Case Studies

J.M. Thomas Forest Products

Going the Extra Mile Every Time
  • Written by: J.M. Thomas Forest Products
  • Produced by: J.M. Thomas Forest Products

J.M. Thomas Forest Products (JMT) rejects the notion that all wholesale distributors need to be everything to everyone. Instead, the company focuses exclusively on serving as the link between forest products producers across the U.S. and Canada and contractor-oriented retail lumberyards in eight states across the Southwestern/Mountain/Great Plains regions.

JMT supplies natural and engineered wood products to a client base consisting exclusively of retail lumberyards that deal directly with contractors. The company sources product from leading manufacturers primarily in the western parts of the U.S. and Canada, allowing it to stock and supply dimension lumber, timbers, treated products, particle board and several panel products. The company also offers mill-direct sales on many products, and supplies specialty products from leading manufacturers like Tamko composite decking and railing, MaxiPLANK fiber cement siding from MaxiTile, engineered wood products from LP Corporation, cedar siding, as well as LP SmartSide.

JMT’s horizontal integration helps empower employees and ensure clients receive a superior level of highly personal customer service. Above all, JMT positions itself to anticipate and respond quickly to changing market conditions, leveraging the experience and dedication of its employees to work always in the best interests of both customers and suppliers alike.

“Our organizational structure is very flat, which we feel gives us the ability to be very nimble in the marketplace and compete against some of the largest forest product companies in the world,” asserts Bill Anderson, president and COO of JMT. The company employs roughly 60 professionals and maintains headquarters and a distribution center in Ogden, Utah. The company also maintains ancillary distribution centers in Boise, Idaho, and Denver, Colo., to ensure timely shipments to customers across its service region.

A commitment to service and quality has been at the core of JMT operations for three decades. J. Matthew Thomas, still CEO and chairman of JMT, established the company in 1981 as a single broker based out of Rocklin, Calif. The company relocated to Utah in 1990 as its customer base expanded from the West Coast into Utah and Western Colorado. As JMT’s client base further expanded geographically, so too did JMT; the company added its Boise location in 2002 and acquired a Denver-based company in 2009, cementing its position as one of the largest building material distributors in the region. In fact, Home Channel News magazine ranked JMT on its 2012 HCN Distributor Scoreboard, an annual list of the nation’s leading building material distributors.

Extra Support

JMT stands out for its volume of sales, but also because of the specialty products and custom prefinished siding products that represent a good portion of the company’s total activity, according to Anderson. JMT operates a fully equipped prefinishing shop at its Utah location to supply clients with a factory-grade coating according to the customer’s exacting specifications. This ensures products arrive on site ready for installation and that the product will deliver on the manufacturer’s performance promises.

As for specialty products, JMT leverages its strong ties with suppliers to secure competitive prices on custom-produced products. “Special orders are a key component of what we do here, because we have the ability to source a wide range of uncommon items directly from the manufacturer,” asserts Anderson. Such products include specially made cedar siding products to give a building a true rustic mountain aesthetic. JMT also works directly with manufacturing partners to supply custom Glulam products, a glue-laminated timber product that is stronger than steel pound-for-pound when correctly manufactured, according to APA – The Engineered Wood Association.

Strong Suppliers

JMT’s strong supplier network played a critical role in minimizing the recent economic downturn’s impact on the company. Anderson saw the slump in new construction coming and quickly mobilized resources to ensure each distribution center maintained an inventory capable of reliably supplying customers, especially as JMT’s retail lumberyard clients scaled back on their own inventories.

“We realized the downturn was providing us with a new opportunity to support our retail lumberyard clients,” expands Anderson. “Being such a well-capitalized company, we worked to ensure we remained in a position to keep up with their needs and fill even high-volume orders as quickly as possible.”

However, JMT didn’t entirely escape the effects of the economic downturn and the company did have to scale back on staff. Nevertheless, Anderson worked with JMT management to develop a multidimensional strategy to minimize those staff cuts and maintain a staff of experienced professionals to hit the ground running when the market picked back up. “I believe very strongly that we have the very best staff in the business, and even though we probably maintained more staff than we needed to during the slowest times, it reassured our customers and suppliers that we were stable and solid,” asserts Anderson.

Looking Long Term

JMT recognizes that it’s the people and partnerships that make the business. On the supply side, JMT remained loyal to its network of long-time vendors, bucking the industry trend in recent years of shopping around for the lowest price on every product imaginable. JMT sees these relationships as true partnerships, not just as transactional connections. There may not have been the same volume of demand as prior to the recession, but Anderson worked to ensure these suppliers still felt that JMT worked to support them and gave them all the business it could.

“I myself came to JMT in 1993 from the retail side of the business, having worked with JMT as a retail customer,” relates Anderson. “Even then, I really felt the company genuinely embodied what a wholesale distributor should be and how a wholesale distributor should take care of its retail customers.”

Anderson celebrates 20 years with JMT in 2013, but neither he nor the JMT team sees any reason to rest on any laurels in the next few years. And it’s not just JMT’s immediate business that Anderson will work to reinforce through a mutually beneficial trade organization relationship.

JMT is a proud member of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA), a global trade organization that Anderson has been personally active in since joining JMT. Working with NAWLA, Anderson hopes to generate more awareness and enthusiasm for the wholesale lumber trade in the coming years to attract a new generation of talented professionals. Anderson has served on the organization’s Board of Directors a number of times and has contributed to several of the organization’s initiatives through his personal involvement on the education committee, and as chair of the Traders Market, NAWLA’s annual convention.

The Traders Market holds a special place for NAWLA members and JMT in particular as it provides a consolidated platform for distributors and manufacturers to interact, network and reinforce NAWLA’s connection to its membership. “The Traders Market and my experience serving on the association’s education committee really cemented for me that NAWLA is a trade organization that is very, very much in tune with the needs of its core membership,” admits Anderson.

No matter how much time is spent on the bigger industry picture, however, it’s always the small details that are most important at JMT. “Doing what you say you will do” remains a key tenet of day-to-day business. Dedicated to maintaining a higher level of customer satisfaction, Anderson and the team put forth their efforts to anticipate clients’ needs and coordinate swiftly with suppliers to assure the level of service that the J.M. Thomas Forest Products represents.

Published on: July 16, 2013

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