Find Your Why

President & CEO, Steve James shares his “why” and his thoughts on how we can all make a difference.

President & CEO, Steve James

As I am sitting here going over my speech for the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, I thought maybe I would share those same thoughts with you.  The Chamber is reading the book, “Find Your Why” by David Mead and Peter Docker. It is a practical approach in discovering your purpose. The format they use is:

 “To _______ so that ____________.”

For me, the first part is easy. I’ve known my why since I was 6. It’s the last part that has taken me over 50 years to hone making it more impactful. Why 6 you ask? It’s my first recollection of knowing what I wanted to do with my life. As a 6-year-old, I had no voice in my family. I was the baby. I was the youngest of 4 children by a lot. My sisters are 13 and 9 years older than me and my brother is 12. My dad was 50 when he had me and my mom was 40. I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times, the OOPS baby. Well, that may be so, but my mom and I had a secret. I was the last chance she had to get it right and I helped her fulfill her destiny. My dad, on the other hand, was my hero. I didn’t really understand what a brilliant man he was until after he passed. As I have looked back on my life, I realize all the lessons he has taught me without me even knowing it. You see, my dad left school after the 8th grade and went to work picking cotton in the fields of Missouri. Growing up, we were rich poor. I say that as we didn’t know we were poor because we had everything we wanted. We lived in a nice house, had an in-ground swimming pool and a 2-acre garden that paid for the pool and other things. All this and my dad never had a single job that paid over $12,000 a year. But he never just had a single job, he was working all the time but always had time to play a game of catch or cards with me. He made things look effortlessly. So back to when I was 6, I was a shy, timid toe-headed blond.  But I was a looker for 6! My dad loaded up my wagon with vegetables and sent me through the neighborhood selling them. That was pure genius, all the housewives’ buying vegetables from a cute little boy. I made at least $50 every day. In fact, some of you know the story that I met my wife selling those vegetables. Her mom didn’t have change one day. She invited me in, and my wife was playing with her easy bake oven and made me a cake. It was love at first bite! But that is another story. My dad gave me confidence and allowed me to add value to the family. It was then I knew it was my destiny to carry on his legacy. I got to spend 45 years with him before he passed, and my adoration grew for him every day. He’s been gone 13 years now and people still talk about what a kind great man he was. His why was, “to bring joy to others so that his memory would last beyond his life. The sad thing is that was limited to the people that he knew. My challenge has then been how can I expand that reach to have a greater impact. So, my Why statement is to help other leaders become better leaders so that my and my father’s legacy can last for generations to come.

I was fortunate that I worked for General Motors for 27 years. In that span, I had 22 different assignments worked in 4 states was associated with 14 plants and 9 different headquarter departments. I still have co-workers today that said I was the best Controller they ever worked with because I balanced the right thing for the company and for the employees. I came to Frank Miller and got involved with the John Maxwell team. I then became involved in the YMCA, the RCU, Aaron Black and the UC Schools, Rolland Abraham and the Winchester Schools, the Eastern Indiana Work Development and then Katie Lash and the Eastern Indiana Schools. I have great influence and I say that not to brag. I am not involved with any of these organizations because I’m smart or the CEO of Frank Miller Lumber Company. It’s because I care and am willing to roll up my shirts sleeves and help any way that I can. That is my challenge for you. To make a difference, all we must do is show up and care. Together we can make that happen.

American Hardwoods: An Environmentally Friendly Resource

Written By: Bob Miller

Last month, I wrote about creating a healthy environment in your home for your family and pets by using products made from American Hardwoods. This month I will explain why these products come from one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly resources. 

Hardwood forests are prevalent in every state, in the U.S. mainland.  However, the eastern half of the U.S. grows the majority of hardwoods.  This region extends from Minnesota down to Texas, all the way over to Florida, up to Maine, and all states in between.     

