Chatting With Chip: Tradition and Innovation at BVL
In 1946, the U.S. construction industry began growing when R.L. Brand and Cy Vaughan partnered up to start their company. The founders of Brand Vaughan Lumber rode the surge of business that the economy provided post-World War II, and they were able to flourish after they established the company in Atlanta in the 1940s.
More than 70 years later, Brand Vaughan Lumber continues to build on the solid foundation they established, under the leadership of Cy’s son, Chip Vaughan, and grandson, Jon. In fact, Brand Vaughan was recently recognized as one of Atlanta’s Top 50 Workplaces, a testament to the strong legacy that its founders established decades ago. The industry looks a lot different with 2020 around the corner, and advancements in technology and lumber products have contributed to its growth. But thanks in big part to its leadership, Brand Vaughan has been able to keep up with the seasons of change in the construction industry. Today, Chip heads up the company as CEO, with his son Jon Vaughan in place as president and COO. They’re continuing the family tradition of extra mile service, respect for the Golden Rule and loyalty to their employees.
“We’re committed to a sustainable business, for our customers and our people,“ explains Chip. He has great respect for his team members at every level of the company, and that respect and integrity is a significant part of Brand Vaughan and its history. Chip learned the ropes at his father’s company at an early age when he helped out around the lumber yard and offices wherever assistance was needed. Through the years, he learned about every facet of the business, from sweeping the yard to delivering material to job sites to sales, purchasing and accounting. But Chip didn’t always consider Brand Vaughan Lumber an actual career path. “If I’m honest, the lumber business wasn’t very appealing when I was younger,” Chip laughs. His father encouraged him to explore his passions and to follow his intuition. So Chip left for college after graduating from high school and attended the University of Georgia for a degree in business. When he finished his four years at college, he made the decision to head to law school. Chip played basketball throughout his college career and had aspirations of becoming a sports attorney. “Sometimes God has different plans,” explains Chip. He passed the bar exam, but finding employment as a sports attorney was a challenge. “There weren’t a lot of sports attorney opportunities in the 1970s.” Chip was about to accept a position with a law firm in metro Atlanta until R.L. Brand let him know that he was interested in stepping down from his leadership position at BVL. The opportunity presented itself for Chip to step up, and he rose to the challenge.
As Chip leaned into his new role at Brand Vaughan, his father explained that they didn’t really have any official titles at the company. “So I was named custodian of Brand Vaughan Lumber,” says Chip. Chip’s father came from humble beginnings in rural Alabama. Cy Vaughan recognized that in order to build something sustainable, it needed to be strong at every level, from the ground up. As custodian of BVL, Chip was entrusted to hold the keys to the company and assume the care for everything that BVL had built. He learned from his father that all team members are valuable—and that every employee carries on the legacy that Brand Vaughan has built over the years. “The first couple years were a challenge, being the son-of-the-boss,” says Chip. “But the lumber business got in my blood. I grew to love it.” Chip passed down the same passion and values to the company that his father did, and he’s still committed to upholding BVL’s reputation as a sustainable and service-oriented company.
The last decade at Brand Vaughan has been both rewarding and challenging. The housing crisis of 2008, followed by the surge of construction in the Atlanta area, has brought both feast and famine to the company. “Technology has been transformative for our company and this industry,” says Chip. “We’ve come a long way from handwritten ledgers and sales invoices. We’ve slowly evolved form fax machines, Nextels, walkie talkies to state-of-the-art computer systems and sophisticated saw cutting and door manufacturing equipment.” From improvement in delivery equipment to material innovations, Chip has seen his company grow in new ways. “Because of the kinds of new housing designs that we’re catering to now, we’ve developed and grown our sales team to help with more customers. It’s very exciting.”
Chip is excited and proud that Brand Vaughan’s future is bright with his son and management team in place to carry on the tradition and success established in 1946. He will eventually be handing the reins over to his son Jon, who is committed to the same tradition of “extra-mile service” and quality that Brand Vaughan is known for. Jon has made his own unique mark on the company by making developments to encourage employee retention and a healthy work environment as a commitment to the company’s future. “The secret to our legacy of success? It’s our team, and we wouldn’t be where we are at today without them,” explains Chip. To learn more about how Brand Vaughan has maintained quality and integrity over the years, you can read more about their company and employee programs here.