Case Studies

The Cook & Boardman Group LLC

Expanding markets for delivery of security and life safety

For more than 60 years, The Cook & Boardman Group LLC has been filling a distinct niche in the construction distribution market. In 1955, Frank Cook and Jack Boardman discovered a market opportunity, working with contractors and architects around Charlotte, North Carolina, and founded Cook and Boardman Inc. Today, the business has expanded to include a comprehensive family of companies serving diverse nonresidential construction supply and installation needs throughout the U.S. by providing technical and sales services for commercial doors, frames, and hardware as well as specialty products. Current company CEO Chuck Hummel, President Chris Holloway, Chris Robinson, chief operating officer, and Tim Henry, chief financial officer, lead a team of more than 600 professionals, spread between 20 locations and several regional markets throughout the country.

“Our niche is in nonresidential total opening and specialty projects,” Hummel explains. “We engineer and distribute commercial hollow metal and wood doors, hollow metal door frames, architectural hardware and accessories including electronic access control devices, as well as bath partitions, washroom accessories, and other related specialty products. We focus on general contractors and architects for new construction and renovation as well as building owners and their maintenance and remodeling staffs from an aftermarket perspective. We also have a dedicated focus on servicing national retail and restaurant chains.

Beyond commercial doors, frames and hardware, the business also offers specialty items meeting Section 10 requirements. These product lines include bath partitions and accessories, fire extinguisher cabinets, wall protection items and wire mesh partitions among others. The team is also involved with hardware electrification and hardware hookups for various door integration requirements.

Leading the competition

Despite the company’s broad national reach, The Cook & Boardman Group LLC is a niche operation, targeting a specific market. “The trade names we market under are leaders in their respective markets,” explains Hummel. “In the mid-Atlantic markets of Virginia and Maryland, we go to market as Precision Doors & Hardware. In northern New England, we trade under the brands of Hardware Consultants and Precision Millwork. In eastern North Carolina we go to market as Martin Architectural Products, while it’s under the Cook & Boardman trade name for our other North Carolina markets of Charlotte and Winston Salem, as well as Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.” In Florida, The Cook & Boardman Group’s Sarasota unit trades as Hollow Metal Specialists.

“We recently moved into the North Texas market of Dallas with our acquisition of RDL Supply in April 2015,” Hummel continues. “Our West region of Utah and Idaho is served by our units in Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls, which trade under the name of Architectural Building Supply.”

Hummel notes that the company enjoys a good mix of business between sales to general contractors that require coordination between the general contractor, architect and building owner, and sales that are sold directly to the building owner or property manager. “We try to cover all nonresidential construction sectors that are architecturally driven and value a key strength of ours to be our ability to be consistent in our efforts to the general contractors, so that they know they can always count on us for any estimating and budget needs,” says Hummel.

As the largest distributor of commercial doors, frames, hardware and specialty products  in the U.S., The Cook & Boardman Group LLC stands apart from competitors in more than just size. “Our customers certainly seek us out because of our capacity,” explains Hummel. “They can count on us for price in any of their projects, where a lot of people we compete with are local. They have limitations in terms of capacity. Certainly because of resource sharing and other things, we have capacity to really cover — in a lot of cases — much more work than a typical competitor can do.”

On top of that, The Cook & Boardman Group LLC’s long history and financial strength offer advantages over smaller, less seasoned businesses. “We’re financially strong,” says Hummel. “A general contractor wants to know before awarding a job that the firm he awards it to will be there at the end. We have a long history of completing every job we’ve ever taken on. We’ve got the wherewithal behind us to have good financial strength and we have meaningful bonding capacity.”

Focused growth

Over the last few years, The Cook & Boardman Group LLC has kept a stronghold on the aspects of the business that help it remain a reliable partner to its clients. “We’ve put more resources into what we call ‘aftermarket sales,’” says Hummel. “The goal of that focus is to capture some of that aftermarket work that goes into buildings and facilities as they replace doors, frames and hardware or they have key control issues and other issues.” Hummel and his team have also ramped up efforts regarding national accounts and working closely with the company’s retail partners.

The Cook & Boardman Group LLC has been involved in a slew of recent projects — diverse, but all in the nonresidential sectors. “We worked on a couple of [Veterans Affairs] hospital projects, one in Charlotte and another one in Kernersville, North Carolina, which is just outside Winston-Salem,” Hummel recounts. “We’ve got major projects going in every market we’re in. We’ve closed quite a bit of institutional work lately, including the Eastern Maine Medical Center and the Utah Valley Medical Center.”

Much of the firm’s growth has been organic —The Cook & Boardman Group LLC tends to grow with its market. But Hummel and his colleagues are also actively pursuing strategic growth opportunities through acquisitions. April 1, 2015, the business made its most recent acquisition of RDL Supply in Dallas. This marked the company’s first foray into the northern Texas market.

Service without compromise

Hummel is looking forward to the growth opportunities that await the company in the future. He sees great potential over the coming years for both organic growth and new acquisitions, particularly as he sees continued improvement in the nonresidential construction market for the next few years.

In the meantime, Hummel’s greatest concern is keeping all 20 of his locations on track and in sync. “We’re an integrated business and as a result, we’re integrated amongst all our locations,” Hummel explains. “When it comes to technology, the challenge is to make sure that we’re providing all the right productivity tools to our employees to help all of us be able to handle more work as efficiently and accurately as possible.”

With safeguards in place to ensure smooth operation and growth over the coming years, Hummel is proud to stand with a team that is dedicated to the company’s mission: “We do what we say we will and deliver service without compromise,” he says. “For us, success means one: we have been able to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations of us; two: we’re looked upon by our employees as a good place to work and a fair and honorable company; and three: we’re generating the results expected by our board and our shareholders.”

With a lasting commitment to the success of customers, clients and the business as a whole, Hummel is excited for what the future has in store for the Cook & Boardman Group LLC.

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Spring 2018



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