Located in South Brisbane’s suburb of Woodridge, with another store nearby in Stapylton, 5 Star Timbers is traditionally a timber merchant. But today, the business has evolved, including operations in the production of timber decking and timber flooring systems.
Established on the back of a long family tradition of working in the timber industry, 5 Star Timbers supplies sustainably sourced timber products in a variety of species. We recently spoke with Justin about how the business got started, and what the future holds.
Back to the start
Justin Lanyon got his start in the industry in 1989, originally employed at a mill called Pinewood Products, run by a man named Colin Sealy.
“Colin was the main man running the business at the time, and gave me my first opportunity in the timber industry,” Justin says.
It’s a great way to start for many in the industry. For Justin, working at a sawmill resulted in a strong interest in timber, which then developed into a passion.
This passion was nurtured by Alan Harris, who became a strong mentor to Justin.
“Alan had worked with my father Colin Lanyon, so he took me through the initial sawmill process. From there, when I left to go into retail, my mentor really became my father – who I still work with today,” Justin says.
As he immersed himself in the industry, Justin started to spend more time on the road, speaking directly to customers. It’s an experience that he says opened his mind to all facets of the industry.
“That’s when I became more involved within the industry as opposed to just working in it, by getting involved with suppliers, knowing the products, and what exactly makes a product “˜fit for purpose'”.
During the late 1990s to early 2000s, Queensland was undergoing a significant period of change, which Justin witnessed first-hand.
“Big interest rates, lots of businesses falling over – it was a very interesting time, including the decimation of the pine industry by CSR,” Justin says.
After seven years with Fineline Timbers, this period of change prompted him to set out on his own. Looking back, Justin admits it was a brave move.
“I was at that age when I needed to have a crack on my own – or I would end up working for someone for the rest of my life”.
So, after just six weeks of setting up, Justin and the team at 5 Star Timbers commenced trading from the original site in Queensland’s suburb of Staplyton.
As Justin explains, the business name plays on the fact that the 5 Star Timbers team aims to provide customers with a “˜five star’ quality of service, as well as being proudly Australian, which explains the use of the Southern Cross symbol across the business’s branding.
Opening in 2008, the business was founded by both the Lanyon and Culph families. While the Culph family is still involved, the day-to-day running of the business is firmly in the Lanyon family’s hands.
Unfortunately, the Lanyon family experienced a rough start when launching the business. The depressed construction sector was hitting Queensland and Australia at the time, which meant a tense period for Justin and his family.
Justin says he recalls lying in bed on the first night after opening the business and thinking “˜What have we done?’
The stakes were high for Justin during this period, as his wife Jenny Lanyon and father Colin Lanyon had joined him in the business venture, meaning if anything went awry, it would be a family affair.
As the global financial crisis hit, Queensland timber suppliers started to struggle. Justin remembers it being a trying time for everyone.
“It was definitely a bit of a challenge for us, we had businesses that were starting to get into trouble and suppliers were a little nervous to provide credit, but the fact that I’d been in the industry for a long time and had developed a trusted name put us in good stead – there’s no doubt about that.”
So how did 5 Star Timbers come out of this period on top? As Justin explains, it was achieved by being prepared and ensuring no opportunity was wasted. After so many decades working in the timber industry, the Lanyon family was not prepared to give up easily.
“There was then, and is now, nothing that we aren’t willing to do for our customers, so we made sure during that time we went that extra step,” he says.
Following that turbulent period, 5 Star Timbers emerged stronger than ever, acquiring major manufacturing machinery including a gas solar kiln, moulder, bandsaw, optimised docker, end matcher, and a protective oiler.
Justin and his team also became the first timber merchant in Queensland to be independently certified and accredited with a Chain of Custody certification.
Keeping it modern
Today, Justin and his team are focused on adapting to the changing business environment, including utilising the digital age to their advantage.
“We’ve just revamped our website, and we have Brooke Burke, Media and Marketing Executive, working for us as well. She has done a great job, and it has changed the way that we do business.”
Brooke’s work with 5 Star Timbers includes a section on the website that houses news and advice, as well as answers to technical questions that customers often need help with.
5 Star Timbers is also a member of industry associations including the Timber and Building Materials Association of Australia (TABMA), a reflection of Justin’s proactive attitude and his belief in the importance of continuous education for employees.
“I think it’s necessary for our industry. We need those sorts of bodies to look after businesses like mine and keep everything on the straight and narrow.
“We’ve had about four staff go through a TABMA training program so far, and I strongly believe that TABMA’s additional acquisition of Fitec was another great move,” Justin says.
While he is the first to admit that future goals are constantly changing, Justin remains true to himself when it comes to business prospects.
“We’re opportunistic as a business, so when things pop up in front of us, we’ve got to look at them for their worth – and then make the decisions.
In future, Justin and his team are eager to focus on improving their two branches, rather than expanding.
“We have a general plan going forward for the next five years, and that plan realistically encompasses building on the two branches that we’ve already got.”
Looking ahead, increased efficiency and the streamlining of processes are the future for 5 Star Timbers, stemming from a clear vision that Justin holds for his business and team.
“We want to reduce costs in labour, and we’re actually getting a technical writer in soon to document our business from top to bottom.
“That will show us where we have bottlenecks and where we’re using too much time. It’s going to be fairly interesting for us.