Johnny Miller – Owner of OakBridge Timber Framing

[quote style=”boxed”]I believe the key to motivation is purpose. God put us here for a reason. We’re here to accomplish a higher purpose.[/quote]

Johnny Miller, the owner of OakBridge Timber Framing, has been timber framing since his late teens. He grew up in an Amish community, where the pace of life was slow and the main occupation was farming.

There’s an inherent simplicity with a timber frame – the basic principle is to use an all-wood frame as the skeleton, support and beauty of the house. The entire team at OakBridge Timber Framing has been timber framers their whole lives – it’s quite literally a part of their culture. The Howard, OH company is a family-run Amish business – they all grew up raising frames, and have a focused passion for what they do that creates unrivaled quality. Centuries ago, Amish communities embraced timber framing and timber frame living as a defining example of their values: community (a way to work together), lasting quality (a home or structure that generations to come can enjoy), and of course, a calming simplicity.

Three generations of family work side by side at OakBridge, where they handcraft all of their timbers, using wood joinery; primarily Oak and Douglas Fir– both species known for their strength. Each frame is unique to client’s specifications and is a true wooden sculpture composed of large beams that lock together with wooden pegs to form the visible interior beams. This results in a frame that is structurally stronger than conventional platform construction, and actually uses considerably less material. And, since wood is carbon neutral – and a renewable resource – its impact on the environment (and on you) is exponentially better than man-made materials.

The Ohio based company was founded by Johnny Miller has 26 years ago, and has built homes in 23 states. Their highly custom designs start with a site survey. The hand crafted timber frame is erected by the company’s own craftsmen. “We treat each home we build as if it were going to be our own,” says Johnny Miller. “To us, timber framing is an art – it’s not about how quickly you get it done, it’s about how well you get it done.”

What are you working on right now?

We are working on a number of great projects at the moment. Some are weekend homes and others are permanent dwellings, all in different stages, currently. Some are in the early design stage, others are waiting to be assembled and erected like a puzzle. These homes are in several states, including Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Five years ago, we were mostly doing out of state business, but now we have really expanded within our own home state.

Where did you get the idea to start OakBridge Timber Framing?

When I was in my mid-teens, I worked for a timber frame company. While I enjoyed working on the family farm, I really loved timber framing. So, along with a partner, whom I eventually bought out, we founded OakBridge Timber Framing in 1986. By 1988, we renovated and rented my father’s 32’ x 200’ poultry barn. This served us well until 1997, when we moved into our new facility.

Today, I work with my father, two sons, one daughter, two brothers, a nephew and niece, and a cousin. It’s such a privilege to have three generations working side by side. There’s so much wisdom that can channel down (or up) by working together. I have a lot of appreciation for the out of the ordinary craftsmanship comes from my father, who is 74 and enjoys coming to work every day. His motto has always been, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”, and I agree completely. To know that the structures we build with our own hands are the places that people call home – where they raise their families and visit with loved ones – it’s one of the best feelings.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t know if I have a typical day! Because of the small size of company we have, I wear a number of hats. I enjoy working in my home office, where I can be found more than anywhere else. Staff and potential client meetings are frequent. And I’m fortunate to be regularly involved in everyone’s favorite part, the frame raisings!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Besides our regular office staff meetings, we have an early morning brain-storming meeting every other month with the whole team. We talk about projects and brainstorm about ideas. These meetings are very productive, usually filled with some good laughs, too. What comes out of these 3-4 hour long meetings is priceless to our company.

What’s one leadership trend that really excites you?

Leadership. I get really excited about reading books on leadership or taking courses or seminars. John Maxwell has some great stuff.

What’s the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

You know how it is when you first start out a business… you have to sell mainly on price, until you get a little established. That’s the time you can get hooked up on a pretty undesirable project. That’s when you learn to get a niche and do it better than anyone else. It’s much more fun to sell a great product or service for a fair price than to sell something cheap.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Make more goals and celebrate them.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over, and recommend everyone else to do?

Consult with others outside of your company. This is a big one. If you don’t have one or several people you can tap into for wisdom, you’re missing a lot. It can be a group of entrepreneurs that meet regularly for breakfast, or one-on-one availability when you need it. It’s wonderful to get great ideas from others, but it’s also a great fulfillment when you have an idea that may be priceless for someone else.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Growing too fast.

Be upfront with your client. Tell them your situation, which may have affected services and schedules. In one of our growing spurts, one of our wonderful clients offered some coaching from his past growing pains experience. We all love it when people are honest and upfront. People love to help, if we can humbly admit the whole truth.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

To grow your business, you need to grow your people.

To improve, we need to improve as individuals. An organization is only as strong as the individuals in it. At OakBridge, employee development is a part of our business plan. Employees are also responsible to each other to build each other. We have a poster in each office and woodshop that says, “Each team member is responsible to one another for maintaining an upbeat and positive attitude.”

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be, and how would you go about it?

That everyone would accept Christ ad their personal savior. He’s the source of hope for now and the future. I’m not talking about just having Him for religion, but as a close friend who follows you to work all week. He created us and wants the best for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope for a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Tell us a secret.

I probably eat less than your average guy. But when it comes to my wife’s homemade coffee ice cream, made with real Ohio maple syrup, instead of toxic refined sugar, I would probably surprise you. It’s hard to know when to stop! My doctor doesn’t need to know it. It’s a secret.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

The Butterfly Effect. We fail to remember how one person can affect so many people. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man.”

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

The team got together two days this week, to raise a frame. We typically have some pretty hard laughs then… it can get pretty interesting when family works together.

Who is your hero?

My father. He has probably had the greatest impact on my life of anyone else, especially on the spiritual side.

Also, John Maxwell, who has tremendous leadership insight. And Bruce Wilkinson who wrote many great books, including the NYTimes best seller, Prayer of Jabez.

How many hours do you work in a week?

Between 40 and 50. We’ve taught our children to work hard and play hard, so you’ve got to take time to have fun.

How do you stay motivated?

That’s an interesting one. I believe the key to motivation is purpose. God put us here for a reason. We’re here to accomplish a higher purpose. It’s exciting to be needed. What’s more de-motivating than feeling like a good-for-nothing, here to accomplish nothing? What are your God-given talents? What are you passionate about? Observe, pray, and enjoy life. Find your purpose (I recommend reading The Purpose Driven Life, but Rick Warren). Knowing my purpose keeps me motivated.


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