Amy Coyner, Owner and Operations Manager of eLIMBS, has had her eye on Logical Systems for a long time. Ohio-based eLIMBS is a provider of inventory management software and integrated handheld computer systems for the hardwood timber, log, lumber, and wood products industries. Logical Systems, a software developer and hardware reseller for lumber producers, is based in the Northeast and has focused on the softwood industry.
When his 77th birthday rolled around, Bob Jump, the owner of Logical Systems, decided it was time to book that long overdue retirement trip to Europe with his wife, Lu. He picked up the phone and dialed eLIMBS to talk to Amy, a good friend and industry colleague.
Amy, a busy mother of two, always has time for her customers. She makes time for colleagues, too, and especially Bob, whom she’s long respected for his warmth and integrity. “Simply put, everyone in the lumber business loves him,” she said.
Little did she know that Bob had called to revisit a decade-old conversation. “About 10 years ago, I told Bob that if he ever wanted to sell his company, we’d like to buy it,” said Amy.
That’s just why he was calling now. He asked: Was she still interested? She sure was.
Bob presented his one demand. “I wanted to make sure our customers were taken care of,” he said.
He thinks Amy and the 13-member eLIMBS team are up to the task. Both companies, he said, focus on the warm-blooded, human side of a rough-and-tumble lumber industry. “I’ve been impressed with how similar our business philosophies are,” he said.
Both companies have brought high-tech efficiency to the lumberyard and the sawmill. And both, said Bob, treat their clients like family.
They’ve been through the same hardships, too. It remains to be seen whether the current market troubles will match those of 2009, when the Great Recession gummed up the economy worse than pine sap on a bandsaw.
“That was a rough one to get through,” said Bob. His business had no debt and a good cash position, so they made it out the other side. But he hated watching customers go out of business, and he and his team took deep pay cuts to weather the storm.
eLIMBS was only about seven years old at the time. It was always a family business. Philip Coyner, a software engineer and Amy’s husband of now 27 years, was struggling to manage both sales and product development with only a small staff while she raised their two young sons, Ethan and Luke.
However, the company persevered and carved out its niche. “Our focus on bringing new technology to market is unique,” said Amy. eLIMBS’ services simplify contract development by integrating timber cruising and bidding, and enable grading and tallying in the lumber mill.
Joining forces with Logical Systems, whose products are known for their sophisticated, lumber-specific inventory and accounting capabilities, seems “natural and right,” she said. eLIMBS will acquire Logical Systems’ softwood clients, which tend to be small and medium-sized businesses. This complements eLIMBS, which has tended to serve larger clients in the hardwood sector of the lumber industry.
Even before she got Bob’s call, Amy said, eLIMBS had started developing software for green mills. It was serendipitous that Bob decided to sell Logical Systems when he did.
Bob will work part-time as a consultant for eLIMBS, at least until his next couple of birthdays roll around. “I want my customers to know I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
Logical Systems’ customers will be fully supported by eLIMBS. Amy specifically aims to “alleviate stress” associated with a technology upgrade or a new system, just as her company does for brand-new customers.
“I get frustrated when I have to get a new cell phone,” she said. “It’s not that the technology is difficult to understand or navigate. It’s just the loss of familiarity with the device or software you already know and feel comfortable with.”
eLIMBS strives to make certain its customers are comfortable with any transition they make. “We are not selling with the end goal of becoming a software vendor,” said Amy. “We spend a lot of time face to face, training, understanding best practices, coming up with right-size solutions.”
Every business in the wood products industry is unique, she said. So her team is well versed in customization for the specific needs of eLIMBS’ clients.
She also makes sure they know the field. “All our technicians go to lumber grading school,” she said. “Tech support has to know what they’re talking about.”
The acquisition gives eLIMBS a presence in Yarmouth, Maine, about 12 miles north of Portland, where Bob’s company has been based.
eLIMBS is headquartered in Belpre, Ohio. Situated along the Ohio River in the southeast portion of the state, Belpre is a picturesque town in a region dominated by mixed hardwood forests—one of the richest such regions in North America.
Both companies have customers nationwide, and Logical Systems also has done business in Canada.
Of the many rewarding aspects of the purchase, “the biggest one is Bob,” said Amy. He is deeply respected industry-wide for his commitment to service, she said.
She and her team will work to uphold that standard. “We’re maintaining the support Logical Systems has now, but cross-training so eLIMBS team members can service Logical Systems clients and vice-versa,” she said.
Both Bob and Amy found their way into the wood products industry after working for large corporations. Neither had any sort of family ties to the industry. In each case, a short immersion led to a strong attachment.
Amy saw potential in lumber industry software after her husband took a consulting job for a lumber client. “This industry felt like family,” she recalled.
The Coyners’ first wood products industry customer led to others. Most of their business is still acquired by word of mouth and a good old-fashioned handshake.
Bob had worked as a computer programmer in the corporate world for many years when he decided he wanted a change. “I was concerned about not having control over my life,” he said.
He worked for a retail lumber company, getting his own crash course in wood products. From there, he moved to consulting in computer solutions.
“I was a one-man band, working like crazy to develop new contracts and then working like crazy to complete them,” he said. He soon jumped at an opportunity to help out a consortium of five softwood mills in New England. “I went to the school of hard knocks,” said Bob. “I tromped around a lot of log yards.”
The first system he developed handled inventory and accounting. By 1990, the consortium was ready to disband and sell the software. Bob and a partner bought the company, which became Logical Systems, in 1992; he later bought out his partner.
Bob was sure the market was underserved. “I found out there was a hardwood market out there that was a lot bigger than the softwood,” he said.
But now he is ready to retire. “I just don’t want to be point man anymore. It’s time to do some of the things my wife and I have dreamed of doing,” he said, such as travelling, perhaps to Ireland and Italy first.
He will miss the wood products industry, he said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and consider my customers friends.”
Amy feels the same way. “We felt very at home in the hardwood industry from the start,” she said, noting that many businesses in the industry are small, family-held companies.
Bob will leave her with some words to live and work by. “Take care of our customers,” he said. “They’re what this business is all about.”