This is an “If you build it…” story. Select Source, of Kimberly, Id. (pop. 3,000), has realized a double-digit gain in sales every single year since it debuted in 2009. (And recession-battered 2009, as the owners remind us, was not an auspicious year to launch a business.)
Give two guys a lot of credit, then. First, Lance Godfrey, a painter and son of a painter who’d always wanted to own a hardware/home improvement store, so he built one from scratch in Kimberly, which had been without one since a former outfit went out of business in the early 2000s.
Second, Lance’s young son, Morgan, who joined his dad early on in the enterprise (sans a resume in the industry, just like his father) and by brains and brawn had earned the title of retail manager by 2016.
Select Source’s contractor customers represent close to 70% of its sales in Kimberly, which serves as a bedroom community to rapidly-growing Twin Falls, Id. Lance foresaw a future in supplying these pros with drywall and rolled an operation in Twin Falls into his new store. Good move: “We do sell a lot of drywall for the town’s new homes,” his son reports.
The company also added a line of synthetic stucco, after Lance, the former painter, got a call from Total Wall (just as Sherwin Williams got rid of its line of the product), asking if he’d consider becoming the area’s new stucco rep. “Our drywall line was doing well, but the new stucco line even eclipsed the drywall sales,” Morgan testifies. (The two niches represent over half of Select Source’s revenue.)
“Stucco,” explains Morgan, “is a very unique avenue. It requires a lot of attention to detail—just like matching paint colors. And consistency. So many of our customers were doing it incorrectly that we created a showroom showcasing colors and textures. I made a wall of how-to’s for doors, windows and rooflines, showing what they were supposed to do.”
Nonetheless, those double-digit sales hikes have never been a cakewalk. Morgan’s biggest frustration is that the town’s support has been gradual, he reports. The doors have been open for 10 years, but he still hears “I never knew you were here!”
Word of mouth is starting to change that, plus marketing by fliers in the mail. “People are finally recognizing that we’re a good company; we’re now getting repeat retail customers. And,” as Morgan emphasizes, “we have products in stock for them today, rather than having to wait for an Amazon delivery.”
Expansion was key. “We remodeled in 2017 and went from 9,000 sq. ft. to 12,000 sq. ft. by opening a hole in the wall. It allowed us to expand some categories and offer more power tools. Now we’re looking at opening a warehouse.”
Sales are way up, but Morgan’s not one to nap on the job. “To keep up, you’ve got to add new products. Or not,” he adds. “Maybe shrink. Get rid of what doesn’t sell, and expand good departments with yet more product, better selection, things the community expects. For instance, in drywall, we carry everything you’d ever want. But—fireplaces? Maybe not. You’ve got to pick and choose. We’re constantly doing what’s right.
“You’ve got to be proactive, not reactive in this business. Reactive is a bad thing (and what we ourselves were doing when I first came on). Now, we prepare for the future—have enough products so we don’t get yelled at.”
Why do contractors like dealing with Select Source? “Well, we focus really hard on taking care of them, giving excellent service (though our prices may not be the best). We provide the consistency they’re looking for—with stucco, for instance, you can’t have a bucket of one color, the next a little different color and the next, different again. Plus, we offer organization: All their orders from past years are saved so they can match the color if they need to.
“The drywall guys like us for the same reason: consistency. And we’re transparent with our prices; they know where they’re at. We carry everything they need: You can come in for an oddball item and we’ve got it. One-stop shopping.”
Walk-ins are just as well-served. For instance? “A farmer needs his tractor fixed, and we’re on top of it: We get him in and out. We let them know that they’re our top priority.”
Employees are top priority, too. But that wasn’t always the situation. Turnover was high. Hiring was haphazard. “When I first starting here,” Morgan looks back, “we’d just hire anybody and then leave it to them to figure things out. We needed to address this, and I worked hard at it. I wrote a policy handbook so they’d know what to expect, and I initiated employee training, which included having a new hire connect with a veteran staffer to gain skills. I started monthly employee meetings, which include a training segment.” Result: sales and satisfaction both rocketed.
“Nowadays, the whole crew gets along; there’s not a lot of pressure. They work really well together. And we’re not like some businesses where the owner never shows up; the guys see me all over the place. I scrub the bathroom floor, same as them.
“What I look for in a hire are two things. One, personality, enthusiasm. Working good with my group. A team player. And two, they’ve also got to fit on my bus. For instance, I’ve already got good color matchers, good eyes, attention to detail, so I’m not hiring for that. But I do need a good accountant when ours retires. I used to hire anybody breathing, but now I let them know what I’m looking for, and don’t hire him if there’s not a slot for him in the business. The last thing you need,” he cautions, “is someone without a purpose.”
Without a purpose? Morgan would never occupy that niche, not in a million years. “Hardware is so awesome!” he declares. “I work in one of the best industries in the world! I love the opportunity to communicate with people, with our contractors—the same 40, 50 guys. You chat, you grow relationships. You talk about problems. And with the DIYer, you’ve got a wonderful diversity. It’s fun to fix their problems and weird requests. It’s fun, also, to figure out improvements and new ways to do things—like lighting selections, where the market’s changing and you need to stay on top of it.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about my employees,” Morgan is convinced. “I know that for a fact, that this is not a one-man show. I delegate—and my folks are good at [stepping up].”
Morgan was honored this past year as one of the North American Retail Hardware Association’s Young Retailers of the Year, which only served to reinforce his passion. “Everyone involved was so sharing, so willing to help. If, for instance, you talked about working on an employee manual, they’d say, ‘Here! Take mine!’ Or if I mentioned ‘I’m doing this….,’ they’d pitch in with ‘Well, have you also thought about this? Lemme help you.’”
Morgan walks that kind of talk all around town in Kimberly. “We help our fellow businesses because I think I live in the best community on earth, and I want to do anything I can to make it better.” He joined the Kimberly Business Owners Association and took over coordination of members’ advertising to render it more cost-effective. He also advocated its gift certificate program to boost local shipping.
Does this dynamo ever take time off from work? Well, sure. He has a hobby: “I visit other stores all the time! And I’m constantly evaluating, ‘Are they pro-active or re-active?’” Easy to guess where his sympathies lie.