I recently read an article advising foreigners on how to adapt to life in the United States. It noted, “Life in the U.S. is generally fast paced and busy. People don’t want to waste time on anything, even food. That is why the U.S. invented fast food and is the largest consumer of fast food.”
We are a culture that wants what we want, and we want it now! For example, in order to provide more speed to consumers, Amazon recently partnered with the U.S. Postal Service for Sunday deliveries. Companies that will succeed in this new era will find ways to deliver an outstanding customer experience with the speed consumers are demanding.
My interviewee this week, Bernard T. (Bernie) Reed, understands the mindset of today’s consumer, and he has built a thriving business based on meeting his customers’ needs. Reed is the owner of Reed’s Metals Inc. based in Brookhaven, Mississippi, which provides metal roofing and metal buildings direct to consumers. Reed is originally from Florida, but he grew up around the country as his family worked in a seasonal agricultural business. As an adult, Reed planted his roots in Monticello and started a pine tree reforestation business; however, the business was seasonal so he wanted to find something else to do in the off season. In 1998, at the age of 28 he decided to start Reed’s Metals with a pair of hand shears and a forklift. From that humble beginning, the company quickly grew and today Reed’s Metals has over 160 employees in five locations: Brookhaven; Tupelo; Benton, Arkansas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Jackson, Tennessee.
I have found that success leaves clues, and so I was curious about the secrets to Reed’s rapid growth. Reed shared that he learned early on the value of hard work. He was homeschooled and worked in his family business from a young age. As a business owner, he models a strong work ethic for his employees. He also has a passion for customer service. He shared, “From day one we have strived to provide fast service for our customers. Even today, a customer can come to our store, choose what they want, and leave with their metals 30 minutes later.”
Reed also emphasizes the importance of creating a positive customer experience with every encounter. He noted, “I emphasize the appearance of both our stores and our people. We also greet our customers at the door and try to provide remarkable customer service.”
Scaling that kind of customer service is never easy. Many people can talk the talk of customer service, but I have found it is much harder to walk the walk and continue to deliver outstanding customer service as organizations grow. While his business has grown to multiple locations, he regularly visits every store and has frequent huddles with his employees to emphasize the values on which the company was built.
Reed also shared that he has surrounded himself with great leaders in his organization. Like other successful entrepreneurs, Reed understands the importance of hiring very talented people and letting them do their jobs. Savvy leaders understand their own strengths and limitations and hire talented people to shore up their weaknesses. Reed is a great Mississippi success story. His focus and passion are contagious. With a solid business model and plans for further growth, I know Bernie Reed and Reed’s Metals will be having an impact for years to come.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
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