Story from an Anonymous Metal Building Supplier in the South East

by Anonymous

I spent nearly a decade in the metal building business in the Southeast US selling all types of pre-engineered (PEB) buildings - garages, agricultural buildings, industrial buildings, hay barns, commercial buildings, church buildings, storage buildings, livestock sheds, RV storage buildings, mini-storage complexes - you name it, we did it.

Our company rolled our own metal siding and roofing and had a shop capacity to manufacture pre-engineered buildings up to about 60’ wide. Obviously, many of our projects required larger frames than we could manufacture in-house, so we had working relationships with some of the largest metal building manufacturers to accommodate our needs. We acted as a broker/dealer for these manufacturers and usually “private-labeled” our buildings - they had our company name on them instead of the large manufacturer’s name. The process was pretty simple. When we had a project that we couldn’t build in-house, we worked with reps from these large companies to specify what we needed and they handled pricing the building and providing estimates for lead times. We usually got at least 3 quotes for any job we had to buy out. The quotes typically went to their engineering department, then back to the reps for pricing. We got most of our pricing in about 2 days. Most of the time the pricing was similar between the big companies, so we typically did our business with the folks who provided the best customer service.

This selling process worked well for the most part, however we found that our profit margins were smaller on the projects we had to buy out. Even though our relationships with these manufacturers were good and yielded us some discounts, we were unable to be competitive with our normal markup. We also found that our competition often had access to these same manufacturers. We regularly found ourselves competing against the same building manufacturer being sold by a competitive reseller. At times, the manufacturer themselves would quote the building directly to the end buyer, often at a price that was virtually the same as our discounted price from them. Whoever was willing to cut their price the most got the job. This was a difficult selling environment, to say the least.

Selling the building project was a challenge in itself, but service after the sale was another matter entirely. The buildings we manufactured in-house were not a service problem at all. Our engineering, detailing and manufacturing processes were very good. Any questions or problems that arose were easily handled because all the information was in-house. Issues were quickly resolved and our customers were very happy. Buildings that were bought out, however, presented huge challenges in servicing our customers. Our vendors were large companies, often with engineering and design offices in separate locations from their manufacturing facilities. Sometimes even in other states. Resolving even minor issues was time consuming and difficult. Questions about drawings or detailing would sometimes take days to answer. Delays in manufacturing were common and we were powerless to influence the process. Customers frequently experienced costly delays and frustration. They were often confused, too, because they had such a different experience when they worked with us on a project that we handled in-house. We seemed to constantly battle to maintain our reputation as a dependable, competitive company providing excellent value and service to our customers.

There were times when we actually discussed only doing jobs we could build in-house. Our customers, however, needed to be able to come to us with all their metal building needs, so we stayed the course. Because of the challenges we faced, we were constantly on the hunt for better ways to do the business we couldn’t produce in our shop. We found a few mid-sized manufacturers who looked promising, but after working with them a time or two we found that pricing was not competitive, usually because their limited shipping points caused the freight costs to be prohibitive. I knew there had to be a better way. I just hadn’t found it. So I kept looking.

Enter Rapidset Metal Buildings. I routinely searched the web for new ideas, but I usually looked past businesses that were not at least relatively close to us geographically. My experience was that those companies were at a huge disadvantage due to the high cost of transportation. I found Rapidset’s web site in one of my searches and was intrigued because there was such a broad spectrum of metal building information and the company seemed very transparent. The information was educational and the tone of the site was personal. Even though the company was halfway across the country, I decided to call.

I spoke first to Larry Stevens and was impressed with his knowledge and expertise. I was even more impressed with his attitude. He welcomed our conversation and answered my questions openly, even those questions about how he operated his business. He also never pressured me to buy from him - a rarity in our profession. He simply asked for an opportunity to earn our business.

Over the course of the next week or so, I sent several projects to Larry and his associate, Steve Carter, for quotes. I chose a variety of types of projects so I could get a feel for their design capabilities and pricing. They never took more than a day to return my pricing and usually had it back to me the same day. When Larry followed up on one of the quotes, I discovered I had failed to give him some important information. Because Rapidset uses in-house design and detailing, he was able to adjust the quote while we were on the phone and I had revised preliminary drawings in my email before we hung up. Even the most complex building designs were no problem for them. Their steel building pricing was very competitive - not always the lowest but never the highest.

Rapidset also offered us great flexibility. Since our company manufactured our own roofing and siding panels, we wanted the opportunity to supply those components even on the buildings we bought out. The large manufacturers wouldn’t allow us to do that unless they reduced the warranty for the building. Rapidset, on the other hand, actually suggested to me that we supply our own panels for the project. We were ecstatic! This not only gave us opportunity to improve our margins, but also gave us room for pricing flexibility in highly competitive situations.

Delivery times were very good, as well, and to my surprise the freight costs were similar to those companies we bought from in our own “neck of the woods.” When I asked how Rapidset was able to ship at such a competitive cost, I learned that they worked with world-class manufacturing capability at facilities across the country, so shipping costs are rarely an issue.

So far things were looking pretty good. Getting a quote was easy and quick, delivery times were good and prices were competitive. But what about customer service? That was, after all, the biggest sticking point in dealing with our existing suppliers. This is where Rapidset blows away the big boys. The folks at Rapidset approach every project with a can-do attitude. They are eager to help and they work hard to make sure you get what you need quickly and accurately. There is no red-tape nightmare when you need answers. Their in-house design and detailing enables Rapidset to work seamlessly with the systems used directly on the manufacturing floor, resulting in a building that assembles in the field without stress and rework. When questions do arise, they are answered swiftly. They do the right things - they go out of their way to get it right the first time, they return phone calls and they find solutions. With Rapidset, you get the best of all worlds - the winning culture of a small company with outstanding customer service, in-house design and detailing expertise, and the manufacturing capabilities of some of the largest building companies in the world.

If you are a builder, metal builder erector or metal building reseller, you owe it to yourself and your customers to give Rapidset a call. You will find great people, excellent value and unparalleled service. Don’t take my word for it - call Rapidset today.

You’ll come for the price, stay for the service.