Fifth generation family business Robinson Lumber Company is celebrating its 125th year of continuous operation, since founder Charles Wesley Robinson established his headquarters in 1893. The company has planned several events around the anniversary and was honored by a proclamation from Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, who recognized the company for “125 years and five generations of dedication to a lumber business that meets the needs of old and new customers alike.”
From its origins producing American Long Leaf Pine, Robinson has evolved numerous times over the years, today boasting divisions selling softwoods, hardwood lumber, and finished products such as flooring and decking. Today the company has over 100 employees globally, production facilities in Virginia and Indiana, and over a dozen sales and purchasing offices around the country and world. With recent expansions, company sales have more than doubled over the past five years.
Many of Robinson’s relationships date back generations. Sales Executive and fifth generation family member Wesley Robinson explains that, “Many of our company’s relationships took root when the third generation came into the business. Now, as a fifth-generation representative, I travel the country and meet with customers that remember doing business with my grandfather. They choose to keep doing business with us today based on the honesty and integrity they know has been handed down for decades.”
These connections span the globe. Managing international relationships and learning about different cultures has been the most invigorating part of the business for fourth generation family member Sam Robinson, who spent his first five years with the company abroad. “I lived in Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela, and I learned to speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese,” he recently remarked. “During that time, I established relationships that endure today. I made friends who traveled thousands of miles to celebrate with us.”
While Robinson is a family business, the family extends far beyond those with the last name. The current generation of leadership includes several non-family executives, such as company President Joe Buckhaults, who joined the company in 1989 and still remembers traveling with third generation partner Tizo Robinson. Today, Joe remains “excited to work together with our incredible team to ensure that we provide our customers and suppliers with excellent service, that our operations run smoothly and efficiently, and most importantly, that Robinson Lumber Company continues to be a place where great people want to come to work.”
Many of these people are stationed in sales offices throughout the world, in order to more efficiently serve all customers. This includes team members in Honduras, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan, all the way down to the Caribbean. Robinson’s European operation is based in Belgium, with offices in the Netherlands and soon Portugal, and is managed by New Orleans native Hank Marchal. Purchasing offices in North and South Brazil are managed by longtime Robinson employees Jason Burch and Mitch Rubin. Back home in New Orleans, Sales Manager Steve Stoufflet and Finished Products Manager Dan Lennon recently celebrated their 35th and 20th anniversaries at Robinson, respectively.
Communicating information clearly and effectively is crucial to any global company, and Robinson CEO Garner Robinson has led the development of an integrated cloud platform. “Our investment in technology is an investment in our customers, and in the future of our company. We are developing important tools that will empower the next generation of Robinson leaders to become industry leaders.”
As he celebrates his own 45th anniversary with the company, fourth generation leader Toto Robinson reflects on what’s ahead. “Our greatest assets are efficiency, integrity, and a smart approach to growth. Looking forward we need to embrace change, with the next generation providing new ways of handling the business,” he said. “Nostalgia is a good thing, but you have to come to work every day to serve your customers and ship good products. You have to do 100 things right to gain trust, but you only have to do one thing wrong to lose that trust.”
For the past 125 years, Robinson Lumber has proven it knows how to gain that valued trust, and today the company looks forward to many more years of growing together, with customers and suppliers both old and new.