Interview with Doug Kehler

Finishing Department Manager
Timber Purchases + Logistics

Get to know our Cornerstone Team!

Today, we are happy to share a candid interview with Doug Kehler, who is the Finishing Department Manager, Timber Purchaser, and Logistics expert at Cornerstone Timberframes. Doug has been an integral part of our team since 2018, and we cannot wait to introduce you to one of the important people responsible for our successful projects. 

We hope you enjoy reading this interview and getting to know more about our team and their passion for their work.

What is your role at Cornerstone?

I was hired to manage the Finishing Department in 2018, but recently I have added the job of purchasing timber, tongue and groove boards, fasteners and organizing the shipping and receiving for the company.

The day-to-day work inside our Finishing Department is now taken care of by Agnes.  She sees that the right finish gets applied and takes care of how that happens. I manage the workflow of jobs coming into the shop and make sure that Agnes has all the information she needs and support for HR issues.

What did you do before coming to work for Cornerstone?

I worked for 17 years in concrete forming, getting ICF walls set up for pouring.  Most of that time I worked as a trade for a general contractor, but also worked as a GC myself and spent a couple years running a company with my brother-in-law.

Tell us a little about your early years.  Did you grow up in this area?

Our family ran a small beef farm a few miles south of Steinbach, near a place called Friedensfeld.  In high school I enjoyed the shop program and especially enjoyed carpentry and construction.  My Dad encouraged me by purchasing lumber and letting me build sheds and shelters and other stuff on the farm.

Coming out of high school, I worked at the ice rink in Mitchell for a couple years. The rink is the social center for Mitchell. I made strong connections with people there and got to know the Peters family well.  They were big into hockey.  My youngest sister was good friends with Tanya (Peters) Bachmeier, having gotten to know each other through ringette.  Nevin Bachmeier was always around the rink too, with his brothers playing a lot of hockey.

You’ve got a close connection to Haiti, and it has a big place in your life. Why is that?

In 2017 a friend of our family went down to Haiti to start a foster home, because there were lots of kids on the streets without parents or anyone to care for them.  A bunch of us went down to help them get set up.  I spent a couple weeks building furniture and doing repairs.  Seeing the situation there, first-hand, was eye-opening.  We adopted a boy and a girl, and it took a while for them to get here.  She’s 14 years old and doing great.  Like a typical girl her age, her friends mean everything to her.  Our boy is 17 and he impresses us, more mature and wiser than his age, and making good choices.

What are some of the challenges you face in your work?

People: finishing work is demanding and you’re doing a lot of the same thing, but you need to keep on top of it, maintaining a high standard.  Not everyone is up for that.

The other challenge is the size of the jobs we’re doing, the overall project size as well as the individual pieces, both keep getting bigger.  When our finishing shop was built in 2018, it seemed large, but we now need more space.  Case in point – we currently have a job with pieces so big and heavy they can’t be handled in the finishing shop. We’re working on them in the Production Shop, which is kind of bunging up their workflow. Instead of handheld sanders, we’re using floor sanders!  The pieces are wider and longer than a lane in a bowling alley!

What surprises you most about what you do now, and what you’ve learned in your job?

When I think about what I did before, construction and concrete forming, and what I do now, working with colours, that’s kind of amazing.  Like a lot of guys, my wife would let me know that sometimes my clothing choices were hard on the eyes, “So, you’re wearing those two together!?”  And now, customers come in with a colour they want matched, and I’m telling them, so that’s a warm brown colour and to get that on douglas fir, which has a red undertone, we’ll need to pull in some green…”  For an old construction hand, that’s probably been my biggest learning curve. Go figure how that ever happened!

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

With all the big jobs my focus is going to be maintaining and improving workflow. 

On the shop front, there’s been talk of adding more space, but that’s a big item so we’ll see what happens there.  One thing that is helping extend the use of our current space, is the new sander that got added to the production shop this past winter. It’s reduced our sanding time by 60%, so that means we can get more through our shop in less time.  That helps, though eventually, on this growth curve, we’ll need more space.

A lot is about doing whatever is needed in the moment.  I’ve owned my own company for 15 years, so I learned to roll with the punches.  It may not look like there’s enough time, but jumping on a truck to make a delivery, if that’s what the company needs, you do it.  There’s always fires to put out, and you just take them on, starting with the biggest and doing your best to get to all of them.

Thank you Doug for the work that you do! We are so pleased to have you on our team.