Profiles, V7I4

Blessed … and Blessing

A solid foundation is key to build a solid structure.

Bitterroot Shedz, headquartered in Stevensville, Montana, is a portable building service that has a double portion of solid foundation: family experience and tradition, and a purpose to glorify God and serve others.

As a third-generation shed builder, Luke Miller started Bitterroot Shedz in 2018 with 11 years of experience in the shed industry. He has built more than 4,000 buildings in his career and is committed to handcrafting buildings using time-honored traditions handed down to him by his father and grandfather. 

Still, the company, while built on these traditions, is always looking for new and creative ways to build their portable structures. 

Miller is a family man who has been blessed with an amazing wife and three sons. Even with his sons being young, it is not a surprise to see them aspiring to be builders as well. He is a Christian man that takes the Golden Rule seriously and is committed to making sure that in everything he does he is serving others. 

“I’ve said many times that I want to offer quality buildings and craftsmanship at an affordable price,” says Miller. “I want to bring good employment to the Bitterroot Valley, offering good-paying jobs in a positive work environment. 

“I also want to have a platform in which, through the company, I could bless others.”  

FRAMEWORK

For the first year, Miller began by building on a gravel pad in front of his home. In late 2019, he had a 3,400-square-foot shop built and hired his first employee in February 2020,  adding more employees throughout the spring and summer of that year.  

In November of 2020, Sam Fawcett was promoted to general manager, and another employee was named production manager. An in-house delivery team was established shortly thereafter. 

In February 2021, a full-time sales and marketing person was hired, and sales exploded again. 

“Currently Bitterroot Shedz has 10 production employees, one delivery driver, and two salespeople, along with Luke and myself,” says Fawcett. 

“In July of 2020, Bitterroot Shedz decided to contract out to a local craftsman for the building of our animal shelters. This allowed for the continued quality-built buildings that we strive to build in a timely manner.” 

STRUCTURE

Bitteroot Shedz structures are all prebuilt and include sheds, cabins, chicken coops, greenhouses, animal shelters, and pavilions. 

“Everything is at our manufacturing facility in the Bitterroot Valley, and we do not currently offer onsite builds,” Fawcett says. 

“We specialize in custom building. We will match current paint colors and building styles upon request. Our motto is ‘You dream it, we build it,’ and we have had some very interesting dreams from customers. 

“While we are a young company, we sell about 350-400 custom sheds in a year. We use quality lumber—everything is framed 16 inches on center with no OSB products in our builds. We build a solid building with care and quality in every aspect of the building.” 

In the back of the shop, Bitterroot Shedz has a cut and truss area. From that point, there are two framing lines. One is set up to build all buildings, but it specializes in larger, custom buildings. Framing line two is set up to do standard stock and smaller buildings. 

From there the buildings are moved into the paint and finish department. All buildings are primed and painted, windows installed, composite decking installed, and metal prefabbed railing. 

At this point, the roofing department steps in and installs the roofing. Fawcett says that about 97 percent of the company’s buildings use metal roofing. 

Once the roof is installed, the production manager will do a complete walk around for a quality check before it’s moved to the delivery staging area. Before delivery, the driver will do a final quality check to ensure that everything is built to the specifications that are on the Shed Suite work order. 

“One of the things that we do is have a quality inspection checklist that goes with the building from start to finish, along with the Shed Suite work order label,” shares Fawcett. “This ensures that all buildings are built to the specifications on the work order and that all work orders in every department are matched to the building. 

“The checklists are completed during the building process and are checked off by each department lead.” 

Bitterroot Shedz strives to get a building to a customer as quickly as possible. If it is an inventory building, Fawcett says they try to have it out within two weeks from the order date, as long as it fits in the delivery schedule. 

Custom buildings range from four to 12 weeks between order and delivery, depending on demand and the production schedule.

“We have limitations due to shipping size and weight, but we are almost limitless on our customizations,” says Fawcett. 

However, like most builders, Bitterroot Shedz is dealing with limited access to and the high prices of materials. 

“We have been able to keep moving due to good relationships and local sourcing on many materials,” shares Fawcett.  

“Challenges come and go, and with growth comes all sorts of challenges. We have had to work on communication and planning as any growing company does. We have been very successful in our planning by having a direct and open line of communication. We have sought outside input and direction and we are willing to change and adapt.” 

One lesson Fawcett says the company has learned is that some of the worst words that can be said are “we have always done it this way.”

