The Hoffman family plans to grow Wimsatt Building Materials into a regional player.
WIMSATT BUILDING MATERIALS has come a long way since its inception back in 1936. Although the Wimsatt clan is no longer at the helm of the company, the Hoffman family maintains the close-knit atmosphere throughout its eight locations.
“We’re privately held, and we have a tremendous amount of pride that comes with that,” says Rob Hoffman, vice president and director of sales and marketing for Wimsatt Building Materials representing the second generation of Hoffman family leadership. “One of our strongest competitive advantages is that we leverage our company’s behavior as a collective. Throughout our eight locations, the contractor experience is the same.”
Wimsatt Brothers opened its wholesale building supply business in 1936. In 1956, the company merged with Mid-States Wholesale, which was founded by Daniel Wimsatt. It remained in its Highland Park, Michigan, location until 1961, when it moved to its current corporate headquarters in Wayne, Michigan.
Wimsatt always had been known for its residential and commercial roofing materials, and in the early 1970s the company introduced aluminum and vinyl siding to the product mix as well. A pioneer of the “home center” concept, Wimsatt doubled its sales in the late ’70s by expanding its offerings with products like windows, doors, hardware, tools, paint and electrical items.
In 1983, former store manager and longtime customer Bob Hoffman purchased the company from the Wimsatt family and refocused on wholesale business. Despite the state of the economy at the time, Hoffman added new product lines, salespeople and trucks to meet the needs of builders and contractors. The expansion plan worked as the company’s sales doubled from 1982 to 1985.
During this time, the company embraced EPDM roofing, and Wimsatt was the first to bring Goodyear (now Versico) to the market. Wimsatt also introduced vinyl replacement windows in the mid-1980s, and in 1987, Wimsatt was one of the first distributors to offer two-man rooftop delivery of shingles in Michigan.
“When my father first purchased the business in the early ’80s, it wasn’t recognized for anything in particular,” Hoffman says. “He took to residential roofing and built a business around it, and pared back the company’s focus. He introduced a service – roof loading, where we placed materials on roofs for contractors.”
Today, Wimsatt Building Materials boasts seven locations in Michigan and one in Toledo, Ohio, where it offers steep slope roofing, low slope roofing, exterior cladding, windows and doors, and general building materials.
At one point, Wimsatt, like countless other home centers, believed it needed to carry every product available from every manufacturer on the market. This often led to confusion for customers, so the company became more selective with its offerings. Hoffman says this allows Wimsatt to better leverage its relationships with manufacturers, as well.
“We now have partners in specific categories to be more strategic with those relationships,” Hoffman adds. “Rather than carry 50 SKUs from three different manufacturers, we’re reallocating assets to spend the same amount of money on inventory by carrying 150 SKUs from the same manufacturer.”
Wimsatt Building Materials may have eight locations, but Hoffman says the company still provides the individualized service that its national competitors can’t deliver. This is how Hoffman aims to grow his family business into a regional player.
“Competitors with national scale can’t pull that off because they don’t operate collectively,” Hoffman says. “If a contractor from southeast Michigan wants to do a roof up north, it happens.”
In order to make the regional dream a reality, Wimsatt Building Materials intends to grow organically through its own personnel. The company has a career track that promotes top producers from inside sales to territory management, and eventually branch leadership.
“We have an absolute pipeline of talent in the organization,” Hoffman says. “When an individual comes into our company, our role is to provide opportunities and stay out of the way. We are good at identifying people that have the ambition and ability to take the next step.” Hoffman says the company continues to acquire talent by hiring recent college graduates and interns, as well.
“We’re not involved in a glamorous industry, but it’s pretty interesting competing against other large organizations out there and competing for that type of scale,” Hoffman adds.
For the future, Hoffman sees continual growth because his workforce is made up of competitive individuals who want to be the best in class. He says most of his employees are former athletes, so the competitive juices flow naturally throughout the organization, which he expects will lead Wimsatt Building Materials into its place as a regional player.
“We love what we do, we love to compete, love to be best in class,” Hoffman says. “If we’re going to do this, we might as well have fun, so we attack the day with enthusiasm. We’ll continue to evolve, adapt and carve our niche.”