Not every successful lumber person’s tool of the trade is the saw. For some, it’s the phone.
Dave Bitso of Reeb is a master craftsman with his.
“Most of my career I was on the road. I knew where every payphone was – especially the phones you could drive up to with your car,” he recalls. “I sometimes waited 20 to 30 minutes for my turn and then was on the phone for an hour or two.”
In time, he was able to make the salesperson’s equivalent of the upgrade from a hand saw to a power tool.
“I was one of the lucky ones to have a car phone when they first came out,” he says. “It was 75 cents a minute and it was not unusual for the bill to be over $1,200 a month.”
Of course, the phone wasn’t the first tool Dave picked up. “I came out of school swinging a hammer,” he notes. He started his own contracting company, doing additions and remodeling, but he hadn’t truly found his calling in the industry yet. “After five years I realized that the winters were too cold and the summers too hot.”
He spent a couple of years in a lumber yard in Milford before finding a job in millwork distribution. He was with BROSCO for 24 years as a territory manager, then joined REEB, where he’s been for the past 16. “I feel very fortunate to have worked for two of the most respected companies in our industry,” he says.
Dave has certainly found his place. “I love my job and enjoy what I do,” he says. For him, it beats an office job, providing him with the opportunity to stay on the move, seeing and talking to different people. He relishes the chance to put his skills to work even in everyday interactions. “Getting the grumpy cashier at a grocery store to smile makes my day,” he says.
He’s still working on upgrading the tools, though. “My biggest challenge in the last 15 years or so has been keeping up with technology,” he notes. “Just when I have it figured out, it changes. I often joke that I still have a box of carbon paper in my desk drawer at home.”
When he’s not selling, Dave is serving. He joined the LDAC board in 2003 and served two separate terms as president. Still, he’s sometimes surprised by the leadership role he’s grown into.
“When I received a call from Bruce Charleston (NRLA chairman) from Arnold Lumber asking me if I would consider a term on the executive committee, I asked him “if he dialed the wrong number. I’m a sales guy, not an owner or top management,” Dave laughs. Bruce then said, “that he dialed the correct number.” It was truly an honor.”
Outside of work, Dave is dedicated to his family, his hobbies and community service. He and his wife Barbara have been married for 36 years and they have two adult sons. They have a camp in northern Connecticut where they enjoy time with family. Dave has been active in his community, coaching youth basketball, baseball, soccer, being a member of the Great Hill Fire Department, and serving on local boards for planning and zoning, finance, and police commissioner.
For others who may be looking for a path on the sales side of the industry, Dave advises, “Do what you say you are going to do. Follow through and get back to your customers. Problems do not go away. Take a problem and turn it into a sales opportunity.”