A look at authorized builder networks and the manufacturer-builder relationship
Metal building manufacturers often partner with builders around
the country to form authorized builder networks. While these
networks of partner builders are instrumental in the success of the
manufacturer, the partnership works both ways.
The makings of a good partnership
Like any good partnership, there must be trust between a
manufacturer and builder, says Chuck Haslebacher, president of Varco Pruden
Buildings, Memphis, Tenn. "The builder must be able to trust
that his manufacturer is going to support his efforts to be
successful in his market," he explains. "The builder expects the
manufacturer to supply quality competitive products that meet the
needs of building owners. Likewise, the manufacturer must trust the
builder to professionally represent its brand in the local
Jeff Carmean, president of Waterloo, Ind.-based Nucor
Building Systems, agrees trust and respect for each other are
keys to making a good partnership. He notes that open and honest
communication, along with honoring and meeting each other's
commitments are also important aspects of a great partnership.
Sheryl Cattau, sales manager at Behlen
Building Systems, Columbus, Neb., says the Behlen team works
with its builders to achieve profitable common purposes and
specific tasks, allowing for both parties to grow. "We share
together the responsibilities, resources, risks and benefits of
this respected and trusted relationship," she notes. "Building
strong relationships that last for many years has proven to be a
strength. We have several builders that are third generation
families that have been with Behlen for more than 50 years, as well
as many new builders that have joined the team."
John D. Prahl, president and owner of VP authorized builder Canco General
Contractors Inc., Plant City, Fla., agrees, saying, "a good
partnership is one in which both the builder and the manufacturer
are totally committed to working together with a goal of making a
reasonable profit in the sale and completion of quality building
Open communication is key
Builders especially realize the importance of open
communications with their manufacturer partners. According to
Dennis Durrant, owner and general manager of Big D Builders
Inc. in Meridian, Idaho, a good partnership is built on "the
ability to communicate openly, meet performance deadlines, help one
another see both opportunities in the market, as well as weakness
that we can improve on collectively to gain market share and better
serve our customer."
"The better the communication, the better the relationship and
the better the outcome," adds Douglas A. Awe, owner and partner of
Elk Mound, Wis.-based Design Builders & Contractors, a Nucor
authorized builder since 2007.
Building a network
When building their authorized builder networks, manufacturers
are looking for some very specific things. Manufacturers may look
for local contractors in markets where they do not already have a
strong presence. Haslebacher notes that VP identifies these markets
and looks for successful local contractors through the quality,
service and professionalism they provide to building owners.
Behlen looks for builders who want to grow and be involved with
the projects they are providing for clients, while also being
diversified and doing quality work. "The Behlen district manager is
an extension of their business, that will offer additional value
and assist with winning successful projects that will keep both of
our businesses united with work," says Cattau.
Carmean adds that it's important to find someone that's in the
same business and works with metal buildings. "It doesn't do any
good to put a builder on and they're in a different business and
only occasionally dabble in metal buildings," he says. "That's not
who we're looking for."
Additionally, Carmean notes that it's really about setting
expectations. "It's about partnering together, understanding how
we're going to do business together and then committing to helping
each other be better and successful."
Awe explains that they were looking for an established American
company with a good reputation and quality product. A VP builder
for 28 years, Matt Lock, president of Carrollton, Mo.-based Lock Steel
Building Co., says they were also looking for a quality
manufacturer with a good reputation. Along with being an asset to
its sales plan, Lock feels anyone his company partners with is a
good representation of his company.
Similarily, Prahl was looking for "a recognized leader in the
manufacturing of quality building systems that is committed to
selling through a network of authorized builders with sales,
marketing and service departments that meet the builder's needs."
Also important was having a strong corporate account sales
department that promotes business for its builders to the Fortune
In addition to being a Behlen authorized builder for the past 10
years, Big D Builders is also an authorized builder for Nucor.
Durrant says they were looking for a manufacturer with a reputation
of quality, with people that have high ethical and moral standards,
and the resources to meet their needs. "A company that understood
the team concept, that understood that we were vital to their
success, just as they are vital to ours," he says. "This win-win
attitude is what we were looking for. It is the culture of our
company and we needed a manufacturer with the same culture."
Also, they were looking for a manufacturer that they could have
a long-term relationship with. "The relationship brings stability
to an environment which is constantly changing," continues Durrant.
"We wanted to be teamed with someone and something that we felt
would be lasting to bring another element of confidence to our
A long-term relationship gives builders a respect that buying
from multiple manufacturers cannot, Prahl says. "Telling a
potential client that your company has completed 9 million square
feet of buildings all from one of the most respected manufacturers
in the industry creates credibility," he says. "The long-term
relationship with the manufacturer is also a real benefit to our
clients in a couple of projects when problems surfaced years after
the building was completed."
Manufacturers and builders can both benefit from a partnership.
"One of the first things a builder will tell you is that we bring
him leads and opportunities," Carmean adds. That's due to Nucor's
strong marketing campaign and national account program that goes
out and generates leads. Also, Nucor offers products that fit
today's construction needs and has tools that will help builders
estimate and win jobs.
"One of the main benefits a builder has in working with Behlen
is our seasoned staff not only in the field, but inside at our
factory," notes Cattau. "We want a builder to have a 'Good Iron
Great Experience' every time they work with our team."
"We gain the expertise of hundreds of years of experience in the
industry," says Durrant. "We have been able to use the resources
offered by this experience to work through simple and complex
challenges in the metal building market."
"Our goal is to provide the Authorized VP Builders with tools to
help them be successful in their local market," explains
Haslebacher. "While it certainly includes quality products and
services, it also includes services in areas of marketing, business
development, succession planning and innovative new products. Our
expertise in the area of green, sustainable construction, for
example, can help builders offer these value-added services to
Builders bring their local reputation and sales efforts to the
partnership, along with an understanding of the construction
market, according to Carmean. Additionally, builders provide
exceptional feedback that allows for positive change to products,
as Cattau notes. "Who better to help you become the best you can be
than the individual that sells, orders and erects the building. We
respect the knowledge that our builders have and appreciate their
Secrets to success
There are many things that make up a successful partnership. For
one, there needs to be a mutual commitment from each side.
"Suppliers need to be consistently competitive and reliable to help
their builders win any project they pursue," says Haslebacher.
"Builders need to be knowledgeable about the systems they represent
and be loyal to their source. Together, that mutual commitment will
build the reputation for the builder and the manufacturer."
Deeper relationships can also lead to more profit for both
partners. "And that's really where the partnership comes in,"
explains Carmean. "The more that you rely on each other, help each
other, support each other, understand each other, then the more
profitable we can both be in winning in the marketplace."
"These relationships can be a great way to do business," Durrant
adds. "If the goals of each individual company are in line, there
are synergies that allow for great growth on each side. The key is
making sure the culture of each company is compatible with each
other. With a little bit of hard work, great things can
"Without a doubt, we would cease to exist without our family of
builders," Carmean says. "We could change our model, sell direct,
do all sorts of stuff, but it would be absolutely pointless.
Because without our builders, there would be no success for Nucor