John R. Furman
If necessity is the mother of invention, then survival was the father of Furman Lumber.
In 1956, faced with abandonment by their parent company, nine men led by John Furman decided to start their own business. Through hard work, perseverance, and good judgment, they built a small, regional, wholesale operation into a prosperous, nationally respected lumber distribution business. Today, Furman Lumber ranks with such wholesaling giants as Georgia-Pacific and Weyerhaeuser.
From nine people and $4 million in sales in 1956, the company has grown to more than 200 people and $285 million in sales in 1990.
From the beginning, Furman emphasized working together - teamwork and loyalty - so that employees would have long-term employment. Rather than constantly turning over the sales force, he believed a system would be built where everyone could win. He maintains "We wanted to provide a means to earn our living, educate our children, pay our mortgages, enjoy the people with whom we were working, and enjoy business." Understanding the value of teamwork is not a new concept to Furman. As an undergraduate at Cornell, he captained the heavyweight crew. Later, as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he commanded the destroyer, U.S.S. Register, one of five vessels that rescued survivors from the shark-infested waters after the sinking of the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Indianapolis.
Furman believes that to be successful, people only have to be willing to work hard for themselves. Their success will spill over to others, and the company will remain a team - a family. "Everything comes back to getting the right people," he says, "people who want to be part of the team and who put the company ahead of themselves." The philosophy of John Furman is summed up in a quotation from President Calvin Coolidge, "Nothing is the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. Press on…" For John Furman, 35 years of persistence and determination have meant success and satisfaction.