Earning My Place In My Dad’s Business

Shane Hoefer

Written By Shane Hoefer

On March 8, 2021

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My father, Dennis Hoefer, started Rocky Mountain Forest Products (RMFP) in 1974 as a fence installation company that later evolved into a building materials supplier. It wasn’t until around the early 90’s when I started to help out my dad by cleaning offices on the weekend to earn some extra cash.  At that time, I was just focused on the job at hand, and I didn’t really contemplate the possibility of moving up the ranks and one day being  the CEO.


Earning my place in a rigid industry was quite the journey filled with hardships, learning, and endless growth. There’s a certain stereotype to the owner’s children. Many of the existing employees at RMFP initially thought I would be entitled and not knowledgeable on how the business operated. And in a sense, they had every right to think that. I was completely naïve to the fact that others at the company treated me differently because of who my father was. Once I started to hear talk of people speaking poorly behind my back, it was really a rude awakening. 


One of the guys I worked with, in particular, was so nice to my face and taught me things like rock climbing outside of work. I honestly thought we were really close friends. Then I started to hear through the grapevine that he was also one of those individuals who would say snide remarks behind my back along the lines of “Shane’s only here because he’s the boss’ son.” It really hurt me. I still question to this day whether we were ever really friends or if he was just sucking up to my father. Because of this and the few other comments saying mean and stereotypical things of others, I became really introverted and didn’t put myself out there as much when I was at work. Luckily, I was able to overcome this and started to truly have a voice within the company.


It was never my intention to come across as entitled. I mean, I started at RMFP cleaning offices… I didn’t expect to just jump straight to the top of the ranks because of who my dad was. I didn’t understand that there was a certain level of expectation because of who I was related to. It was an eye-opening experience for me to be treated differently and I now understand the frustration and first impressions that many may have had with me. 


I’ll admit, at times I really was stupid and didn’t make the best decisions. I was young and naïve when I first started my career at RMFP, no one has it completely figured out at that age. In high school, my passion was music. I was in a bunch of bands and would sell show tickets and CDs to people at work. Sometimes they bought things, sometimes not. I’m not sure if they bought my music because they actually wanted it or just felt obligated to because I was the son of the boss. Looking back on things, I have no idea if people were treating me with respect because of my dad or if they actually liked me. It was a really tough spot to be in. 


Music was one aspect to me, and the other was being a salesman. Personally, I think I was pretty good at sales. Afterall, I had the best of the best when it came to a mentor. My dad liked to move me around throughout the company a lot. I’ve held more positions at RMFP than anyone. This was deliberate so that I could eventually lead the company one day. Many of the employees at the time, though, thought it was because I couldn’t do any job well enough to keep it. I don’t know if that was the perception overall or just a select few individuals. Either way, I think I ended up okay when all was said and done.


When I feel people finally started to truly appreciate what I was bringing to the table was when the Tabor location for RMFP was opened in the late 2000s. After the recession, the company was in a tough position. At the time, the Tabor location was used as a distribution yard for extra materials and custom orders. The recession set us back on payments for the Tabor location’s rent and we needed to find a way to make an extra $10,000 a month in profit. This was around the time when the internet was booming, so I came up with the idea to list extra materials on Craigslist. Within a couple months, we were making an additional $20 to $30 thousand a month in profit. 


We were making so much money on Craigslist we had to hire additional guys to come on and take it over for us. This is around the time when Darren West started. Fast forward to today, Darren is now our COO at RMFP. Darren and I created the first division that used things like Salesforce and a CRM. We tracked things more closely digitally and used the internet for marketing (quite revolutionary for our time). We were doing all of this while everyone else was still relying on the Yellow Pages to get their information. 


Once the rest of the company started to see our success, it garnered massive respect and people finally started to give me the credit I deserved. This was all happening while my dad was still at the helm of the RMFP ship. So although I had finally moved up and gotten respect from the rest of the guys, I was still in a middleman position between the employees and my dad. He was a busy man leading many divisions, so I was often tasked with asking him to change certain things to appease people. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t. People continued to respect me when I could get things to go their way, but certain skepticism still existed for the times that I couldn’t. I learned early on that in order for people to trust me, I had to do what I said I was going to do. 


By the time I had gotten to a higher level of leadership and gained respect, most of the employees had been hired after me and didn’t hold those same stereotypes that many who had come before them have had. Marc Mitchell, one of our current Branch/Sales Managers at RMFP, was probably one of the hardest to win over. This was largely because he was there before I was and has experienced the highs and lows of RMFP with my father,  Dennis, in charge- and now, the highs and lows of me being in charge. I quickly realized that the best way to earn trust, especially from the seasoned employees, was to listen to what they needed and make it happen. 


Because of my experience earning my place in my dad’s business, my ethos to this day is to tell the truth and do what you say you’re going to do. It wasn’t an easy journey to get me to where I am right now, but I’m forever grateful for the lessons it taught me and skills that it brought along the way. I wouldn’t be half the leader I am today if it weren’t for my dad’s guidance, learning from naïve mistakes, and evolving the company in a way that made sense for me and earned me the trust and respect of those around me. We’re only just getting started here, and I couldn’t be more excited to lead the way for this next generation of RMFP.