Friday, October 31, 2014

Business finds success thinking inside the box

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 1/28/2013

RICHMOND — Quality is an important element of business in one crimson-roofed building in southern Franklin County. It’s so important, in fact, the word is right there in the name: Quality Structures, Inc.

“The primary thing that we focus on is the quality of the service, the quality of the product, quality of the people that you get when you buy one of the buildings,” Rob Pearce, QSI president, said at the company’s main office in Richmond.

RICHMOND — Quality is an important element of business in one crimson-roofed building in southern Franklin County. It’s so important, in fact, the word is right there in the name: Quality Structures, Inc.

“The primary thing that we focus on is the quality of the service, the quality of the product, quality of the people that you get when you buy one of the buildings,” Rob Pearce, QSI president, said at the company’s main office in Richmond.

QSI, which builds post-frame buildings and pole barns of all shapes and sizes, began in 2003 as Esh Quality Structures with former owner Reuben Esh. Pearce took over the company in 2010 after working his way up from salesman to general manager. Since Pearce’s acquisition of the company, QSI has continued to grow, he said.

The company, with three branch offices, serves Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. The Richmond facility, at 167 U.S. 59, was built in 2005 to accommodate the growth of the business. Its 6-acre complex has two large sheds that house the lumber, metal and steel used in the construction of the post-frame buildings.

“What we wanted to do was to start our own yard and buy all of our materials direct from area suppliers,” Pearce said of locating in Richmond.

Three to five tractor-trailer loads of materials from manufacturers arrive at the Richmond yard each day, he said. The materials leave the yard almost as quickly on QSI trucks bound for empty land waiting for construction.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

It’s not really a building in a box, but almost.

A flatbed dump truck piled high with wood, metal and steel pulls into a company yard, tips the load backward and slowly pulls away. With a resounding thud, the pile is deposited at the work site, where it will be transformed into a new building in a matter of days. Workers expertly maneuver forklifts to collect the materials so they can be put on trucks for delivery the following day. The speed is essential, Pearce said, to keep the materials moving out of the yard so more can be brought in.

Using Amish building techniques, the typical QSI building can be erected in as little as three days, Pearce said. Crews, either in-house or subcontracted, are sent to a site shortly after the materials are delivered and waste no time getting to work.

But delivering the massive pile (or piles) of materials to the designated site is one of the last steps in the process. First, the customer meets with a sales representative, who personally visits the site and discusses the type of building needed.

A post-frame building is a metal-sided building with a wooden frame inside, Steve Morrison, sales representative, said. After meeting with the customer, Morrison said, sales representatives take the drawing to the design department, which then maps out the specifics of the building, including the materials list. Once the materials are ordered, they can be compiled in the yard and made ready for delivery.

“It’s a building-in-a-kit kind of thing,” Morrison said. “It has the right number of doors and windows.”

About 40 percent of the total business is for agricultural use, another 40 percent for commercial and industrial, while the rest is equestrian barns and residential housing, company representatives said. In the Franklin County area, most of Morrison’s sales come from hobby shops and garages, he said.

In contrast, in western Kansas, with its large agricultural area, the business is tasked with building barns with walls as high as 20 feet. The buildings can be as wide as 80 feet, Morrison said, and no building is too small. Even leftover materials are used to make small tool sheds, he said.

The buildings are engineered to withstand 90 mile-per-hour wind shears, Morrison said, largely because of the large amount of wood used in construction. While some of QSI’s competitors place trusses at 5 feet to 10 feet apart, the Richmond-based business’ trusses are 4 feet apart to add more structural support, he said.

“It’s a high-quality building at a pretty middle-of-the-market price,” Morrison said. “For the money, it’s the best product out there.”

The sales representatives stay with the client until he or she does the final inspection on the finished product, Pearce said. It’s part of ensuring the quality of the product. No matter the type, use or size of building, it’s all about providing customers with a quality business experience, Pearce said. “We go by the philosophy, ‘If you take care of your customers, they take care of you,’” Pearce said.

BUSINESS IS GOOD

Despite facing tough economic times, which have had a particularly harsh impact on the construction business, Pearce said his company has thrived. QSI doubled its business in the past three years, with 16 to 20 building kits leaving the yard a week, he said. While taking over the business turned out to be a wise decision, Pearce said, he was a little wary at first because of the economic uncertainty. He has been pleasantly surprised with the outcome, he said.

“Business has been great,” Pearce said. “Year before last, we were up about 42 percent in sales.”

In 2012, sales were up about 14 percent, and the company is projecting a 15- percent sales increase this year, Pearce said. It’s the constant attention to detail that makes the difference, he said, and will help the business continue to grow.

“About anybody can sell you wood and steel, but what they do with it once it gets on your place is a different story,” Pearce said.

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