“It is also helpful to have people with the same morals and beliefs in the management and ownership of the company,” he adds. “We are slow to anger and quick to forgiveness as well as willing to take time to think things out and pray about them.

“We have a weekly meeting with the entire staff from top to bottom in which we include everyone and everyone is welcome to share and open to speak. We work with a team mentality and we treat everyone with respect. 

“Do not get me wrong, we have bad days and ups and downs, but we strive to be a family and a team. We never hide that fact and it is talked about strongly in every interview.” 

Fawcett says that employees are what makes the business work.

“If it was not for a group of employees who not only feel respected and important, but are in fact respected and important, we would not be where we are,” he shares. “Our employees are all committed to the mission and purpose of Bitterroot Shedz. In fact, there is not one employee that we have that I would not feel comfortable working with any of our customers.” 

Fawcett goes on to say that everyone in the company is constantly working on themselves to grow and be better.

“We are all flawed and make mistakes, but in doing so, we all work together to make it better and learn from it,” he says. “The owner and the management are tools in the process of the business, and they are no more important than the newest hire at the company. 

“Treating everyone like family and making sure that they are well taken care of and, more than anything, that when they talk, we actively listen to them and give feedback. 

“In a team sport it takes everyone to win the game; that is the same mentality that we have at Bitterroot Shedz.”

FOUNDATION

While Bitterroot Shedz is built on a firm foundation, the company is also in the process of making a foundation to help others—a philanthropic foundation to give back to those in need. 

“The inspiration for the foundation was something that I have always wanted to do from day one of the creation of Bitterroot Shedz,” Miller says. “The intention of Bitterroot Shedz has always been to benefit others. What is the point of being blessed if you cannot bless others?”  

Fawcett says the foundation is in its infancy. 

“We are currently working on taking a set percentage of sales each quarter and giving it back to the community,” he shares.  

“Three of the four quarters will go to a local nonprofit. This nonprofit is picked and voted on by the employees. We want them to have as much input as they can. This is a family and a team, and we try to make sure that we use that in all aspects of the business. 

“The other quarter is a national or even a global nonprofit that the employees voted on as well.” 

Currently, Bitterroot Shedz is providing a pavilion to a local nonprofit that it wanted for its grounds. 

“This was something that allowed us to showcase what we do and something that our employees can have pride in when they see it,” Fawcett says. “It is something that benefits the community as well as many others in the process.” 

Fawcett says that Bitterroot Shedz’s mission is to provide durable structures with an aesthetic appeal while providing an outstanding customer experience, and its purpose is to glorify God, enhance customers’ lives,  provide sustainable employment in the Bitterroot Valley, and better humanity as a whole.  

“Giving back is the core of who Bitterroot Shedz is,” he points out. “We believe that our worth is more about what we give in comparison to what we take. We strive to give in all of our business relationships from customers to vendors to employees.”  

From bake sale purchases to giving the neighbor down the road some scrap lumber for a project, Fawcett says the company tries to help in any way that it can. 

“We try to purchase as much as we can for our business from local merchants and suppliers,” he says. “In fact, the company that we use to produce our company apparel is a great example. We wanted to make sure that we order from a local vendor, even though many times it is easier to order online and not think about the local people. 

“In this case, we shopped around locally, found a great place, and loved their work. Shortly after the orders, we had the owner of the company come to our office to look at our products. Before he had left, he had purchased two sheds from us. 

“Working locally and building those relationships pays off even when you are not looking for a payoff.” 

Fawcett says Bitterroot Shedz has been fortunate to be small enough to get to know its customers. 

“We have been able to learn what our customers do and have used many of their businesses from that relationship,” he points out. “We know we will not have 100 percent satisfaction with everyone but we continue to try.

“We want people to not only think of Bitterroot Shedz as a high-quality structure but as the company that cares more about the community than profits. 

“The goal is nothing more than to help those that need help, reach those that are less fortunate, and strive to make the area better for everyone. 

“We are not here just to provide a shed but to better people’s lives in the process. This is a team effort and we will continue to build that team and reach out to those that we can.”

THE FUTURE

Fawcett says that Bitterroot Shedz has plans for the future, and they are working carefully and methodically to make sure that they are doing what is best for its employees, customers, and the future of the company.

“While there are a lot of plans in the mix, we are currently working hard to make sure that we are doing the best that we can with what we currently have going,” he says. 

“We hope to see continued growth and are planning for that. In time we will expand and work on some of our other ventures but for now, we are working to be as good as we can in what we do.

“We are excited to see what the future holds for us as we continue to grow and expand.”

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