Bryn Noe likes to keep it simple. The owner of Elite Building Materials in Simi Valley, California, and his small crew are not out to be the biggest supplier in the region, but they are out to be one of the best. And their homespun approach appears to be paying off after 10 years in business.
“I don’t even have the word ‘owner’ on my business card,” says Noe. “I’m really just a sales guy trying to make the company live up to its name, which really does say it all: Elite Building Materials.”
Supplying a select group of contractors with the highest-quality products possible, like windows, doors, moldings, hardware, and finished lumber (like “exotic and custom-milled stuff”) from 30 to 40 vendors – including Western Window Systems – is what has set Elite Building Materials apart from the competition.
“I have no interest in huge growth, with dozens of employees and multiple showrooms. I don’t think that goes well,” says Noe, a SoCal native. “You have to stick to your roots a little bit. And there becomes a point where you’re actually working hard but not making as much money, and you lose that personal touch and it becomes not fun anymore.”
With a background in construction, Noe uses the knowledge he gained in that field, as well as the personal touch, to be able to talk with contractors about framing, drywall, digging holes.
“These personal relationships are what it’s all about,” he says. “In our industry, advertising at our level doesn’t usually result in great things. That’s why word-of-mouth business is so important to us.”
And Noe credits his relationship with Western Window Systems as a fruitful one, often picking up business from his contacts at the company.
“Western Window Systems has been giving us amazing referrals lately,” he says. “We have really good support from them, and that’s what we look for. Let’s just say there’s another brand that makes what WWS does. I’ll look at what the sales rep is like, what’s the support like, what the quoting software looks like, whether we’re on their website. These are reasons Western Window System is good for us.”
Of course, it’s hard work and innovation that make up the rest of the equation for Elite Building Materials. In fact, in terms of innovation, one thing that sets the company apart from the competition, Noe says, is the time and effort he’s put into the trucks and loading techniques he’s developed. He designed and built custom racks for his trucks and forklift with soft edging to prevent scratches on the products he supplies.
“I’ve got a steel guy who builds these racks for me, and with those, we’ve mastered these loading and shipping procedures I created,” he says. “We can pick up the product and take them straight to the truck, so the less we handle the product, the less likely it is to scratch.”
This is especially important when it comes to the huge glass doors manufactured by Western Window Systems. “It’s what everyone wants these days. The bigger the glass, the better, and WWS has that handled. They have that ingenuity.”
And with such a small staff (“There’s just five of us here,” Noe says), it takes more than a little ingenuity to keep Elite Building Materials humming along. His wife, Lacey, does accounts payable. There’s Jordan Anderson, his right-hand man (“He’s a major partner, doubling our contractor clientele”). There’s sales rep Ken Miller, and there’s the delivery Mikey Hammond (“He a 6-foot-3 basketball player”).
“I have my guys doing all sorts of the different stuff to keep it fresh and avoid burnout,” Noe says. “And that’s the thing with what we sell. You know it’s not like you’re checking groceries. Every day is something new.”
As Elite Building Materials enters its second decade in business, will continue to focus on what Noe calls “super-slow growth” and facing head-on the challenges that come with the industry.
“Our biggest challenge is probably providing great service and bridging the gap that comes with quality control,” he says. “All our vendors have their issues, whether it’s something got damaged in shipping or something didn’t get to the job site correctly or with manufacturer defects or scratches. Making sure that doesn’t happen is why we have a job pretty much.”