The hardwood forests in the U.S. are very sustainable.  Sustainability occurs when there is an ecological balance when a resource is removed yet that resource is not being depleted for future generations.  Each year we have more growth in our forests than what is removed through timber harvests.  The American Hardwood Export Council has done an excellent job representing the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture’s data, by state.  Indiana is growing almost twice the volume than is harvested.   The U.S. is growing two and a half times more volume than is harvested.  Refer to to see this data.

Hardwood forests and the products manufactured from the hardwood trees are environmentally friendly.  Hardwood trees are constantly consuming carbon dioxide (CO2) to assist with the production of a glucose substance that trees use as food.  The tree will break the carbon dioxide compound down, utilizing the carbon molecule to produce the glucose substance, and emit the oxygen molecules into the atmosphere.  Carbon is a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts the environment; therefore, trees are essentially improving our world. 

Hardwood trees have a life cycle, and that life cycle is dependent on the tree species.  Typically, most tree species can live to be approximately 150 years old.  Disease (viruses and fungi), weather (lightning and wind), fire, or insect infestations will eventually take the life of the tree.  When a tree dies and begins decomposing in the forest, it will release the unused carbon back into the atmosphere, further contributing to negatively impacting our environment.  Forest management is the practice where timber, wildlife, and plant life are managed to maintain or improve the overall forest ecosystem.  When a tree is at the end of its life cycle, it will be harvested to open the canopy to get sunlight to the forest floor.  Tree saplings grow close to the forest floor and need sunlight to grow.  Sunlight gives saplings the opportunity to become bigger trees. 

The tree that was harvested in the prior example will also produce income to the landowner since it has value to the lumber industry.  The value in that tree will disappear once the tree falls and begins to decompose in the forest.  In addition, forest management creates jobs.  Jobs are created when the trees are manufactured into lumber, and when that lumber is utilized to manufacture furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and millwork.  In 2016, an economic impact study was completed that showed the economic output of the hardwood industry in Indiana was over $10 billion and that industry employed over 61,000 people.  Refer to to see this data.   

Let us circle back to the carbon stored in the tree, which is now in the lumber that was used to produce the furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and millwork.  That carbon will always be stored in those products while those products are in use.  Did you know 50% of the wood’s weight in the furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and millwork is the stored carbon? Be a part of positively impacting our environment by purchasing products made from American Hardwoods.

We have been blessed with a sustainable and environmentally friendly resource when it comes to the hardwood forests in the U.S.  Forest management will keep our forests healthy, reduce our carbon emissions, and improve the forest ecosystems.  The products manufactured from these trees are beautiful, resilient, environmentally friendly, and can be enjoyed for generations.     

Steve James headshot

Is Talent a Nemesis of Leadership?

An important lesson learned from President & CEO, Steve James

 Is talent a nemesis of leadership?  The answer is yes, or it could be.

Leadership is influencing others to be a better person than they were yesterday. It takes humility to be a great leader. Trying to advance others without a hidden agenda to better yourself is a desired leadership characteristic. Talent on the other hand, builds ego. Typically, you think of talent as either artistic or athletic, but talent also arises when you practice or gain enough hands-on experience. As I have told my team, I am going to write a book on how to become a CEO on mediocre talent. As I look back at my career, the times when I did not show humility and let my talent take over is when the team suffered.

A few months ago, we hired an individual that we had previously let go. I was angry and disappointed that I was not informed about the rehire. I immediately inserted a policy that required my approval prior to rehiring an employee.  This is an example of bad leadership. I let my talent get in the way of having a discussion with the team on what safeguards we needed to insert to protect fellow employees and the company. Inserting a policy that required my approval gave the team the impression that I didn’t trust them, which is far from the truth.

 Fortunately, I realized my mistake quickly. The team knows I trust them to make the correct decisions, however we are still dealing with some of the repercussions. As a leader, you always need to keep your talent in check. Uncontrolled, it can devastate your team. Luckily for me, my team rises above my talent and allows all of us to become better. Maybe one day I will write that book, I’m getting closer every day.

