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Posted by McElroy Metal ● Jun 27, 2024 8:00 AM

Contractor Corner - Modern Builders Inc.

Contractor Corner - Modern Builders Inc.

In this edition of Contractor Corner, we sit down with Rick Stensland of Modern Builders, a seasoned metal building and roofing professional, to delve into the history, challenges, and trends shaping his family-owned business.


With a keen eye on market dynamics and a strong partnership with McElroy Metal, Rick shares insights into the roofing industry, the economic factors influencing business decisions, and the enduring appeal of metal roofing solutions. Join us as we learn more about a company that has stood the test of time in a very competitive market.

How did you get started in your business?

"It's a family-owned organization. My father started it in 1963. I took over in the early eighties, though my father would probably say it was the mid-nineties. We have four brothers working in the business. We started as a metal building contractor, only selling Armco buildings until Armco ceased operations in 2019. Since then, we've diversified, but remain heavily focused on metal buildings. Our company has grown to become a $25 million enterprise, with about half of our work dedicated to metal roofs, walls, and retrofitting. The other half involves general contracting and metal building projects."

What are some of your most popular projects?

"We frequently retrofit substructural roofs over flat roofs, doing about 25-30 of those annually. In new construction, we often work on auto dealerships and light industrial projects. Despite being based in Iowa, we travel extensively and have completed projects in 28 states, Mexico, and Canada.

We have a strong presence in commercial and light industrial sectors, and everything we do is somewhat farm-related, even though we don't sell directly to farms or homes. We are known for our quality and reliability, which has helped us maintain long-term relationships with our clients."


Challenges and Market Trends

How is the retrofit or recover market? Is it a tough sell?

"It's generally an easy sell if you offer a good product and solid reputation. Customers prefer adding slope to flat roofs to avoid water issues.

Economic factors often drive the decision to retrofit rather than build new."

So you think the economy influences this trend?

"Absolutely. High interest rates make it cheaper for businesses to upgrade their existing properties than to move or lease new spaces. We've noticed that companies are more likely to focus on upgrading and maintaining their current buildings during economic downturns instead of investing in new constructions. 

This trend is particularly evident in the governmental sector, where budgets are often tight, and the focus is on extending the lifespan of existing structures."

Company Strengths and Industry Insights

What are McElroy's strengths in the recover market?

"McElroy offers high-quality products with reliable shipping times, which is crucial. Competitiveness and consistent quality are major strengths, helping us stay in the running for projects despite typically higher costs compared to alternatives like single-ply roofing. Delivering products quickly and with consistent quality has been a significant advantage. 

In the roofing industry, timely delivery is essential, as delays can impact project timelines and increase costs. McElroy's commitment to maintaining high standards and competitive pricing makes them a valuable partner."

How do you handle the higher cost aspect in client conversations?

"Most clients dislike flat roofs, so selling the idea of adding slope is relatively easy. The challenge is the budget, as building slope into a structure adds to the cost. However, the long-term benefits often justify the investment. 

When discussing costs with clients, we emphasize the advantages of metal roofing, such as durability, longevity, and reduced maintenance. Metal roofs can last significantly longer than other roofing materials, providing better value."

What trends do you see in the roofing industry?

"There's a growing trend toward maintaining and upgrading existing buildings rather than constructing new ones, especially in the governmental sector. The goal is to convince them to invest in roofs that will last 50 years, with proper slope for better durability. 

We are also seeing an increased interest in sustainable roofing solutions, such as incorporating solar panels into roofing systems. This trend aligns with the broader movement towards green building practices and energy efficiency."


Addressing Metal Roofing Misconceptions

What myths about metal roofs do you encounter?

"Many architects believe metal roofs change the look of a building too much. Educating architects and clients about the versatility and reliability of metal roofing is crucial. Metal roofs can be designed to blend seamlessly with various architectural styles while providing superior protection against the elements.

Another reason is that architects and builders think metal can't go as low slope as other materials. However, with proper installation, metal can perform well at low slopes. 

Another myth is that metal roofs fail quickly. In our experience, a metal roof that fails is usually due to poor installation rather than the material itself."

Business Focus and Marketing

Do you handle residential projects?

"We rarely do residential work, maybe one project a year. We're set up for commercial work involving more equipment and travel. Competing with local contractors for residential jobs isn't feasible for us. We focus on larger commercial projects where we can leverage our expertise and resources to deliver high-quality results."

How do you find new business?

"We've been in business since 1963, so much of our work comes from our long-standing reputation and word of mouth. We do local marketing and attend events like the Iowa School Board Association meetings to connect with potential clients. 

Our sales team also travels extensively to build relationships and generate leads. Our reputation for quality and reliability is our most powerful marketing tool. Satisfied clients often refer us to others, which helps us maintain a steady flow of new business opportunities."

We wish Rick and his team at Modern Builders continued success and appreciate their business as loyal customers!

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About McElroy Metal

Since 1963, McElroy Metal has served the construction industry with quality products and excellent customer service. The employee-owned components manufacturer is headquartered in Bossier City, La., and has 14 manufacturing facilities across the United States. Quality, service and performance have been the cornerstone of McElroy Metal’s business philosophy and have contributed to the success of the company through the years. As a preferred service provider, these values will continue to be at the forefront of McElroy Metal’s model along with a strong focus on the customer.

Topics: Contractor Corner

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