Faces of the Industry: Austin Huskey
Faces of the Industry: Austin Huskey
CEO • Huskey Truss & Building Supply • Franklin, TN
How’d you get into this industry?
In 1945, our family started the Huskey Company. My grandfather’s brother, Clay Huskey, was building houses around Nashville in the early 1940s. There were not many lumberyards in the area, so he used his connections with Alabama sawmills to personally truck lumber he needed for the houses they were building. When he finished building a house, he had leftover material and soon began renting a small location in Southeast Nashville where he sold the surplus. Over time, he would continue to travel to Alabama and bring back more and more lumber. Eventually, he realized running a lumberyard might be easier than building houses. He enlisted the help of my grandfather and they started Huskey.
My dad and his brothers operated the company when my grandfather passed away, and I began working during the summers at age 13. It’s a journey I’m sure many who come from family-owned businesses in this industry can relate to. I worked every summer, and began full-time after two years of college.
What’s your favorite part about being in this industry? What could you do without?
I think my favorite part is being able to contribute to the positive growth of our community. Nashville has really come alive in a big way over the past few years and it’s fun to be a part of it. I find satisfaction in everything from big commercial projects and large custom homes, to Boy Scout projects and high school dugouts. Kids are going to have Christmas morning in the houses we help build and that’s a big deal to us. I feel blessed Huskey gets to play a part.
Finding skilled labor continues to be a big challenge. While the jobsite labor shortage certainly creates opportunities for us as CMs, it can also be frustrating as a manufacturer to find quality people ourselves.
What’s your company, market, or SBCA chapter focused on right now?
I’m very invested in maintaining a design standard and level of quality that will ensure the structures we build will be around for a while. We are not scraping the bottom of what will pass the design software. Instead, we want it to be something that never causes a problem.
Our company is also focused on maximizing profitability and growing intelligently. We are really hammering home a few key KPIs so that we properly manage our growth. We have always done some things a certain way, but our market has changed what we build. Back in the day, a complicated house had nine profiles, but now they have over 200. Nashville is growing to the point where we can spend every dollar we make, plus some, trying to keep up with it. Instead, we are focusing on the key accounts that make sense for us to go after, and we are careful about how much we do go after.
What challenges do you see for the industry in the future? What solutions do you have for those challenges?
Attracting talent would likely be near the top, as the general population is unaware of the incredibly positive direction our industry is headed. Demand for wood component framing is growing quickly. We need to communicate this demand growth with our teams and remain nimble enough to embrace the change that growth brings. With four locations, the majority of Huskey’s employees don’t touch the truss plant and haven’t been inside of it. We want to communicate better internally when it comes to daily operations, projects in the field, and what’s going on in the plant.
Communication is critically important to being able to keep a pulse on what the market is asking for. We are looking at how we label our components the clearest way we can, and we are getting feedback from our install framers to further optimize that service.
When you’re not thinking about trusses, what keeps you busy?
My wife Katherine and I are the worship directors at our church, and we love getting to spend our time serving in that way. But if we’re not doing that, I prefer to be behind a boat with a wakeboard strapped to my feet.