J&M Steel Solutions, Inc.
A solid reputation
Business View Magazine interviews Craig Madsen, VP of J&M Steel Solutions, as part of our focus on best practices in the steel fabrication industry.
J&M Steel Solutions, Inc., a steel erection company, was established in Lehi, Utah in 2004 by Scott Jeppson and Craig Madsen. To date, the company has completed 690 pre-engineered metal buildings and structural steel projects for clients in various industries, including: Gas & Energy, Agriculture, Mining, Industrial & Manufacturing, Government, Aviation, and Commercial/Retail. J&M’s geographic footprint is primarily in the western United States and it has completed projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, and, of course, Utah.
According to Vice President, Madsen, he and Jeppson, who were both working for different steel erection companies for many years, wanted to form their own firm that, unlike many smaller companies, would provide its workers with opportunities to grow and advance, while also offering them perks such as health insurance and retirement accounts. “We wanted a company where we could attract and retain good people and I think that’s been one of our successes,” he notes. “One of the best things we’ve done along the way has been hiring good people when we find them. We started with about eight guys in the field, and we’ve got about 118 employees, right now.”
Regarding the type of work the company does, Madsen reports, “We’ve got a good variety of contractors we work for and projects that we build. We do pre-engineered buildings; we’ve done a lot of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and airplane hangars that way. We also do big box warehouses with joists and deck, metal framing, etc. We also do multi-story office buildings – anywhere from three to ten stories. So, with that niche, we try to diversify the things that we can do for clients.”
In a competitive environment, Madsen believes that J&M’s good reputation is the company’s chief advantage. “I think one of the things that keep repeat customers coming back is that we do what we say,” he asserts. “Honesty in our company is something that we try to pound from the top down. We don’t mess around with the pricing. A lot of times people will give a low base bid and then hope to change-order the contract on the job. We don’t do that; we try to be fair up front, and along the way, and I think people know they can trust us from start to finish – from the building side, to the safety side, to the money side. When the recession hit, there were a lot of companies that went out of business and a lot of subcontractors that hurt general contractors by not being able to finish jobs – they bid them too low and too cheap and couldn’t finish them. We’ve never had a job default; we’ve never had to have a contractor close us out and get somebody else in to finish our work. For the contractors, that’s been a big plus. There are several large companies here in Utah that come to us for budgets and pricing and schedule, and a lot of times, we’ll roll that into being able to do the project with them because of our past history with them and their ability to trust us for all levels of the work.”
“We work a lot with the four largest contractors in Utah and they’ve taken us to other states because they know what they’re going to get when we travel with them,” Madsen continues. “We also have good relationships with companies outside of the state of Utah that, pretty much, use us exclusively on their work. As we continue to perform for them, even in those markets, we’ve gotten more work because other companies are seeing us go in there and build, so they’ve been asking us to build some of their work, as well.”
With a strong economy in Utah, right now, Madsen says that getting work close to home is much less of a problem than finding good workers. “The problem we’re running into is a manpower shortage in our market,” he explains. “We could find the work to grow, but not the people. So, our focus is going to be maintaining the employees that we have, and trying to keep the good quality reputation that we have, and not trying to grow. We’re always keeping our eyes open, though. We have friends and other people who work for us that have relationships with people and if the opportunity presents itself, we’ll always look at those pretty closely.”
Going forward, Madsen says that he would like J&M to continue bidding on more design/build projects, as it has done over the past few years. “I think we’ll probably try to look into that market more consistently because it’s a strong suit of ours,” he remarks. “We have the manpower, the education, and the experience to help on those design/build projects, and it’s a win/win for the general contractor, for us, and for the owner, when we can get in front, help with some of the design and some of the costs. So, I would hope that that market is one of the ones that we would push into more.”
With its reputation for honesty and quality work, the future looks bright for J&M Steel Structures, Inc. “We always try to keep the commitments that we make,” Madsen affirms. “We don’t purposely overbook, which sometimes hurts us. But, I think keeping our word on projects – timing, costs, and schedule – is important. Safety is really important, too. We push hard to have our guys safe; we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on safety equipment and safety training. Our trade is inherently dangerous and we want all of our guys to be home at night with their families and not have the job be the reason they don’t come home.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: J&M Steel Solutions, Inc.
WHAT: A steel erection company
WHERE: Lehi, Utah