Creating a Healthy Environment for your Family

Written By: Bob Miller – Director of Strategic Planning (Photo Credit: Wendy Silverstein)

The pandemic has changed our lives dramatically.  More people are working at home in spare rooms functioning as office space, hybrid school models have turned dining rooms into classrooms, and for many, vacations are being spent grilling, chilling, and playing in the back yard.  All this at-home time has led to a home remodeling frenzy. 

And just like the rest of the world, my wife and I are looking to upgrade many of the rooms in our home – from the features and materials to the room’s functionality.  We have determined our number one priority is the health of our family – just how healthy and environmentally sound are the product choices we make?

Although cost is important, we will not sacrifice our health, or the health of the environment for a less expensive product. 

I am sure you are asking yourself; what products are unhealthy choices for my family, which also includes my pets?  First consider floor coverings.  Hardwood floors do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they do not trap allergens, or contain unwanted chemicals. Hardwoods are essentially organic! Other flooring options trap mold which enhances allergies, emit VOCs, and require harsh cleaning solutions to maintain.  It is important to do your own research on the many flooring options before making the purchase.  Do not limit your research – become knowledgeable about the adhesives used to install the product, as well as any underlayment/moisture barrier materials.  Choose low-VOC or no-VOC products for the health and well-being of your family!

As a family member of Frank Miller Lumber Company, I have grown-up surrounded by hardwood products in both my home and work environment.  I love the warmth and beauty of hardwoods in my home, and I enjoy the calming environment it creates in our offices.

I have found great information to help me with my healthy material choice selections on the internet and through various social media sources.  Visit  specifically ) to learn more about the benefits of using Real American Hardwood products. You can search Instagram and Facebook for #RealAmericanHardwood and #AmericanHardwoods to find many home remodeling ideas.  Your family will thank you and so will Mother Earth!

You can be confident knowing American hardwood products are one of the healthiest material choices for flooring, cabinetry, millwork, and furniture.  They are extremely easy to maintain and will last for generations.  Next month, I’ll explain why they are also one of the most environmentally friendly resources.

Kauffman Center for Performing Arts: Helzberg Hall

The Truth About Quartersawn Red Oak!

Quartersawn Red Oak has increasingly found its place as a premium hardwood choice for flooring, cabinetry, millwork and furniture. It is readily available and affordable.

The straight grain of quartersawn Red Oak will restrict its shrinkage to the thickness of the board as opposed to width.

Our forest has an abundant supply of Red Oak, which has a stronger growth trajectory than popular alternatives.

Medullary rays are shorter in Red Oak resulting in subtly figured “quartered” boards and “rift” boards that display straight grain with minimal flake.

This also minimizes warping and cupping. Its inherent qualities of stability, beauty, and durability places Red Oak in the company of other premium American hardwoods.

Why Forest Management is Important to the Environment.

Are you concerned about our climate? This is what Frank Miller Lumber is doing to ease your concerns.

Most people have heard trees are the best asset when it comes to protecting our environment from changes in the climate.  Climate change is often debated.  Some say we are not experiencing a change in our climate and that we are going through historical weather cycles we once experienced; others tend to say the opposite.  Regardless of your position on climate change, maintaining healthy forests is key to improving the world we live in.  Trees consume carbon dioxide to convert that compound into a food source for the tree.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.  As trees consume and convert this compound using the carbon to help create its food, the trees respire the oxygen molecules for us to breath. 

Trees have a life cycle. 

A life cycle is nothing more than the number of years something is expected to live, be present, or exist before it dies, decomposes, or breaks down.  Through forest management, we remove the trees that are close to the end of their life cycle.  These trees will be manufactured into lumber to produce furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and millwork.  Better yet, you remember the carbon in these trees.  This carbon will be stored in these products indefinitely as long as these products are in use.  If a tree falls over and decomposes in the forest, it will release the unused carbon that it once stored.  That carbon will go back into the atmosphere.       

