Quality Structures is celebrating its 20th year in business. In the beginning, this post-frame building company did a lot of agricultural buildings and equipment storage; all that was really required was a roof and a few walls to keep the elements out, according to Rick Gudenkauf, Sales. They’ve seen quite a change in the industry, he continues. It’s not that simple anymore.
From Founding to Flourishing
The company’s founder Reuben Esh moved to Kansas to marry his wife in 2003. He started Quality Structures, emulating his dad’s business back in Pennsylvania. He advertised in the “shoppers” that you pick up in gas stations, and the business thrived.
The company changed hands a couple times. It was acquired by Robert Pearce in 2010, then Ambassador Supply purchased it and leadership was transferred to Rick Gudenkauf in 2019.
Now, Quality Structures builds about 650 buildings a year across Kansas and Missouri. Their service area extends across Colorado and Nebraska when you take into account the kits including all of the lumber and metal panels for buildings.
They get most of their supplies from Hixwood Metals, their sister company, plus East Coast Fasteners/Plyco, and MWI Components. The panels they rollform themselves. Some of these buildings are agricultural sheds, but often customers are looking for more complex structures: barndominiums, show cases, hobby shops and event/party barns.
The change in building types has required post frame builders to deal with things they may not have had to consider before. It requires more job coordination with the customer, plumbers, and other subcontractors to get everything done in the right order.
“It has meant building up staff so that if we have to wait for electricians or plumbers to come in, we can have another crew come back to finish up after,” Gudenkauf said.
“We also have super trainers in the field, so if an adaptation is working well, the crews share best practices, always working toward the most efficient solution for the customer,” he added.
Management attributes much of their success to their focus on keeping their crews busy and happy.
Happy Crews Build a Successful Company
Of course, the employee situation has changed. Originally the crews were 100% Amish, and now Gudenkauf says they are about 60% and, like many other companies, they have difficulties finding skilled employees in the area. However, they have come up with a plan that, if it’s not a solution it is at least a step in the right direction. Crews are becoming decentralized so that they work in specific areas and no one has to travel very far. With happier crew members, both retention and recruitment should be improved.
“Everything is about keeping crews and customers happy at the expense of anything else,” Gudenkauf said. “For example, if a crew needs something, administration will drop everything and run it out to them.”
Incentive programs are in place based on timeliness and communications. If crews contact the office daily and keep management apprised of their progress and how the build is going, they are eligible for incentives. Management takes the stance that if a crew leaves them, it is a failure on the company’s part. It could be that they didn’t provide enough training or there was some other failure, but it is not the crew’s fault.
Challenges & Solutions
The production team’s goal is to have crews busy everyday. However, illness, death, weather, and last-minute changes from the customer can all mess with the schedule, so they need to be able to make changes on the fly and still provide a good, quality experience for the customer. This is why teamwork and cohesiveness are so important, Gudenkauf said.
Supply chains have definitely been challenging Gudenkauf says. When a building is complete with a hole where a door should be, the customer doesn’t necessarily understand that it is not the builder’s fault. These situations have forced the company to reevaluate their lead times and stocking procedures to compensate for slow-downs in deliveries.
Even how the company is marketed has changed. In the past, they advertised primarily in free print newspapers available at convenience stores, but during COVID-19, that wasn’t the best way to reach people who were, primarily, in their homes. Now their advertising is spread across media channels, print, radio and online.
A Quality Mission
Through all changes and challenges, the company has persevered with their eye continually on their mission: to construct a quality build at a competitive price in a timely manner with professional quality service. They are proud that every one of their buildings is engineered by a certified engineer and the amount of lumber and bracing they use leads the market. Many competitors have begun to mimic their practices, Gudenkauf said.
“If you take care of the customer,” Gudenkauf says, “the customer takes care of you.”
Quality Structures appears to be ready to provide the ever-refined quality that the industry demands while providing a working culture that cultivates happy crews. FBN