You Said It
Chad Gray, owner of Gray and Sons Sawmill & Supply LLC, answers questions from the Pallet Enterprise about working in the industry.
Date Posted: 9/1/2014
Chad Gray is the owner of Gray and Sons Sawmill & Supply LLC, a manufacturer of Southern Hardwood in Durant, Oklahoma.
Pallet Enterprise: What advice would you give someone entering the industry for the first time?
Gray: Try to start your business with as little debt load as possible. With today’s volatile and uncertain economy, you’ll be able to weather the lulls if you have less revolving debt. You don’t want to get caught with a huge monthly payment if the market softens. At the worst, we operated in a break even state. That allowed us to pay our bills without deferring payments, and tread water until the economy improved. During those tough years, we weren’t putting money in the bank, but we weren’t borrowing more, either. It made for many sleepless nights, but in hindsight, it was the right thing to do.
Pallet Enterprise: What is the best piece of business advice that you have ever received?
Gray: A very successful business man that I was working for pulled me aside just before my wife and I bought our business. He said that he had some advice for me: “As long as you buy by the market, and sell by the market, you’ll never go broke.” We have applied that advice and successfully survived one of the worst economic recessions in our history.
Pallet Enterprise: What do you think your company will look like five to 10 years from now?
Gray: We have purposely kept the business small and nimble. We adapt to markets that emerge and present themselves as a profitable venture. For instance, we have capitalized on markets that utilize our waste products such as chips, sawdust, and most successfully, pallets being built from lower-grade materials that aren’t suitable for other markets. With that said, I see my business remaining the same size, both in equipment and staff, while continuing to upgrade the equipment. We have been doing this one piece at a time, either paying as we go, or financing very little.
Pallet Enterprise: What do you like most about your job?
Gray: I like that I’m holding onto something that I feel made America the great nation that it is. I truly worry about the path that American business is on, so if my wife Lori and I can keep an American tradition alive, then we’re honored to do so. My great-grandfather Arlie Gray started this business in 1936, and 78 years later, we’re still here. My grandfather Arte Gray took it over in 1951 and operated the mill until 1981, when my dad, Bryant Gray, took it. Lori and I bought it in 2007. We have two boys, Gavin and Eran. If they choose, they will be the fifth generation. I am sawing under the same old rusty sheet iron shed that my granddad built in 1950. My dad still frequents the mill, and my older brother Keith, works with me. The Grays have always insisted on doing their own sawing.
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