Not only do trees help us by taking a greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and provide us with oxygen, but did you know trees are also a renewable resource?  A renewable resource is anything that can replenish itself.  So, when forest management is performed where trees are removed, new trees will grow from the stumps and root systems that remain in the forest.

Our nation has been truly blessed with some of the best forests in the world.  For these forests to be enjoyed on into the future and for us to have a better environment to live in, we must understand that forest management is essential in these forests.                           

Learn more about FSC-certified Hardwood.

Reasons Why You Should Consider Hardwood Flooring Exposed.

Since the dawn of time, humans have argued over a very pressing issue: hardwood or carpet flooring? The debate continues to this day – some will praise the comfort a carpet provides while others prefer the more polished look of hardwood floors. But we hold a firm belief that, no matter what, hardwood floors are the way to go. Below is a list of reasons why you should consider hardwood flooring exposed.

1. Hardwood floors are easier to clean and maintain.

Carpets are prone to holding dust, skin, and hair. To get rid of these stomach-churning particles, you’ll need to vacuum. If you want them eliminated almost entirely, professional carpet cleaning services might be necessary. Luckily, hardwood floors don’t hold on to these particles. A quick sweep or mop will do the trick to keep your floor clean. We also all know the dreaded feeling of spilling a drink on carpet – it’s nearly impossible to get rid of the whole stain unless you call in professional Carpet Cleaning Melbourne or any other place for that matter. With hardwood floors, just grab a paper towel or rag, and you’re good!

Hardwood Flooring Exposed.

2. Hardwood floors are more durable and longer lasting.

As long as your hardwood floor is properly maintained, it can last for decades. Even a dent in the floor can be alleviated easily with a minor repair. They can be refined and polished to keep fresh and clean. Hardwood floors also take much longer to go out of style – remember shag carpets? Yeah, we’d like to forget that, too.

3. Hardwood floors are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While carpeting is usually manufactured with synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester, hardwood floors come from nature’s greatest gift: trees. They are produced naturally and created using the most abundant renewable resource in the world. You also have the option to research how sustainable your hardwood flooring really is using industry standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council and other like-minded organizations.

4. Hardwood floors can help you save energy.

Since wood is a conductor, hardwood floors allow the heat to pass through and circulate in your home, unlike carpet which acts as a barrier for hot air. This means longer-lasting heat, and consequently, less work from your furnace, and most importantly, lower heating bills.

5. Hardwood floors simply look more stylish.

Hardwood flooring is becoming trendier as the years go on. There is a seemingly endless amount of wood types, colors, and designs you can choose from that can bring out your inner interior designer. Different stains and polishes can help make your floors even more unique. Plus, a rug can really tie a room together.

Let’s face it: carpets are losing their popularity. If you want to keep current, hardwood flooring is the most logical option. For environmentally-conscious folk, there is nothing better for a home than a nature-friendly material like hardwood. And for those who love interior design, there are more opportunities to use your creativity and imagination, enabling you to put together a perfectly styled home. If you are currently building or planning on building a home, definitely think about installing hardwood instead of carpet – maybe, soon enough, this debate will end for good.

Unusual Myths about the Lumber Industry.

When pondering over the current state of our environment, many people begin to envision a futuristic world consisting of chrome and steel. In this version of a future reality (often seen in post-apocalyptic films and TV shows), humanity has wiped out forests in their entirety. Land that was once full of life is now a desolate wasteland. Natural geography is vastly unrecognizable from what it was long ago. Construction and development needs are put above the ecosystem but now, it’s too late to go back and warn everyone of the dark path ahead. Learn more about the unusual myths about the lumber industry below. 

We understand it is not easy to be optimistic. But remain calm! In reality, the forests of the world, especially in the United States, have proven to remain sustainable and usable for the foreseeable future. Specifically, the lumber industry though seemingly contradictory has created clear initiatives to ensure that this haunting vision of a post-apocalyptic world won’t happen.

