There has to be a better way.
In an era where connectivity is king, process-savvy builders are becoming more willing to throw out the status quo when it comes to purchasing.
Whether it’s online sales from The Home Depot (which increased 50 percent to $2.7 billion last year), the newly launched Lowe’s portal lowesforpros.com, or dedicated e-commerce sites like Chatanooga, Tenn.-based start-up SupplyHog, forward-looking firms are harnessing the Internet as an alternative to the brick-and-mortar model.
By presenting one point of access, e-commerce sites eliminate much of the headache associated with traditional vendor-to-builder interactions.
BUILDER recently sat down with the Nathan Derrick—CEO of SupplyHog, self-appointed "Hogfather," and longtime construction professional—about how his start-up is taking on retail behemoths like The Home Depot by facilitating the purchase, payment, and delivery of building products. SupplyHog currently offers 20,000 building products in 20 categories from about 5,000 vendor locations, nation-wide.
“Think of us as an online shopping mall for the building supply industry,” says Derrick. “Whether these guys need shingles, work boots, or a dumpster, we’re here for them. We’d love to be another employee, a concierge if you will.”
A general contractor for 15 years, Derrick had his hands in small remodeling jobs before getting in the new home construction business. His family ran a service-oriented supply house in his hometown of Chatanooga. “It was all about being there when we said we would,” recalls Derrick. Then, waiting out the downturn, the remodeler-turned-builder-turned-supplier started to focus on process and efficiency.
“I spent the last few years getting myself familiar with what’s out there in the online world, at the ways we could make a builder, architect, contractor, or subs everyday lives easier," he says. "It’s not that the technology hadn’t been available before, it was that we had the mix of geeks and rednecks to make it happen.”
The grand vision of SupplyHog is to offer all things construction, but they’ve focused the initial expansion on foundational products to build a house, especially on the exterior side: siding, roofing, windows, and doors.
As SupplyHog continues to load vendors and distributors into its fold, Derrick says he won’t be turning anyone away, from local manufacturers to multi-branch distributors. As for builders, the Hogfather wants to deliver on customer service. Volume builders may benefit from customized pricing, while a credit option allows purchasers to use a single line of credit at any number of supply houses.
“Once they are on our platform, we want to treat them as a VIP,” says Derrick. “We won’t have them standing in line.”