Universal Building Specialties: Fitting Fine Lumber to Specific Needs for 54 Years
- Written by: Universal Building Specialties: Fitting Fine Lumber to Specific Needs for 54 Years
- Produced by: Universal Building Specialties: Fitting Fine Lumber to Specific Needs for 54 Years
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Tom Moore, founder of Universal Building Specialties (UBS), was the first to introduce western red cedar to Florida in selling and stocking capacity in 1959; UBS has been a specialty lumber and timber powerhouse ever since. With a wide range of in-house milling capabilities, UBS is one of the largest solid sawn timber distributors in the southeastern U.S. The company is known for architectural hardwood grades of western red cedar, cypress, Douglas fir, southern pine, treated pine and other tropical exotics, all of which are available in a broad assortment of species and sizes.
Tom founded UBS in 1959, eventually passing the company onto his son, Steve Moore, current CFO of UBS. Steve works alongside Ed Vila, current president of UBS, to uphold the company’s integrity.
“Although Tom is no longer actively running the company, his legacy lives on,” explains Ed. “Steve has been instrumental in helping guide us through turbulent economic times. I work closely with Steve, his analytical perspective and my artistic mind make for a good team.”
Ed, a family man through and through, brings a different flare to the family-owned and -operated company. “I started my college career majoring in art with a business minor, but I soon realized that, even though I loved art, I didn’t want to starve,” jokes Ed. “So I switched my major to business. After college, I started out as a salesman and worked my way into management. After years of successfully managing a number of businesses within our industry I had the good fortune to be brought in as a working partner to run the day-to-day operations at UBS.”
Finding a Niche in the Market
Although the company is heavily focused on solely providing to retail lumber yards and millhouses, Ed admits it wasn’t always that way. “We’ve taken different paths through the marketplace over the years,” he details. “We’ve sold directly to contractors and even erected churches and other buildings at one point, but about nine years ago we shifted to servicing strictly resellers. We realized you can’t serve two masters, so we cleaned up our distribution to the point where we’re very adamant about only working with retailers. This allows us to focus on delivering the best value-added products in the industry.”
UBS operates out of the company’s Auburndale, Fla., centralized location, servicing the full extent of the state and various parts of the Southeast. Ed lends the company’s capabilities and depth to a talented team of approximately 28 individuals. “In my opinion, we have some of the finest talent in the industry,” he reveals. “We have very low turnover; in fact, some people have been with us for 30 years or more. It’s pretty simple; if you treat people with respect and make them aware of their responsibilities without micromanaging, allowing them to take ownership … now that’s a recipe for success.”
Offering Value-added Products
Ed’s mentality has proven successful, as UBS continues to uphold a pristine reputation, with both employees and customers alike. “Our claim to fame is we specialized in specialty products,” reveals Ed. “We also have full in-house milling and cut-to-size capabilities, allowing us to perform value-added services, from the rough product to something that is ready to install. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide products that are used both inside and outside the structure. We’re basically a one-stop shop for hardwoods, softwoods and tropical varieties.”
UBS brings in kiln or air-dried lumber into its warehouse and shapes the product into different sizes, lengths; also scroll cuts, brackets and notch outs. “We can shape the timber in just about any way,” adds Ed. “When it comes out of our warehouse it’s completely ready to install. We also have strategic alliances with mills which assist us in delivering finished moldings.”
The company’s diverse range of product offerings has ensured UBS’ growth. “Our projects reach across the spectrum of markets because of our product diversity,” details Ed. “We’ve recently provided products that have been used in LEGOLAND in Orlando, Fla., other large theme parks, chain restaurants and beautiful custom-built homes.” UBS deals with trusted lumber supplies to make operations possible. “WFP out of Canada is our main cedar source, and Gate, a U.S. company, provides a lot of our cypress,” adds Ed.
After 54 years doing business in Florida, UBS withstood a fair share of economic blows. “Florida was really the epicenter of the recent housing crisis,” shares Ed. “We’ve had to take an aggressive stance to survive, by lowering our overhead and finding ways to do more with less.”
Ed attributes the company’s ability to remain strong through the worst of times to the collaborative efforts between himself and Steve. “We hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst,” Ed says. “Steve and I prepared three separate budgets to deal with the downturn; basically, bad, pretty bad and the worst possible situation. Mapping everything out and having a plan in place made things easier, because we all knew exactly what the next step was going to be. We were actually able to implement major changes in less than two weeks.”
Ed says UBS came out of the rough patch as a better company. “In the end, it actually made us stronger,” he reveals. “Now we’re more efficient and able to do more volume with less people. We also incorporated a huge diversification of product, allowing us to reach a broader footprint within our existing customer base.”
Ed is confident UBS can weather whatever the economy throws at the company and projects a steady year for the business in 2013. “We’re growing, slowly, but surely,” he adds. “I think this is our year to grow to the next level.” Universal Building Specialties was the first to significantly impact the Florida lumber industry and will continue to build on an admirable legacy for the years ahead.
For more information about Universal Building Specialties, please visit: www.ubslumber.com.
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