individuals is just one indicator of why Gordon has been so successful for the past 15 decades.
Started as a small Ohio sawmill outfit in 1868, Gordon now has seven locations — including home center/lumberyards, a contract/installed sales business and a components manufacturing operation — servicing 3,500 customers and employing 120 people. 102 of those workers have been with the company for at least 10 years. Another 18 people have dedicated 20 or more years of their lives to helping Gordon grow and succeed.
Summer Jobs Turn into Lifelong Careers
Marc Lovins and Brandon McKenzie were in each other’s weddings. Their families sometimes vacation together. And, both men started at Gordon in 1996 as teenagers.
“We worked together on Brandon’s grandfather’s horse farm as summer jobs in high school,” says Marc Lovins, director of purchasing at Gordon Lumber Holdings Company. “I started as seasonal help stocking shelves, cleaning and loading customer orders in the Gordon warehouse in Bellevue, Ohio.
“Over the years I’ve advanced to positions with inside sales and then as assistant store manager in Bellevue. We had no idea when we started, but for the past 22 years we’ve both been on career advancement tracks with the company.”
Now in charge of supplier programs, inventory overview and the commodity lumber/panels and building materials ordering for the entire company, Lovins is very clear on what has kept him at Gordon for more than two decades.
“It’s the customers,” says Lovins. “Helping a builder solve a problem or a homeowner create their dream home feels great. I thoroughly enjoy this industry and the people I’ve met along the way.
“I joke that we get our customers what they need, not what they want. With products and trends changing so fast, our customers count on us to keep them ahead in their businesses.”
An Unexpected Career
As for Brandon McKenzie, who started by loading/unloading trucks, making deliveries and working on inventory control, accelerated job growth came his way easily at Gordon.
“I’ve been a driver, yard foreman, assistant store manager and now, for the past three years, a general store manager,” says McKenzie, who works at the Huron location. “Originally I was going to school for turf management so I could work on a golf course. I got tired of the seasonal layoffs and applied at Gordon.
“It’s like the blink of the eye and more than 20 years have passed. I’ve enjoyed the advancements and made a career for myself with a company respected in the community. At this point I’d really like to work for Gordon for another 21 years or longer so I can continue advancing my knowledge of the industry and contributing back to the company.”
According to McKenzie, the history of Gordon impresses the dedicated employee. “This business has weathered the Great Depression, two world wars and the 2008 housing crisis,” says McKenzie. “The company has seen location changes, acquisitions, selling off of properties and the addition of a components manufacturing facility. We’ve recently added installed and contract sales. This is a company that never sits still.”
Forget Sexy … This Job Has Saw Dust
The overriding theme of caring for customers permeates many of the longest-tenured employees at Gordon. Randy Schiets, who started with the company in 1997 as a yard worker at the Oak Harbor location, has a clear view of the company and its dedicated employees.
“Gordon employees live, work and participate in our local communities,” says Schiets, the general manager for the past eight years at the Port Clinton, Ohio location. “Many of us have grown up in the communities we serve. We genuinely care about our customers and the service we provide.”
After advancing his career by working as a truck driver, inside and outside sales representative, Schiets is now fully committed to the building products industry.
“Anyone who is motivated and dedicated to learn and apply themselves to their craft is likely to advance and make a job into a career,” says Schiets. “The building material industry is constantly changing and evolving. From new products to changing building codes — every single day should be treated as a learning experience.”
For Schiets, who supervises 10 employees at the Port Clinton store, he sees the company’s growth and attitude toward employees as a primary reason to make his career at Gordon.
“There’s nothing sexy about the building industry,” says Schiets. “But, if you work hard and dedicate yourself this industry can be very rewarding.
“I’ve stayed at Gordon for 21 years because it’s a family-style work environment where you build lifelong relationships. There’s been steady income and bonuses, upward mobility, and the feeling of pride at being part of the overall success of the company.
“I’m now part of the history of Gordon and I’ve created a lasting legacy with my work here. Who could ask for more than this from a career? Especially a career that I stumbled into as a summer job during college!”
Growing with Gordon
For Dale Copley, who has been with Gordon for 28 years, the starting point was different than his co-workers. He had worked at Lin-Mor Lumber in Lindsey, Ohio for 13 years when Gordon purchased the business in 1990.
“The employees from Lin-Mor were welcomed into the Gordon family like new found relatives,” says Copley. “It was at that time I decided to make Gordon my career choice.”
Copley started as an assistant manager in 1990 of the Lindsey yard and was promoted to branch manager in 1992. After working at the Genoa location twice, he was made general manager of the Fremont location in 2008.
“During my time with Gordon the biggest and hardest change was during the recession,” says Copley. “Hard choices were made to close yards and let people go. That consolidation was needed to keep the company going and prepare us for post-recession growth.
“I’m part of the 150-year history of this company. Every day I see how dedicated our employees are to their careers, customers and the continued growth of our operation. I always try to treat each employee fairly and as a valued asset to the company. For me the ‘keeping factor’ has been the love for the company and the many fellow employees with the same feeling toward Gordon. It’s also the reason I believe our company has its strong customer base and will continue to grow. Good people doing good things. We live that motto daily. This is the company I hope to retire from.”
Gordon Lumber Holdings Company currently operates six home center/lumberyards, a contract/installed sales business and a components manufacturing facility in Ohio. Locations include Bellevue, Bowling Green, Findlay, Fremont, Genoa, Huron and Port Clinton. The corporate offices are in Fremont. For information, visit www.gordonlumber.com.