Best Practices, Columnists, Operations, Tyler Mahan, V9I4

Moving Sheds Forward While Remembering the Past

The evolution of the portable building industry from a sideline to a major player with suppliers focused on innovative products has been fun to watch. 

Today, we use a forklift to place full lifts of beautiful, uniformly cut 2 by 4s into our cantilever racks. Hinges and hardware come in nice boxes of 50 or 100 pieces. Our windows are ordered by the skid instead of picked up at the local hardware store. 

It wasn’t always this way. At least, here in Byars, Oklahoma, it wasn’t. 

As I pondered our supply-chain issues from the past couple of years, I have been thankful that there is a “supply chain” for the shed industry at all. Thinking about this has brought back some memories that I thought I would share. 

When I joined Better Barns back in 2003 (by the time you read this I will have celebrated my 20th anniversary with the company) we purchased most of our materials from a large lumberyard in a nearby city. 

Our framing lumber was often very rough and twisted. We made do with our board twister (the famous “Help-a-Hoot” from the October/November 2017 issue) and a lot of elbow grease. 

One day, Dallen (Vance’s dad and half-owner of Better Barns) stopped by the lumberyard and noticed they were cleaning up a bunch of old, cull lumber. He asked what they planned to do with it and offered to purchase it. 

The manager there agreed to fill up a trailer of ours if we would leave it there for them and they would call us when it was full. 

Over the next few weeks, they filled and then refilled that 40-foot trailer multiple times with cull lumber of all shapes and sizes. It was an absolute mess with no semblance of order or categorization. 

We dumped each load to the north of the shop in a heap. By the time they had cleaned up their lumberyard, we had an enormous mess of lumber stacked near our shop. 

Obviously, a good percentage of the lumber was worthless to us. We made many trips to our burn pits with the junk that we could not use. 

Enough of it was useful, though, that we built a large number of sheds with it over the next several months. Much of the lumber was simply discolored and was perfectly acceptable for building floors. 

Even the twisted boards were usable when we applied our special board-twisting treatment. 

When I see our builders walk over to a nice, full lift of straight boards with no blemishes to get floor joists, I still sometimes chuckle. I especially find it amusing when they complain because one of them has some small imperfection. 

My shed-building teeth were cut on lumber that resembled a teeter-totter, so I just shake my head and tell them that the small blemish is no big deal. And then, like any good old hand, I tell them how it was “back in my day.” 

So, for all you young guys making the shed industry move forward into a new era, we say thank you for your contributions. Don’t forget the things that built this industry, though. 

Back when our sheds were not nearly as nice and shiny, this industry grew by taking care of customers with integrity and meeting their needs with kindness. 

Thank you to all our vendors serving the industry and helping us to innovate, offering our customers new options. Let’s all work together to keep making this an amazing industry! 

Go out and make today a great day.

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