D&M Industries is a trusted provider of the highest quality doors, windows, millwork, and cabinets for commercial and residential sectors. Being a completely employee-owned-and-operated company has many benefits. This is not common for the industry or businesses in general, but D&M is very proud of this employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) culture. We spoke with Vice President of Operations and Purchasing Brad Wischnak, Vice President of Finance and Administration Gail Borowicz, and President Brian Becker.
D&M Industries was founded in 1982, and the company found its niche in distributing pre-hung doors for apartment complexes and multi-family facilities. Residential applications were added in 1989 when it took on a window line and further enhanced the millwork options that were already being offered.
D&M entered the hospitality arena when a local North Dakota developer called on D&M for doors and hardware. This developer became the largest hotel franchise developer in the United States, opening 30 to 40 hotels a year at peak. D&M partnered with this entrepreneur, Gary Tharaldson, in his early years and grew along with him.
This partnership has been strong for over 25 years and has opened many doors to other developers and multiple franchises. This partnership has given D&M invaluable experience in the industry. In 2016 D&M added a new division in its office just to work with hotel developers across the U.S.
Assisted living markets became the next area of focus for D&M in the Midwest. This was quickly followed by the student housing market segment in the southeastern United States.
“Our focus has been on both commercial and residential. Commercial has historically taken up the larger amount of our business because of the nationwide Impact. Residentially, we supply homebuilders more in the regional area within a two-hundred-mile radius,” says Gail.
One area that D&M Industries recently invested heavily in is the hospitality market. It has some core customers in that sector that it has been served over several years. However, the company has taken a broader approach to taking that market going nationwide and is bidding on projects outside the scope of those core customers.
“This is the biggest market we have been going after as of late. We also know that there is always a lot of opportunity that exists in the assisted living world. The general contractors we work with also diversify themselves, so you may see them do a combination of projects. They do hospitality, assisted living, and multi-family. It’s a good natural place for us and the customer when that happens,” says Gail.
Although for the residential market D&M works within a two-hundred-mile radius, it operates nationwide for other commercial projects. It is very open to looking into making acquisitions or looking for additional growth opportunities in different markets.
“The unique part of our business as being a one-step distributor is there are not a lot of entities like us, so we have to be a little more creative in our acquisition opportunities. It may be a related type entity, but we are probably not finding a lot of D&M’s out there doing the similar residential-commercial mix that we do and the uniqueness of our organization,” says Brian.
Solid growth can be attributed to multiple factors, but D&M touts its strong sales force as the main catalyst. The sales staff are knowledgeable and can assist the customers with some of the choices and decisions that must get made regarding the doors and hardware choices. This sales team knows its products well and is influential in guiding the customer in creating spec sheets for each project.
Working with vendors that have reputable products and timelines for providing the material is critical. “This has helped D&M become what we are today. Customer relationships are also key like it was with Gary Tharaldson. We build relationships and nurture them,” says Brian.
D&M’s relationships with vendors and suppliers are a critical aspect of the business, and some of its vendors have been partners for over twenty years. Every six to eight weeks, representatives come to D&M to work through any potential issues or simply to talk shop.
“We have hundreds of vendors. We work with them and keep the lines of communication open, and leverage them on training opportunities as we continue to train our staff on new and upcoming products,” says Brian.
“We deal with the top vendors in the industry, including Allegion, a large company with various other product offering – brands like Schlage locks, Republic and Steelcraft (both hollow metal doors) and more. There are a lot of entities just within Allegion’s offerings,” says Brad.
Other key partners working to provide quality products with D&M are suppliers like Marvin Windows, Lynden Doors, or Masonite, chosen based on the application needed.
Keeping a reliable, skilled workforce is a daily challenge. Having a very flexible, fluid and intelligent workforce is important for staying on top of customer needs. Being an ESOP company is one way to attract and retain skilled workers. “We use that as a mechanism to keep our employees. Being one hundred percent employee-owned is a culture, and it means something different to each employee owner,” says Brad.
Employees understand the ESOP culture and try to embrace it. D&M not only offers the ESOP but does a match on its 401(k) plan up to four percent of an employee’s pay. An employee can build wealth for their retirement benefits by just coming to work and doing their job.
D&M has a clean work environment and invests in equipment and technology to make the job easier. It promotes from within wherever applicable, which helps to retain employees at the same time. Anyone that starts on the ground floor has every opportunity to move up in the ranks.
D&M delivers many value added services including a hardware department where it can pre-pack the hardware for any given room, offering larger projects that do not have room to store the materials a trailer at the job site that they can use as needed. D&M also pre-finishes products, meeting the customer’s need for staining or painting. Especially in the commercial world, jobs specify how the product needs to be stained or painted.
With regards to technology, D&M puts its emphasis on upgrading equipment in the back shop. The machines are much more precise than they were ten years ago and have computer numerical control (CNC). Investing in equipment like that makes it easier for the worker and produces a more accurate product.
“The other thing we did, just this last year, was to upgrade our accounting systems and made the change to an entire enterprise resource planning (ERP) System. We’ve been on that for fifteen months now. It has various add-on products, and we are constantly adding to enrich the entire system,” says Brian.
The integrated ERP system covers most aspects of the business. It manages customers’ materials, the shop flow sales activities and other business aspects. It can be used to track the delivery trucks, so customers have a more accurate estimated time of arrival for materials. It will also indicate the best route possible for any given truck and save on driving times.
D&M also sees those contractors diversifying into different markets. Being in the North Dakota and Minnesota area was advantageous when there was a lot of oil activity occurring in the western part of North Dakota. Some of the contractors that D&M works with flowed down into other markets because of the economy, and D&M followed them.
D&M Industries is indeed opening doors – for its vendor partners, its employees, and its customers.