By NASH NUNNERY
A pair of hand shears and a forklift.
With little more than those two items, Bernie Reed launched his metal roofing and building manufacturing company in a minuscule 8-foot-by-12-foot shed 18 years ago in Monticello.
To say Reed started Reed’s Metals from scratch might be an understatement. More like bare bones, according to him.
Today, Reed’s Metals employs 250 and recently announced a $3 million expansion that will allow the company to service 48 states. Now headquartered in Brookhaven, Reed’s currently offers eight locations scattered among six states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.
But Bernie Reed’s personal journey in the metal roofing industry actually began in Florida. The son of a seasonal migrant worker, Reed grew up watching his father work 14-18 hour days managing tree planting crews. The Reed family lived on the road, from Florida to Montana to Washington, and wherever the reforestation work took them.
“My dad was a go-getter,” said Reed. “I learned about work, and how to work from him. The way he communicated with his team and how to handle the finest of details made an impression.”
He moved to south Mississippi in his early 20s to start his own reforestation business. The work was seasonal and Reed figured he needed a back-up plan.
In 1998, the idea for Reed’s Metals was born. Goodbye, pine seedlings; hello, hand shears.
“I started with one employee and promised him three months salary and a small commission,” said Reed. “We soon got our first shipment of metal from Kentucky and it took us four hours to unload the truck.”
Nearly two decades later, Reed’s Metals is expanding in two phases because the company has been unable to keep up with demand. The first phase will concentrate on producing more component materials such as roofing, support beams, insulation, roll-up doors and metal trusses.
Phase two involves the construction of a $2 million, 48,000-square-foot building in Brookhaven that will feature overhead cranes. Six hundred feet long, the structure will be fully automated and allow better efficiency, said Reed.
Like many self-made entrepreneurs, Reed credits hard work and detailed customer service for the success his company has enjoyed.
“This business is about paying attention to small details and listening to what the customer wants,” Reed said. “I truly believe it sets us apart from our competitors. Hard work, vision and hiring the right people…all of those qualities have contributed to where we are today.
“You have to work hard to get where you want to be. Be patient and just keep grinding away.”
For Reed, small details aren’t just lip service.
A licensed pilot, Reed locates his out-of-state stores near the local airport so he can make the most of his visits. At the Brookhaven location, customers are always welcomed at the front door by a ‘greeter’ who’s quick to offer a cup of coffee or bottle of water.
Garrick Combs, executive director at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Foundation, says Reed is a “first class” corporate citizen.
“(The company) has an enormous impact on the local economy and with the impact of a large manufacturer,” Combs said. “Reed’s Metals supports the Ole Brook Festival, our chamber of commerce and retail events such as Girls’ Night Out, and our legislative affairs programs. We could not be more proud to be the home for Reed’s Metals, and thank them for all they do to support our economy and community.”
Reed, whose favorite book is Dave Ramsey’s “EntreLeadership,” says consistency is essential in any business, whether you’re forging metal roofs or selling chocolate chip cookies.
Occasionally, Reed will pull out that first pair of hand shears as a reminder of where he’s been.
“It takes work, work and even more work,” he said. “I always say that if you hit a wall, don’t take a detour – bust that wall and stay the course.”
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