Still, many misconceptions remain. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest myths about forest management and the lumber industry’s impact on our environment. We hope that by the time you’ve finished reading, your perception of the future will change for the better.

Unusual Myths about the Lumber IndustryMyth: Cities and urban areas are taking over forests and trees

Fact: The volume of U.S. hardwoods has actually increased by more than 90 percent in the last half-century while forest acreage has increased by 18 percent. And despite a 165 percent growth in population since 1920, U.S. forest acreage has continued to remain stable.

Myth: The only easy way to obtain wood is through clear-cutting entire forests

Fact: The preferred method of harvesting hardwoods is in fact single-tree selection, as opposed to clear-cutting. With single-tree selection, trees are carefully selected for harvest, most of them aged to maturity. This careful removal of selected trees creates openings in the forest canopy, allowing more precipitation, nutrients and sunlight to reach the forest floor. Seedlings are then free to sprout and grow naturally. This results in a much more sustainable outcome than solely using the clear-cutting method.

Myth: Using steel, aluminum, and concrete for construction is better for the environment

Fact: Wood represents 47 percent of all raw materials used in the US, but the energy to produce wood products accounts for just 4 percent of the energy used to make all manufactured materials. In fact, using materials like steel, aluminum, and concrete require significantly more energy to produce, install and dispose of at the end of their natural life cycles as compared to American hardwoods.

Unusual Myths about the Lumber Industry

Myth: Wood may have been a great choice in the past, but we’re in the future now

Fact: Sometimes, the oldest way is the best way. To this day, wood proves to be the best material for construction. Of course, we don’t use the same old tricks anymore — modern wood manufacturing processes have become extraordinarily efficient. Virtually every part of the log is used as lumber or valuable by-products, while finished wood products are reusable, recyclable and biodegradable. Forest sustainability organizations now reach far and wide.

The Verdict

American hardwood harvesting is efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. We know it sounds contradictory, but it is the truth using lumber from America’s lively forests can actually help save the world as a whole.

Frank Miller Lumber is dedicated to this idea of sustainable forest management. Our FSC-certified lumber is used in many projects that meet LEED standards and we continue to run a “zero-waste facility” at our sawmill. Not only does our lumber come out beautiful, authentic, and durable, it also adds to our mission of sustainability.

Hopefully, this cleared up a few misconceptions about the lumber industry and the use of wood products. Next time you build a new home or simply buy a new desk for your study, remember: you could have a role in saving the environment.

For more information on sustainability initiatives within Frank Miller Lumber and the American hardwood industry, go to our Sustainability page.

Customer and Community Projects: User-submitted woodworking projects we feature on our social media!

Frank Miller Lumber social media followers who have been with us for the last year might have noticed some major changes in our activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are now more committed than ever to engaging more often with the community and Frank Miller Lumber customers across the nation and around the world. Something we did not expect to do was discover an extremely creative group of people who have a deep passion for woodworking.

Woodwork Wednesday was met with immediate popularity when we began the push for submissions earlier this year. We started by calling on our followers to send in their woodworking projects which, as of today, has given us a wide range of results: nightstands, bed frames, tables, chairs, and even a Star Wars lightsaber replica. Tapping into this woodworking community has also showed how important our lumber is for handmade furniture, decor, and passion projects, in addition to the large architectural projects for which we are known. It showed us that Frank Miller Lumber can be used from the smallest of projects (like a bunk bed set for grandchildren), to the largest, (like the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia).

All of us are amazed by the hard work our friends and customers from the Frank Miller Lumber community have put into these passion projects. It’s our goal to create an entire page on our website dedicated to all of the Woodwork Wednesday submissions and the stories behind each piece. For the remainder of this blog, we’d like to share some of our favorites so far.

The first Woodwork Wednesday submission we received blew us away and exceeded all expectations. Matt Carter from our own Union City, IN, created this unbelievable replica of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber using our retail store’s cherry hardwood. (See image above).

