Faces of the Industry: Erik Sterling & Scott Kauffman


Faces of the Industry: Erik Sterling & Scott Kauffman

“When people say, ‘this roof doesn’t work,’ that’s
what we love to hear. Because we can make it work.
We like to truss the untrussable.”

What do you do at Sam Yoder & Son?

Erik has been working his way up through a variety of roles at the company, and now he’s focused on production management. “I run the schedule and keep things flowing as best I can.” For him, it’s a good change from design work. “I like the fast pace, and I like the people I work with,” he says. Scott initially started in estimating and now is doing final work and plan reviewing. He is also the IT manager and is working towards his engineering license.

Pictured above: Erik and Scott had a good first BCMC experience: they took home $50 each, courtesy of Lakeside Trailer, for winning the closing celebration bean bag tournament.

How did you get into this industry?

Both Scott and Erik went from high school to the truss industry – between them, they have over 30 years of experience. “I had some experience in CAD,” Scott says, and Sam Yoder & Son was “looking for a truss designer.” Scott had done some framing during summers and for a year after high school, but “really, that was the only experience I had with trusses.” At graduation, Erik had already spent a few summers working for Sam Yoder & Son, so the switch to full time work was convenient. “It was right near where I lived, and both my brothers were working here,” he says.

Was this your long-term career plan?

“I didn’t really have any plans at all,” Erik confesses. “I was just kind of working until I figured out.” Both say they wouldn’t mind dealing with fewer customer-requested revisions on a day-to-day basis but overall are happy with their careers. “When I first got into it, I thought all trusses were the same and most jobs were repeats,” Scott says. “It’s not like that.” Instead, every day is a new challenge and every project is different. “When people say, ‘this roof doesn’t work,’ that’s what we love to hear, because we can make it work. We like to truss the untrussable.”

This was your first BCMC—what did you think?

“I thought it was really good,” Erik says. “It was interesting to hear from other companies and see how they do things. It makes you look at how you do things.” Seeing their peers’ perspectives, Scott and Erik say, helped them consider whether they have the best approach for their situation. “It created a lot of dialogue that we needed,” Scott reflects. “I think sometimes we get into a rut of doing the same thing over and over again.” That doesn’t mean that every new idea is a good one, Erik points out. While some concepts were interesting, some suggestions left him thinking, “That might not work for us.” Scott says he “wasn’t sure what to expect,” from his first SBCA event, but he left with a positive impression. “The roundtables were informative and the exhibits were great. The conversations, the sharing of problems,” he says, gave him lots to discuss and weigh out back at the plant.  

What challenges are around the corner for the component industry?

“Getting and keeping good help,” Erik says. “We have fewer employees, so we have to try to find ways to be more efficient,” in order to keep the business growing. “Continuing to educate everyone,” Scott adds. “From the architects and engineers who specify trusses on their plans, to the builders and framers working with them in the field,” everyone needs to be kept up to date on the changing standards of the industry.

When you're not thinking about trusses, what keeps you busy?

“My family,” says Scott. “I like hunting and golf,” he adds, but it’s always “my wife and two children first.” “I do enjoy playing golf a lot,” says Erik. “Anything sports related, I enjoy,” but the time with family is a priority. “We do a lot of stuff together,” Erik says, including lunch. His commute is short enough that most days he can have lunch with his wife and one year old. “He’s a lot of fun, for sure.”