Working With the Wonders of Wood

Madison Wood
Written by Pauline Müller

It’s good to see young leadership take over a company and make history almost immediately. That’s exactly what Madison Wood’s team achieved in what seems like no time at all this year. Breaking every company record in pressure-treated lumber sales over the past two quarters, the company achieved a surging 20 percent growth. Business is booming—and now the bar is set even higher.

After almost 65 years in business, Madison Wood welcomes this time of change and expansion. At home in Madison, Virginia, the company has customers across the northeast of the United States. And, with the next generation of leaders securely on board, it’s investing generously in upgrading its capabilities.

Over the past two years, Kari Gaviria exchanged her position as Vice President of Sales for that of President of the company. Gaviria was welcomed to LBM Journal’s 2023 LBM 40 Under 40 league along with winning HBS Dealer’s “Top Women in Hardware and Building Supply Business Excellence Award.” Simultaneously, Brad Knighting went from Vice President of Purchasing to Senior Vice President of Operations, working tirelessly to navigate this highly specialized dual role in an evolving post-pandemic market. In January of 2023, John Michael Price, fourth-generation owner, was appointed CEO after years of studying alongside his grandfather, Bill Price.

Known widely for its attention to quality and customer service, Madison Wood is proud to put its stamp of approval—and its focus—on premium lumber and agricultural fence posts.

Most of the company’s developments revolve around achieving more with fewer resources. That doesn’t mean scrimping on technology or equipment, however. “Due to our meticulous nature and proactive maintenance, a lot of our machinery has lasted 30-plus years. Reinvesting in our facility allows us to upgrade and replace equipment with newer models, making it easier on our people and certainly helping us increase production,” Gaviria says, pointing out that a lot of the company’s stationary machinery had outlived its end-of-life guarantee by 10 years or more.

For this reason, the team has opted to use this time of transition to develop and improve its technological and operational resources across its facility rather than chase acquisition opportunities—often developing custom systems that further build productivity while streamlining production. That includes management automation applications and inventory reporting integration as well as logistics. “We are intentionally small so that we remain intentionally better,” says Gaviria.

She believes that the recent expansion in the remodeling market could be due to prohibitive interest rates affecting the rate of home starts, which has brought consumers looking for trustworthy wood supplies. “The interest rate is certainly benefitting the remodeling sector at this point,” agrees Bobby Berrey, Chief Financial Officer.

In terms of contracted projects, Gaviria also notes that contractors are more readily available now, putting projects on shorter timelines, which in turn makes customers willing to commit to a job. “What we see is people remodeling their homes and adding decks and the like after the pandemic,” says Knighting. Naturally, word of mouth is the best advertisement, and as existing customers spread the word to friends about Madison Wood’s outstanding products and service, those friends soon become end users themselves.

To be sure, Madison Wood’s team knows how important it is to take care of its assets. As a result—and despite the many changes and improvements—the company continues to leverage its existing facilities, tools, and machinery that dates from the previous century. Its longstanding principal warehouse, comprising roughly 180,000 square feet, is another example of Madison Wood’s foresight.

Interestingly, and unusually for the early ’90s, the facility was designed with environmental responsibility as part of its original mandate, a visionary move for the times by the company’s founders. As a result, the company received notable recognition as an environmental role model for the 21st century. It was also honored with an Agribusiness Environment Award by the Virginia Agribusiness Council.

The team is committed to taking care of its legacy and to continuing to build on the work of the past. In addition, with its family-oriented culture, the company’s staff of around 110 are all locally recruited. Madison Wood’s pay structure has also adapted to the times in efforts to attract talent. Employees are incentivized monetarily to cross-train throughout their department outlining tangible benchmarks that increase their overall pay. “Our past compensation model rewarded tenure and general performance but often missed the mark when it came to evaluating technical skills. We have since integrated a new system that highlights all three components, creating a ladder for our employees to make more by learning more. It’s a win-win” says Price.

Madison Wood continues to cultivate a rich company culture, an aspect of the business that has always been held dear by its leaders. The company’s services are not limited to sales, either; education is a big part of what it does through its Certified Madwood Installer program. At Madison Wood, there is always a friendly team member ready to advise customers and troubleshoot when necessary.

The company’s leadership is acutely aware of how its decisions affect the entire group and are therefore sensitive toward ensuring that everyone knows they are heard and valued. “Our team is passionate. We have a winning mentality; we don’t settle or get complacent. Instead, we’re always looking at how to improve,” says Price.

One of its most significant recent facility additions is what the company will call, “The MadHouse,” a staff break and lunch center where around 200 people can mingle. The 4,000-square-foot facility is being built as a thank you to the team for their loyalty and for the company’s growth and prosperity over the years. The space will be set up for recreation and comfort, and comes with a kitchen, lovely washrooms, arcade games, computer workstations, storage, TVs, gaming systems, and more. It’s also where the company will host team get-togethers like staff lunches and holiday celebrations. With COVID-19 behind us, this gift will be enjoyed by all.

Certainly, the pandemic’s challenges led to the team gaining invaluable skills and insight into handling high-pressure product demand. Thanks to firm leadership and sterling staff response, Madison Wood was able to reinvest and grow its asset base and capabilities in the face of high-stakes market demands. Naturally, change continues.

The company reports marked shifts in the industry as technology evolves and stakeholders move to keep up. “A lot of treaters and retailers are making major acquisitions, which has already consolidated our market,” says Gaviria. “Our employees are focused on producing quality products, providing prompt shipments, and maintaining our personalized service approach. We are sticking to what we do best and the growth of out-the-door volume has served as a testament to our success,” Price adds.

Within that context, the company remains confident in its offering and continues to invest for a strong future, aware of the need to be ready for tough economic times should they recur. Knighting confirms this, noting how much easier it is to procure lumber these days with a few phone calls to mills as opposed to spending half the day or more on the phone trying to get stock, as in the recent past.

With this in mind, Madison Wood forecasts continued growth in lumber sales as prices settle and end users become more materials-savvy as to the benefits of lumber over composite materials. “I specifically think that the sustainability of lumber will help this push,” says Price.

This will allow Madison Wood to apply its new capabilities optimally while extending its capacity further. “Our vision for the future is bright,” Gaviria shares. “We have memorized the recipe for success. Everything from here forward is about creating the perfect environment with the right tools to help us get there.”

United in pursuing these goals, the Madison Wood team will continue to set the bar high for those that choose to compete. Their inner office motto comes from their Production Manager, Brian Dodson, an impeccable leader who’s always up for a challenge. Price says, “Whenever there is a goal that is in sight, you will find Brian with a strategy to get there, ending the meeting with his famous phrase, ‘Let’s get it!’”



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