Spotlight: Kayle Sickler of Settlement Post & Beam

Settlement Post & Beam Family

The Sicklers

Kayle Sickler is co-owner (along with his father, Greg Sickler) of Settlement Post & Beam, located in Sylvania, Pennsylvania. We asked Kayle how the company originated, and he told us this:  “My father, Greg Sickler, started timber framing over 30 years ago as a cutter in a large shop.  After 10 years of working for someone else, he decided it was time to set out on his own in 1996.  From an early age I remember following him around our 30x50 pole barn shop trying to figure out just what it was that he did for a living. Not until I was partway through a Business degree at Penn State did I realize what an attractive existence he had carved out for himself in the world of timber framing. After graduating, I worked in logistics for a few years in Pittsburgh before my parents and I dreamed up our vision of a father/son Settlement Post & Beam.”

Settlement Post & Beam Interior

Kayle described for us the dynamic of a family business,  and how the relationship shapes business interactions,  in one word: Team. He says,  “We are a team in every sense of the word. We have very different personalities, but very similar values and vision as craftsmen. My dad is a lover of organization and structure, which translates well for the logistical aspects of our jobs. I have a less structured, creative approach, which allows for thinking outside the box when problem solving and designing. This juxtaposition of roles allows us to successfully take on just about any timber structure we can dream up. My mom, Connie is the other member of our team. She is usually the initial contact person for our customers. Having been in the business over half of her life she is well versed on the ins and outs of timber framing as well as the products often paired with our frames (SIP’s, finishes, etc.). She is also knowledgeable about the over-all building process, which is helpful to new customers who are often unfamiliar with the steps involved (from dealing with banks to choosing lighting). As far as our family relationship affecting our business interactions; let me answer it like this. We have a tremendous amount of respect for one another, because of that respect we try to approach business interactions with level heads and compassion. We all have a bad day now and then and it’s on those days that we pick up the slack for each other, which is what a team is supposed to do. “

Settlement Post & Beam Exterior

Settlement Post & Beam is committed to working completely with hand cut timbers,  and to sustainability. We asked Kayle how those priorities shape the running of the shop. He told us: “When my dad started Settlement Post & Beam, he was leaving a shop that traded 8-10 extremely talented craftsmen for a Hundegger. He saw this (concentrating on hand cut timbers) as an opportunity to carry on the craft in a world that was all too eager to swap years of tradition for the ability to mass produce. Today, we work in a shop where the most advanced piece of equipment you’ll find is a handheld Mafell bandsaw for archwork.  We truly enjoy the artistry involved in working with our hands and shaping each piece of our frames. As far as sustainability goes, it only makes sense. We strive to produce a good enough product that we don’t have to worry about shaving costs by compromising our core values. We produce a high quality product, from high quality material, for a price that’s fair to the customer.”

We asked Kayle to relate to us some of the company’s proudest accomplishments. He replied: “This is a tough question. Of course, our first completed frame as a team was a big one. It was a near exact replica of our model frame in Sylvania, PA, a small 28’x38’ story and a half with 2/3 loft and double hammer beams spanning the great room, a modest yet refined little frame that fit like a glove. In general, we are extremely excited about any frame we can be a part of. That being said, we get a bit more excited about frames that will be lived in fulltime and frames that serve the community. A few years ago we did an events space for “The Tanglewood Nature Center”, which was a source of pride for all of us. It is located in Elmira, NY serving the surrounding area by offering free educational opportunities for the community, including youth programs,  and maintains wildlife sanctuary space as well as hiking trails. To be honest some of our simplest and least adorned frames have provided the most fulfillment. Another reason this profession is fulfilling has to do with the relationships we’ve built with our customers. We are typically a part of the early building stages for the customer, helping them to take the first few steps of creating a home they’ve been dreaming about. It’s funny to talk about because it seems so natural, but all of us all hold the customer experience paramount.  When a project is over and the family invites us back to photograph their beautiful home, or recommends us to friends, or invites us to BBQs, that is when I can really see the achievement.”

Tanglewood Nature Center

Tanglewood Nature Center

Then we asked Kayle what had been their most challenging time in the business. He replied: “This one is no-doubter, and I’m fairly certain my dad would agree. In 2014, my wonderful wife, Delanie, and I decided to spend 2 years of our lives designing and building our own home in beautiful upstate NY. With an extremely packed Settlement Post & Beam schedule, we spent nights and weekends pouring ICF foundations, cutting timber, installing SIP panels,building decks, running wire, plumbing an open floor plan, etc. During this time my sister and brother in law also broke ground on a new home which my dad was devoting a lot of free time to. As you can imagine working all day on other people’s homes, then returning to a half finished house to work some more took its toll. Now that these projects are finished up, we are in the process of pouring time and resources into a larger shop and assembly space for our growing business. “

Settlement Post & Beam frame

Kayle describes the approach Settlement Post & Beam uses to ease the process for their customers: “Building a timber frame, as with building any new structure, has its challenges. Recently, the biggest challenge our customers have faced is lining up reputable general contractors. There are fewer residential contractors now than ever before, and the best ones stay busy. Because of the large geographic area we serve, it’s really not feasible for us to fix the problem by offering turn-key construction. To combat this problem, we keep strong connections with GC’s who have served past customers well and facilitate relationships between those contractors and our new customers. Although this is a good practice, it doesn’t address the far-reaching problem of a lack of young people viewing the trades as a viable career path. It’s unrealistic to think that a 4-year college education is the best fit for everyone in all geographic areas of our country. We believe it’s our job as tradesmen to articulate the opportunities a career in the trades can offer. With a strong work ethic, good networking and the ability to use a computer, a young tradesman could have their own business in a matter of a few short years. We need to fill the generational void in the construction industry by working together and shining a light on the opportunities available.“ Kayle describes the ways he sees that Settlement Post & Beam excels in their field: “What really sets us apart is our team and the value we provide our customers. I could talk for hours about our physical product, but the reason people continually choose us over the competition almost always comes down to the relationships we build with them and the shared vision we can help them realize.I know there are many reputable outfits in the timber framing world, but there comes a point where the players in the industry are on such equal footing that the biggest distinguishing factor comes down to motivations and relationships. Our motivation is simple; we want to deliver the best possible experience at the best possible value. This equation makes for happy customers and oftentimes friends for life.”

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