Land of Opportunity: American Lumber Company
What have you done in your professional career that has led you to where you are now?
I have an MBA from Harvard Business School and I worked in Marketing for Shearing Corporation and for the E&J Gallo Winery. I was working for Gallo when I thought I’d take a chance by joining American Lumber in 1986. Three or four years after I joined, we had a huge crisis and lost a lot of money. We had to reorganize the company but we were able to turn things around and make it successful. At that time, my father, brother, sister and I became the majority owners. I’ve been running it since 1990.
Do you have any particular history that has contributed to helping you achieve your goals?
I’m blessed to have been able to go to Harvard. It’s a great educational background, and you can’t help but pick up a lot of detailed knowledge about business there, as well as get a framework for solving issues and problems and for thinking about organizations. All that has been very helpful over the years.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your professional life and how did you achieve that?
In the lumber business, things change all the time. That makes it a very interesting business but also constantly challenging. The first key to overcoming challenges is just having good information. For example, we have a system in place that gives us access to a detailed sales history for each item we sell. The system gives us the information we need so that we can anticipate demand and order the right amount of each product at any given time. But it requires real constant attention. Things are always changing in this industry and you need the information to stay ahead of it.
What is the single biggest reason that you have achieved the level of success you have?
We have good people. In the lumber business, you need people who know the industry very very well and can help customers figure out what they want and need. We have some very experienced people here who have been in the industry a long time. That’s a huge benefit.
What are some of the accomplishments of which you are particularly proud?
Around 1989, we were almost out of business. We’d lost a huge amount of money. One major accomplishment was just turning the business around and making it profitable. I’m very proud of that. During that time, other lumberyards in Modesto went out of business. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to thrive and survive.
What do you like about your job?
It’s very diverse. I have a lot of personal freedom in how I want to schedule each day.
Do you participate in any community outreach efforts or clubs?
I’ve been a Rotarian for 27 years and am a Past President of the Modesto Rotary Club. I’ve also been active with the Chamber of Commerce for a lot of years and with Modesto’s sister city program.
What advice do you have for business people when it comes to achieving their goals?
You have to try to understand and analyze your situation. It’s important to consult with others. That understanding and outside perspective is essential. In this sort of economic climate, I believe you have to be very careful. But if you’re careful and informed, you can be ready to make decisions that can help create a better future for your business.
What do you like about doing business in the Modesto community and why do you think this is the Land of Opportunity?
I was born and raised In Modesto and my family has always been active in the community. I appreciate the fact that Modesto is a city small enough that it’s possible to know people and to feel like you have a role to fill that can contribute to the general wellbeing. I’m proud and happy that I can be a positive force in my hometown.z