Into The Woods - North Wood Flooring
At North Wood Flooring , the name says it all. The company proudly manufactures unfinished and pre-finished flooring—all of it expertly cut from premium Northern Wisconsin and Michigan trees. Great employees, strong relationships and impeccable craftsmanship are the key components of North Wood Flooring’s success. But it’s the passion and enthusiasm of the company’s owner that enables the company to keep moving forward.
“It’s all about quality and service,” says Tom Bieberitz, owner of North Wood Flooring. “A lot of companies can say that, but you have to really believe it and do it with a passion. And it’s always been my passion to produce the best.”
He’d already been in the wood business for approximately 25 years when Tom finally decided to strike out on his own. “Owning a business had always been a dream of mine,” he says. “Being able to make the best products possible, while treating employees and customers well was—and still is—very exciting to me.”
GROWN FROM SEED
Armed with a solid business plan and the expertise to back it up, Bieberitz approached several banking institutions, only to be rebuffed. “Basically, I started with no money,” he says, laughing. “And it’s not easy to find money when you don’t have it.”
On the recommendation of a friend, Bieberitz met with Wisconsin Bank & Trust (WBT), who not only listened, but also believed in his idea as much as he did. And before long—with help from the WBT Business Banking team—North Wood Flooring had acquired a building and filled it with state-of-the-art equipment. “They got us up and running within about three months,” says Bieberitz. “And they gave me the guidance I needed to invest money where it counted most.”
Thanks to the support of Wisconsin Bank & Trust, North Wood Flooring officially opened their doors in 2005. Soon thereafter, they were recognized with the Emerging Manufacturer Award from the economic development arm of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
Today, North Wood Flooring products are widely considered some of the best on the market and sold through numerous distributors across the U.S. and Canada. “We probably manufacture more square footage of hardwood flooring on a shift basis than any other manufacturer in the country,” says Bieberitz.
Quality-wise, North Wood Flooring will confidently put its flooring products up against those of any other manufacturer—anywhere. And the many reasons for his confidence can be found in the wooded areas north of the company’s hometown of Coleman, Wisconsin.
By nature, trees—such as the Northern Red Oak and Northern Maple—grow slower in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan than in most regions of the country. And in Bieberitz’s opinion, that slow growth is the reason the states produce some of the nicest hardwoods in the world. “Tighter grains, consistent colors and exceptional density, “says Bieberitz. “Those are the things that make Northern Wisconsin and Michigan hardwoods special.”
Owning a business had always been Tom’s dream, but unforeseen circumstances a couple of years ago presented the opportunity for him to become full owner of his company. Tom only had to figure out how to finance the opportunity. The WBT Business Banking team of Steve Marshall, Tom Steinhaus and Julie Lemminger, along with Bieberitz and his CPA and Attorney, worked together to structure the successful deal.
In addition to putting a SBA package together for North Wood, WBT was able to help secure some rural development funds through Oconto County to address financing the deal. “Tom Steinhaus and his team are experts at putting together a loan application package for SBA and government lending programs,” said Steve Marshall, SVP at the Green Bay Banking Center. “They really take the burden off of the business and remove the red tape to make the SBA lending process easier to manage.”
Today, North Wood Flooring utilizes WBT to address every aspect of its financial needs. The geography can present a challenge when your work takes you to many remote areas of Wisconsin. Utilizing the online banking and remote check deposit services literally brought the WBT banking center to North Wood Flooring.
In the 11 short years since its inception, the company has experienced consecutive growth in revenue and brand recognition. Other banks have approached him, but for Bieberitz, switching financial institutions isn’t even a consideration. “Dance with the one who brought you,” he says. “That’s how I feel about WBT. Since the beginning, they’ve done everything possible to help this business be successful.”
POWERED BY PEOPLE
The title “company owner” really doesn’t do Bieberitz’s role much justice. That’s because he wears so many hats. On any given day he can be found managing any number of essential business functions—from purchasing raw materials, sales, production and relationship management, to facility maintenance and workflow process development.
Bieberitz admits that the balancing act can be challenging. But for the most part, he sees the diversity of roles as a combination of his greatest passions. And he credits the talent and high character of the North Wood Flooring workforce for enabling him to do it. “We have a very detailed, dedicated and consistent crew that takes as much pride in our products as I do,” he says. “I know I can trust them to do their jobs. And that gives me the freedom to boost the business in many different ways.” Steve Marshall agrees, “Tom has a great relationship with his employees, you can see it when you walk through the plant with Tom. The smiles, waves and greetings tell you there is a lot of mutual respect there.”
Bieberitz appreciates his employees and the community for supporting his business. He often holds company picnics at the company’s log cabin. North Wood is also a big supporter of Coleman High School and their sports teams. Bieberitz doesn’t specialize in giving advice unrelated to high-quality wood flooring, but his banking recommendation to his fellow business owners is very straightforward. “WBT understands how to help business prosper,” he says. “Even when no one else will give you a shot, they’ll listen, work with you and help you position yourself for success.”