Wausau Supply Company
When it comes to the important parts of home construction, contractors and end users rely on quality, efficiency and value. Wausau Supply Company has kept value at the forefront of its operations for nearly seven decades. Founded in 1947 by Conrad Klimisch, this second-generation family business has grown from a small building supplier in Wausau, Wisconsin, to a valued partner for retailers throughout the inland United States, Canada and parts of Western Europe.
Conrad Klimisch’s son, Ron Klimisch, took over the family business in 1970 and still serves as president. In 2001, he began to transition the company to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), catalyzing a contingency strategy that would benefit his many loyal employees and guarantee a sustainable, profitable enterprise for generations to come. Ron works alongside a strong management team, including current CEO, Joe Jordan, who has been with the business for 45 years, as well as Jody Maier, chief operating officer.
A broad and reliable inventory
Wausau Supply has retailers — and their contractor clientele — covered from top to bottom. The company’s inventory includes roofing products, decking and railing, fasteners, doors and windows, siding, insulation, shutters, stone, structural supports, ventilation products and the trim and accessories to tie it all together. With a diverse catalog of products on hand, Wausau Supply is able to meet the varying needs of contractors and their projects, regardless of location or aesthetics.
“We’re exclusively a two-step distributor — we sell to retailers,” explains Maier. “Our core market is the independent lumberyard, but we also sell to regional retail chains and big-box stores. For our one-step customers, we’re viewed as more of a manufacturer with our exclusive Diamond Kote prefinished products and our Waudena Millwork products. We also offer the same items they can buy direct, but where they may not have enough volume to hit minimums imposed by the manufacturers. We provide a substantial inventory, along with timely delivery services which are the two highest priorities to a retailer.”
The business takes a value-oriented approach to inventory, specializing in quality supplies, durable materials and custom finishing. “We’re not looking to distribute commodities that our customers can source from many vendors,” Maier adds. “Our products are more logistically difficult to source and deliver. Because our customers have limited options, we bring the service model to them. We deliver products that add value to the transaction, whether we’re adding a finish to an unfinished product, such is the case with our Diamond Kote siding and our Waudena Millwork doors, or taking one product and encapsulating it with other products to make it more useful. Downstream, we’re looking to help solve many of the day-to-day issues our customers encounter. These include delivery issues, installation issues, consumer aesthetic issues and longevity issues.”
From a product standpoint, many of the company’s main products are typically sold prefinished, such as the Waudena millwork interior and exterior doors, molding and Diamond Kote siding and accessories, along with third-party decking and other accessories. By keeping raw product on hand and finishing in-house per demand, Wausau Supply is able to cut down lead times — while cutting labor costs for contractors from an installation standpoint. On a retail level, it is nearly impossible to sustainably stock a wide variety of these products in styles customers are guaranteed to want. Instead, Wausau Supply serves as a warehouse for retailers and by extension contractors.
With strategically placed locations, the business is able to service a vast majority of the Midwest. When a project owner is shopping around for products and finishes, a contractor can simply hand over the catalog or direct his or her client to Wausau Supply’s online portal at www.wausausupply.com for even quicker access to product information.
Maintaining a market share
The economic downturn circa 2008 hit Wausau Supply and other supply chain companies in the construction industry particularly hard. “Other industries experienced it as a recession, but we experienced it as a depression,” Maier recounts. “We lost one-third of our sales and half our employees in a three-year stretch.” In spite of housing starts that have failed to materialize, he says the business is steady and growing.
The company’s focus on value and the lasting quality of its products have been a boon in a market where homeowners are holding on to property longer. Depreciation of home values has caused end users to choose more wisely in how they maintain and update their houses. “The contractor is looking to maximize profit, while the homeowner is saying, ‘If I’m going to stay here and invest in my property, I have to demand a certain level of quality because I will be the one utilizing it over the next 10 or more years,’” says Maier.
While Wausau Supply’s business model has long supported itself by catering to the market’s need for quality and value, Maier says none of it would be possible without a quality team working behind the scenes. “We have a tremendous group of people here,” he explains. “Our company embodies great entrepreneurial spirit and we have autonomy up and down the chain of command — every company is simply made of its people and we are very fortunate to have some of the very best.”
With the right leadership team in place, plus 600 experienced and dedicated employees, Wausau Supply is in a position to grow. Over the last five years, the business has made two acquisitions, a trend that Maier says will continue as the team comes upon favorable opportunities. As the company expands, Wausau Supply Company will retain its core values: service, quality and value.
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