Bernie Spencer sent us a red oak constructed round etagere perfect for displaying decorations in any setting ― made with Frank Miller Lumber hardwood.



Ralph Walker from Columbus, Ohio, was featured for his folding chairs made with Frank Miller Lumber’s quartersawn white oak. Ralph built 16 of these at the time of this submission, with a plan to build 14 more. Not only were the chairs remarkable, but the photos looked equally spectacular!



One of the more endearing feats of construction that we showcased were Keith Mealy’s bunk beds built for his twin granddaughters, which could also be unbunked and used as single beds!



These are just a few examples we have showcased over the course of the last few months, which you can see through our weekly social media posts. It has been an inspirational experience seeing how much Frank Miller Lumber impacts the community with our wood in home projects,  and woodworking businesses.

Please send us your work via a Facebook message or our email ( We love hearing the stories behind some of them, so remember to include a quick description of the piece along with where the lumber was bought (which we hope is from Frank Miller Lumber!). Stay tuned in the coming months for a new web page including all past, present, and future submissions ― your work could be showcased and archived on the official Frank Miller Lumber website!

Keep on woodworking ― you continue to amaze us.


quartersawn walnut - frank miller lumber

The Truth about Specifying Quartersawn Walnut

While working with a well-known designer in New York I asked him to define the mission of a designer. He said that it is threefold:

  1. Create a design
  2. Convey the design to the client
  3. Make it deliverable

As an architectural consultant, I can help to make the job deliverable if it involves American hardwood, especially quartersawn American hardwoods. In trying to sync the specification with the realities of the resource, this first conversation can sometimes be disappointing. The specification looks so good on paper and in many cases the client has virtually unlimited funds, so how can it be that the spec isn’t deliverable? The fact is some hardwood specs are unattainable because of nature.

Riva 2910 boss basic quartersawn walnut table
Boss Basic table made with Quartersawn Walnut | Riva 1920

Every tree is different and the client’s desire to see all the hardwood in their project looking exactly the same is often impossible. That disappointing first conversation, however, is free of acrimony or litigation. If a promise is made to supply that unrealistic specification and it doesn’t happen, acrimony and litigation are certain to follow. With that in mind, let me share with you the story of a specification of quartersawn walnut.

We recently turned down the opportunity to quote on a quartersawn walnut project for a hotel; the spec included FSC certification. Frank Miller Lumber is the largest FSC-certified quartersawn hardwood lumber sawmill in the world. There are only a handful of similarly-sized quartersawn hardwood sawmills in the United States. We currently hold the nation’s largest inventory of FSC-certified quartersawn white and red oak lumber. We occasionally produce some FSC-certified cherry and walnut as well. However, our ability to produce FSC-certified lumber is limited to the availability of FSC-certified logs.

The number of FSC-certified timber producers is steadily declining in the United States. FSC level sustainability standards are no longer being met, but because the cost of certification and its connected paperwork can make FSC certification a bit daunting to some timber producers, despite its merits. Since walnut represents 1% of the American hardwood resource, the chance of coming across FSC-certified walnut logs is extremely remote.

We had to turn down the opportunity to provide a quote on the hotel project. I wouldn’t quote FSC-certified quartersawn walnut for a small residence and there is certainly no way to quote enough to handle a hotel.

Another unrelated project recently was 30,000 square feet of quartersawn walnut flooring for the executive offices of a well-known firm I can’t name. This wasn’t FSC-certified, but the sheer volume of the project disqualified it out of the gate. Adding to the impossibility of the specification was the walnut flooring couldn’t exhibit any “natural characteristics.” That is the sort of specification that leads only to disappointment.

The advice I offer to everyone who is pondering the use of quartersawn walnut: Check your specs and expectations with mill representatives before you make promises that will go unfulfilled. Client conversations regarding broken promises are not just disappointing, but often acrimonious and litigious.