From its beginning in 1980, the family-run Shaver Millwork has had a plan for growth. Bob Shaver, Sr., his wife, Shirley, and son Bob had a vision of a well-run company where they could utilize their talents while keeping a balance with the rest of their lives. Anyone who owns a company realizes that is quite a challenge, but it is one the Shavers met head on.
Shaver Millworks today produces high-quality architectural millwork to Florida and the Bahamas as it has for more than 20 years. They supply builders and architects of high-end residential and commercial projects with doors, mouldings, cabinets, mantels, stairs, columns and all other specialty wood products needed. Because of the custom nature of these projects, they work very closely with their clients on the design aspect and execution of all custom millwork. Such success isn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight. Bob, Sr. doesn’t just “do woodworking” — he loves everything about the industry and has been in custom woodworking his whole life. He spent years working as the head of the purchasing department for a large millwork company in Peoria, IL, before moving to Florida and starting the company. Even in those early stages, he made sure there was room for deliberate growth. Taking this into consideration, they build the shop in sections. They occupied the space they needed and rented the rest, which kept costs down but left room for future expansion.
Bob, Sr. and Shirley are now retired, but more of the Shaver clan has joined the family business adding new elements and talents. All things are “fitly joined together” in this business, and everyone has his or her own area of expertise that adds to the success of the business. While Bob Shaver, Jr. handles all of the CAD work and visiting job sites for field measurements, his son Clayton manages production. Clayton juggles everything from hiring shop help, scheduling job orders, ordering materials, assigning employees to projects and engineering difficult projects. Obviously, this includes training for safety, quality and productivity. Youngest brother Jason handles everything in sales. He works full-time, and then some, with a staff of four full-time assistants to generate estimates, change-orders, job orders for production and purchase orders for stock sales. Brother Mark came to the company after graduating from FSU when his dad invited him to help organize the office. “Eventually as I became comfortable and confident in this business, I began to see myself being here for the long term,” he says.
Not every family can work together well, but for the Shavers it is not only enjoyable, but also a very successful business model. “We are equal partners and we trust each other. We allow each other to tend to his or her areas of responsibility, and when there is a major company decision to make, we wait until the agreement is unanimous. If someone has a reservation about something we wait. Our Dad and Grandpa set the example in this,” Mark says.
Growth is important, but not growth at the expense of the customer or their own families at Shaver Millwork. In order to provide their top-notch products, they spend many hours training high-quality employees. They are also careful to only commit to work that they are confidently able to finish on time. “We don’t like to turn anyone away, but we are careful to be realistic up-front about lead times. We hate to disappoint anyone by missing deadlines,” he says. The practicality of only having so many hours in the day sets the parameters for them. Balancing their work and family time is essential. “We all have families and want to see them each night and spend time with them on the weekends.”
Bob Shaver, Sr.’s plan for growth also resists the temptation to jump ahead and go into debt. He set an example of staying on budget and investing wisely in the company as the opportunities arose. Mark explains, “We invest well in machinery that we can use with as many applications as possible.” As they have continued to grow, they have reinvested in their company by upgrading and purchasing more industrial and longer-lasting tools. They recently upgraded their cabinet bandsaw to a Laguna LT14 SE with a 2 hp motor to better fit their needs. “We also have an LT18 as well as a Resaw Master 18″ with a 3-phase 7.5 hp motor with dual-belt drive and a roller fence with medium-size power feeder mounted on the table. The LT18 has a bigger table and more HP than the 14″, which helps with some larger projects. We purchased the Resaw Master so that we could get a better yield on some of our moulding projects such as 1/4″ louver slats for fixed louver doors. For example we recently completed a job that needed about 13,000 ft. of Hard Maple Louver Slats,” continues Mark. “With every purchase, we strive to benefit as much of the workshop as possible.”
No matter how fast you grow, your reputation is everything. How people view your business is intricately entwined with every person you deal with from office personnel to suppliers. “Growth happens as we concentrate on quality. We try to get it right the first time and we really hustle to fix mistakes. Growth happens when architects appreciate our help in engineering a project to their design. Growth happens when job-site supervisors tell their employers, the contractors, that they really like working with Shaver Millwork. Growth happens when we make a customer laugh or send flowers to a secretary because she went out of her way for us. Growth happens when suppliers are willing to work with us through the lean times because they trust us.” A few unsatisfied customers can damage your credibility, while happy ones drive the business forward, and the Shavers are keenly aware of this.
The company was started on a few basic principles: Honesty, Integrity, Quality, Committed Work Ethic, Ingenuity, and Thriftiness. It is those principles that continue to give Shaver Millworks its sense of purpose and plan of success.
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