By Linda Schmid

In 1994, the Schlabaugh brothers,  Gabriel, Michael, Shannon, and Jesse banded together to build sheds, and Little Harveys came into being. The sheds they built were sided with treated wood, a common building material and a beautiful aesthetic, but people were beginning to look for more maintenance-free options. The company decided to move to wood-siding look-alikes that were more durable and required less maintenance; they developed and made their own wood-printed metal panels for their sheds.

Product Offerings

They developed four colors to begin with, and their panels were well-received by customers. Eventually, though, they found that they had extras sitting on the shelves, and they decided to begin selling some of it to other builders. It was challenging at the beginning; they had no idea what the demand would be and there was quite a lead time as they are dealing directly with the mill. 

It turned out that Little Harveys’ printed steel was very well-received by contractors and the coil-selling business became very successful.

Since then, they have developed more panel options. Along with the wood prints, a customer can choose from a variety of stacked stone colors, which are often used for accents, wainscots, and patios. A variegated solid color line is also available.

Customers can also choose their print pattern in traditional roll print or digital. Each has its own benefits. The roll print, in which the grains are ingrained with a print drum, has better chalk and fade resistance. Digital printing creates a better aesthetic with less repetition in the pattern. 

The Competitive Difference

The company found that its niche was slitting the coil and providing exactly what the customer needs, job by job. Its customers are primarily contractors who do roofing and siding in standing seam, board and batten, and perhaps some standard ag panel, too. Companies across the U.S.A. work with Little Harveys, and they are quoting jobs in Alaska and Canada, so they are expanding.

Jesse Schlabach, Sales, said, “There are a lot of big guys out there selling steel. Little Harveys is a small guy that caters to small guys out there with a portable roll-forming machine that they run on the jobsite. We slit and recoil exactly what they need for the job, so they don’t have to stock it. If they need 6,000 feet for the job, we will slit it and get it to them, typically in one week.”

Company Culture

Little Harveys is a cluster of companies: Luxe Guard Flooring, shed building, local roll forming, and the coil division. Six full-time guys work in the coil business; it’s small and they like it that way. They have no impersonal phone system; they answer the phone themselves. They talk to their customers, and if they need 4,000 feet of coil Little Harveys’ team will get it to them, regardless of whether they are working with a regular customer or a new one. They are happy to be the service that a contractor turns to in a pinch.

3 Keys to Success

Schlabach said these three items will get any company headed in the right direction:

1. Figure out what makes you stand out from the competition and maintain it. 

2. Provide exceptional service. Always.

3. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Your customer ordered something, then decided they didn’t like it? It doesn’t matter whose fault it is; get them what will make them happy.

Looking Back

Retrospection provides many business lessons. One that Schlabach said he learned is that if you provide superior service and/or provide added value to your products, it doesn’t matter if another company copies your product. Get over the fear, introduce your product, and do what it takes to keep your customers satisfied. 

Gazing Ahead

“The current metal industry is doing well,” Schlabach said. “The trend is to move to more durable and sustainable products, so metal roofing is doing great. And in some states homeowners even get insurance breaks for having metal roofing.”

With the market doing so well, Schlabach sees good things ahead for Little Harveys and its customers. In fact, they are going to introduce a couple new products later this year. One is a new window system that will cut down on potential leakage. The other is a PVC panel printed to match the exterior siding panels. The future is looking great! RF