Every phone call the Turkstra Lumber Company receives is answered promptly—either by staff at one of its branches or by a customer service agent at an office in its hometown of Hamilton, Ont. In an era in which most customer service is handled by messaging bots or inane “your call is important to us” recordings, the personal touch goes a long way. But the difference is not that the person taking the call is, well, a person—it’s that he or she is a person equipped with the knowledge to actually help the callers, who range in expertise from DIY novices to professional homebuilders..
The 60-year-old family business appears to be built on attention to such details. The company—which today boasts 11 retail locations and employs roughly 300 people—deals in everything from trusses and decks to windows and doors. It is now run by its founder’s grandson, Peter Turkstra, who left a job at IBM in 1996 to take over the business from his father, Carl. “It was the entrepreneurial side of things that interested me,” he explains.
Four years ago, Turkstra Lumber decided to formalize its efforts to improve. Under the guidance of Don Humphrey—who joined the company in 2001 and took the title of president in 2012—the firm implemented a series of Six Sigma process improvement practices, which have helped streamline procedures and reduce sales transaction times. “It has helped us to identify and improve on many processes, drive down costs and improve customer service,” says Peter. “Our staff is now trained in a common language.” It’s why that service rep on the phone can explain the merits of plywood versus particleboard.
Peter’s role as CEO has come to focus more on strategic growth than day-to-day operations. And lately, that means lots of meetings with potential acquisitions. Four of Turkstra Lumber’s current branches were once independent lumberyards Peter and his team saw potential in. “As consolidation took place in our market, we kept in contact with many of our competitors,” he explains. “As they were impacted by the economic changes like [an increase in] box stores, we folded them in.”
The company has seen solid growth in the past four years—30%, reports Peter—and the CEO’s hope is that prudent acquisitions will maintain the trend. “We have always believed in controlled, smart growth,” he says. “And we’ve seen that pay off in the last few years.”