Volume 45, Issue 8 - October  2006

Some Presidential Thoughts

This yearís incoming president for the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) is Don Houghton, president of Reeb Millwork of Bethlehem, Pa. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Houghton got his start in the millwork business in 1977, and with his years of experience, he has a lot to offer the association and the millwork industry. Houghton, who will be installed at this yearís convention, has great hopes for AMD and the ever-changing industry it serves.

Q: How did you get started in the millwork business?

A: I got out of the Navy at the very end of 1969, and I got a job with Combustion Engineering in its industrial products group. Morgan Manufacturing and Morgan Distribution were part of the industrial products group of Combustion Engineering, and I was transferred to that group in 1977 to the Morgan Distribution part of it. So that was the beginning of my career in the millwork distribution business, and Iíve been in it ever since.

Q: How do you feel your company is different from other businesses and what are some of its unique characteristics?

A: Reeb Millwork is known for its customer service and its depth and breadth of product. We are probably the biggest door supplier and offer the most SKUs in the door distribution business. We are very customer-oriented. We are now also getting very involved in the technical side of doing business. But I would say our main thrust is depth and breadth of inventory and providing excellent customer service.

Q: When you say you have the biggest selection of doors, is that in the Northeast or in the country?

A: Certainly in the Northeast. We are more of a regional distributor. We have four locations in the East, and we can service Maine down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We do have a location in Seattle, which is obviously far from our Eastern locations.

Q: What are your greatest professional challenges?

A: The changing industry. The changing dynamics of the distribution business. The continued consolidation at all ends of the chainóthe dealer base, the distribution base, the manufacturing base. The ability to keep up with the changing dynamics and being able to change with them are our biggest challenges.

Q: Where do you see the industry going?

A: Thatís a very difficult question. Things are changing so fast. I think a lot of that depends on the distribution policies of our vendors, and who our vendors of the future will be, the ever-growing role of foreign suppliers, who our customers will be in the future. Will the big boxes continue to grow? Will the consolidation of the large pro yards continue to grow? All that has to be sorted out, and the role of distribution is going to have to fit all the changing dynamics.

Q: What are the biggest lessons the business has taught you?

A: The thing I like about the millwork business is the people. It is stillóeven though weíve gone through so many changesóa very people-oriented business at all levels. I think what itís taught me is how to deal with many different types of personalities and styles. And to appreciate the tremendous amount of good people we have in this industry. 

Q: Who are your mentors in the business?

A: Iíve had so many people in this industry help me that it would be very difficult for me to single out just a few. The companies Iíve worked with and the association with AMD members have helped me so much over the years.

Q: How is the price of gasoline affecting your business?

A: It has affected our cost of doing business. Certainly, we did not budget for this level of fuel expense. Our P&L is being affected. We have not been passing that increase on to our customers.

Q: Are imports affecting your business?

A: Imports are becoming more available in the marketplace. Therefore, weíve had to take a look at what is available. I think thatís part of the changing dynamics, and they are going to have an increasing effect as more and more products are imported.

Q: Have you seen the home building market slow down this year?

A: Yes, we have. In most of the markets that we service, we do see a slowdown. Itís not a disaster. We donít think it will be a disaster, but we have seen a definite slowdown. There appears to be a growing inventory of unsold houses, and the builders seem to be pulling back some.

Q: Tell us about your family?

A: My wife, Kay, and I will be married 41 years in December. We have three daughters, Debra, Kimberly and Kelly, and five grandchildren, Katie, Don, Tyler, Emily and Kayla.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: All sportsógolf, tennis, exercising, fishing. Iím a big fan of Navy football and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Q: Did you play any of those sports in high school or college?

A: I played baseball in college; I played football, basketball and baseball in high school.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I delivered newspapers. 

Q: If you could have any job in the world what would it be?

A: Iím very happy with the job that I have and the career that Iíve had in this industry. Iíve had opportunities over the years to exit this industry, and Iíve chosen not toómainly because of the relationships, the people and the fun of doing business in this industry. 

Q: What are your most important priorities for the coming year?

A: We did a strategic plan back in 2003-2004, which was done very well. Not only was the plan done well but the execution of the plan was done extremely well. We are now going to begin the process again because of the changing times and the changing dynamics. So I think [my priority] will be leading the association through that strategic planning that will start later this year and go into next year. [The plan] will be designed to look forward to the year 2010. 

I think going through that process and identifying the changes that weíll have to make and should make will hopefully set a very successful course for AMD for the coming years.

Q: As a 42-year-old organization, do you think AMD is going in the right direction?

A: AMD is definitely going in the right direction. I served on the board many years ago and now having come back to the executive committee, Iíve seen dramatic changes in the association. The board members are very good and very active. The committees involved are excellent. There is much more involvement by the members setting the direction of the association, so I do think the AMD is definitely going in the right direction.

Certainly, we have a lot of challenges with the changing dynamics (consolidation, the need to grow members and create value for the members), but overall, I think AMD is going in the right direction.

Q: Have you found other AMD members to be helpful?

A: Other AMD members have been very helpful. This association provides excellent contacts and the ability to network and people are very open, share and care in this industry, which is a very big plus.

Q: What are your feelings on the AMD opening the last day of the exhibit hall to architects, designers, homebuilders, contractors and lumber dealers?

A: I think thatís a real plus. I think that the suppliers will feel that is welcome news. They want more traffic on the floor, and I think this experiment, which I am very optimistic about, will work and will very well play a role in future shows. Iím all for it.

Q: Most people have their own yardsticks of success. What yardstick will you use at the end of your term to judge whether or not itís a success? 

A: I think [my yardstick] will be the feedback from the membership on the value created by being a member of AMD and the services that are beneficial. [The idea that] I want my company to be a member of AMD. Itís the only association completely devoted to the millwork industry, and Iíd like to see more and more people become members and become involved. 

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