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Sprouse, Lail get top honors from center

W.C. Sprouse and his team at Cumberland Building Supply recently received the prestigious Longwood Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Small Business of the Year Award, while Ernest R. “Randy” Lail, of Kenbridge, was honored as 2016 Small Business Advocate of the Year.

The awards were handed out during the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce’s December meeting. Sheri McGuire, executive director of the Longwood SBDC, presented the awards.

“I was pretty proud of it,” Sprouse said of receiving the award. “Not only for me, but mainly our employees. We have such a good crew here. They all do a great job. … One thing about our business is most of our customers are almost like business partners. They’re repeat customers, building all the time.”

According to an SBDC press release, Sprouse has been with Cumberland Building Supply since 1984, about a decade after the business first opened and several years after his father William “Pete” Sprouse assumed ownership of the store.

“During a 20-plus year construction surge, the business increased its workforce from four to 25 employees, reaching $13.6 million in sales,” noted the release. “As the company grew, Sprouse realized that his own strengths lay in customer relations and securing talented workers. He prioritized rewarding his employees and routinely shared company profits in addition to covering healthcare premiums.”

SBDC officials said the recession of 2008 and the challenges of the subsequent downturn in construction meant that Sprouse had to undertake the uncomfortable task of rightsizing the business to meet the market conditions.

“The process involved pay cuts and reductions in staffing, but his employees, some of which had been with Cumberland Building Supply for over 25 years, were willing to make sacrifices for the company’s survival.”

“The secret of our success first and foremost is finding quality employees and treating them right,” Sprouse said in the release. “Everything else is secondary.”

“In 2008 we took a pretty big hit,” Sprouse said in a separate interview. “A lot of guys like me aren’t here anymore. At least we survived it and we do OK.”

Sprouse said he has always been “very conservative as far as business.”

“We have grown the capacity of the business with sheds and buildings,” Sprouse said.

“Longwood SBDC is proud to honor the family and business for their staying power, growth and contributions to the community,” said McGuire.

Lail’s distinction recognizes an outstanding individual from the southern Virginia service region for their remarkable support of the SBDC’s mission, according to the release.

“The selection of Lail was an easy one because his service encompassed multiple roles,” McGuire said.

Lail, a former CPA and CFO, worked with the SBDC to improve outreach programs, to offer mentoring to businesses in need and to help design and deliver a new peer-to-peer program connecting existing small businesses that can learn and grow together, according to the release.

“In addition to his contributions through the SBDC, Lail also serves on boards for Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, Virginia Growth and Opportunity Regional Council and Benchmark Community Bank, all of which support economic growth broadly in the area.”

“Lail has given selflessly of his time and expertise to help ensure that southern Virginia maintains an economic landscape where small businesses thrive,” McGuire said. “We are proud to honor him as the advocate he has proven to be over the past years.”

Longwood’s SBDC has numerous offices across the state.