September  2004



Family Unity

Siblings Help Run Millwork Business for 20 Years
by Samantha Carpenter

Most of us have heard of family-owned businesses where two or three family members have key positions in the company, but four siblings running a business is somewhat of an enigma. But this is exactly the case at J.B. O’Meara Co. of Burnsville, Minn.

Jim O’Meara is president, Cathy O’Meara works with purchasing, Mary O’Meara Moynihan is the credit manager and Tom O’Meara works in operations.

Founded by their father, James B. O’Meara in 1946, the company began as a lumber brokership. In the early 70s, their father was about to sell.

“At that time, Jim and Cathy were in Florida, I was in college and Tom was in the restaurant business,” explained Mary. “Jim said at that point, ‘Wait, hold it! I’d like to come back and work for you.’”

When Jim returned to the company in 1973, he started the distribution portion of the business. Mary returned to the company in 1974, Tom in 1975 and Cathy in 1977.

The O’Meara siblings have worked together around 20 years, and they admit that at times business has gotten in the way of family and family in the way of business.

“But we aren’t airing our dirty laundry,” said Mary. “We’ve gotten this far and have not killed each other yet.”

“We do get along. We have our differences, but we know when to pick our battles,” explained Mary. “Our mom told us years ago, ‘If you don’t get along, you won’t have anything left.’” 

Keeping Good Employees
The distributor prides itself on its relationships with long-term employees. For instance, the company’s top salesperson, Jerry Marchessault, has been there since 1978, almost as long as the siblings.

“Very few people that have been here for a while and understand our family leave. We have turn-over, but once they are here and see our family culture, then they tend to stick around,” he said.

The company, which has 80 employees, believes to keep good employees you must pay them well. 

“We’ve had a profit sharing plan since the early 1980s,” Mary said. “Generally at the year end, we give bonuses. We offer 401K, gain share and we create a friendly atmosphere and a good atmosphere to work in—a safe atmosphere.”

But like all companies, J.B. O’Meara has its challenges with employees. 

Jim says the challenge is to keep them motivated and happy.

The company hasn’t been as affected as most by the increases in health insurance for employees.

“Our policy is with the Northwest Lumber Association, so they have been able to maintain pretty good rates for us,” Cathy said.

The company’s plan covers 70 percent, and the employee is responsible for 30 percent.

The Product Mix
The company distributes—throughout Minnesota and neighboring states—doors, stair parts, mouldings, columns, DuPont Tyvek house wrap and related products.

All products sell equally well. 

“We are growing our moulding business, which we just got into a few years ago, and we have a nice market share on them. The house wrap … was introduced in 1981, and now it’s the predominant house wrap in this market,” Jim said.

“We don’t stray much outside what we know works,” Jim said.

“We tried windows in the early 1980s, and they didn’t make money for us, so out they went,” Mary said.

The company recently began distributing Therma-Tru doors.

“We had been with a major door manufacturer for 22 years, and they weren’t as proactive in the market,” Mary said.

“They were a great company, but they lost focus and innovation. We lost interest in them because they wouldn’t take an interest in us,” Jim explained. “I went to the owner and president and said, ‘We need some help.’ But, it went right over his head. It was a shame because they were number one and on top of the world, but they were bought and sold so many times that they lost their edge.”

The Facility

J.B. O’Meara’s facility is 100,000 square feet. It has a steel and fiberglass exterior door shop, an interior door shop and an exterior wood door shop. The facility also has a general warehouse and an area where it preps the components for the shops. 

To prehang its doors, most of the machinery used is KVAL, but it also uses Norfield.

The company, while it is strictly engaged in two-step distribution, has a showroom, which it uses as a sell-through vehicle for its customers. 

When a consumer shows up and wants to see products, Tom says he or she gets the following response:
“If you need a 2 x 4, where do you go? We also offer our products through that lumberyard.”

Seeking Out Customers
The company doesn’t just wait for customers to find them. 

“We knock on doors,” Jim said. “If I’m driving down the road (which I did just a couple of weeks ago) and come across a company I’m not familiar with, I’ll call our sales manager.”

The company is also in the habit of calling on their customer’s customers. 

“We hold seminars here for contractors on how to install products. We really partnership with our customers, and we emphasize pull through,” Jim said.

All four of the O’Meara siblings drive vehicles that make it easy should one of them have to deliver a product to a customer who really needs it. They’ve even been known to buy from their competition if they were out of a particular product, and their customer needed it right away. The company believes in doing whatever it takes to make an order right.

With last year’s revenue at $32.6 million and its projected revenue for this year at $40 million, it’s clear after visiting with the O’Meara’s that their father’s business values, like “Treat all customers equally and fairly, treat your people well and work very hard to get the order” are still in practice today.

Technology Helps with Efficiency

In 1986, J.B. O’Meara implemented WoodWare software for all its business operations (such as quoting, sales orders, inventory control, purchasing, accounting and production scheduling), becoming the first of eleven millwork companies in the Twin Cities market to use the company as their software and technology partner. 
The distributor began using WoodWare’s barcode modules and barcode scanning equipment in the mid-1990s to add efficiencies to receiving products and taking physical inventory counts using barcode technology. They converted to WoodWare’s Radio Frequency (RF) barcode scanning in 2001 to take advantage of real-time RF updating capabilities.

Now J.B. O’Meara is taking the use of technology to a whole new level by implementing WoodWare’s Windows-based Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Dave Wratkowski, controller at J.B. O’Meara, has managed the use of technology for his company for more than twenty years. While he is excited about the capabilities that WMS will bring to J.B. O’Meara, he also understands the building blocks for using software and technology successfully at a millwork company.
“The WoodWare System has really helped us in our primary area of sales, which is in interior and exterior pre-hung doors, stair parts and moulding,” said Wratkowski. “The biggest benefit that WoodWare gives us is the ease of entering an order. The sales price and costing information come out accurately based on the options selected for doors, jambs, sizing, casing, etc., so we always know what our margins are for every product we sell.” 


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