-By Kathy Jonas-
This past January, Shawna and Matthew Miller of Legacy Barn Company, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, held a sweepstakes for a free 30’ x 40’ x 10’ post-frame materials kit in a Facebook contest as a way to show their appreciation to loyal customers and followers. By the end, the contest had been viewed by more than a half a million people, and 54,000 had entered the random drawing, which expanded their fan base to more than 17,000 followers. “We wish everyone could have won. They are all winners in our book,” says Matthew. “It has always been a dream of mine from the very beginning. Giving back to the community is very important to me,” adds Shawna.
What products or services do you provide in your business?
We design and build fully customizable post-frame structures that can be used for a wide range of applications—post-frame homes, residential garages, storage buildings, agricultural barns, hobby shops, commercial buildings, municipal buildings, public and institutional buildings. The possibilities are endless. Our service area covers Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. We have five employees in the office and a full-time crew. Our goal is to add not only function to your lifestyle but beauty and value to your property. Shawna manages sales and customer service, and Matthew oversees the design and operations side. We come together on scheduling and marketing. With Matthew being a nerd at heart and having some background in technology, we leverage technology every chance we get.
What experience do you bring to Legacy?
Shawna: I worked in the supply side of the industry for about 14 years providing materials to contractors and builders like us. I learned a lot working with builders every day, I had always wanted to experience this part of the industry for myself. To see those struggles and successes firsthand has always been part of the bigger picture.
Matthew: I worked in utility design, construction and locating. I remember having dinner one time with Shawna and her coworkers and friends and asking, “Is there anything other than barns that ya’ll talk about?” They just laughed at me and went on with their discussion. As I started learning more about the post-frame industry, I was hooked. Now, years later, it’s all I talk about, too.
Tell us a little bit about the history of the company.
Matthew: Our beginnings are indeed humble. Early in 2013, we took a $100 bill to form a limited liability corporation for a future venture. We chose “Legacy” as our name to remind us, every day, of the hard work and struggles of our family who laid the groundwork for our future. Later that year we were struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy. I was laid off and had little prospect of finding steady work; I was left with only day-labor construction jobs. Shawna was also being laid off, and we were 3–4 months behind on every single bill. We talked for a year or so about going into business ourselves one day, but we weren’t ready. Then the day came when we realized that indecision kills. So against the advice of our friends and family (some of them builders), we took what we had—about $14—and went to work building a website and a Facebook page. Oddly enough, those same advisors said that using Facebook and a website “would never work.” We began to do what we could to prepare our company’s infrastructure and building standards. Those days are a foggy memory because we weren’t getting a lot of sleep!
It took some time to sell a building without having any photos or testimonials from satisfied customers. It was difficult. This was a very humbling time for us. We will always remember the first sale, the first building project, and we will never forget that client. He trusted us and showed us what every customer deserves: humility, integrity and value. It was a big gamble, but when faced with failure, what did we have to lose? It was, as we like to say now, a “Go big or go homeless” kind of moment.
Why did you join NFBA? What are its benefits?
Shawna: We joined NFBA for the educational opportunities, access to innovative products and the networking opportunities that it provides. Our membership has given us the opportunity to see a glimpse of what the future holds for us. NFBA holds us to a higher standard and enables us to reach for loftier goals. The vision that NFBA has for the post-frame industry is one we can get behind, and one day our goal is to be a big contributor toward that vision.
What post-frame project of Legacy’s would you like to highlight?
Matthew: We had the privilege of building a 60’ x 60’ x 16’ therapeutic riding arena in Lawton, Oklahoma, that serves veterans and others. We are proud to hire workers who have served in the military, so we take pride in this particular project. We feel it is just a small way to give back to those who have given so much. The project wasn’t fancy, but the client got a deal he couldn’t refuse. He loved the building and has already begun putting it to good use.
What are the benefits of post-frame construction? What are the misconceptions? What areas of growth do you foresee?
Matthew: I grew up dirt-poor, and my Dad taught me that everything in life should be about function. He’d say, “Pretty gets you only so far.” Post-frame buildings are function driven, versatile and beautiful. The range and flexibility of post frame’s uses seemingly grow with each advance in technology. I believe the industry has not seen its best days yet. I see massive growth potential in the industry’s marketing, technology and educational sectors. It is a much bigger world out there than people realize, and construction information technology and post-frame education shouldn’t be as limited in the future. We’ve got to work through the stigma that post frame is adequate only for agricultural purposes.
Shawna: Often, when people think of post-frame construction, they think of a hay barn out in the field. Not knowing the diversity of post-frame buildings, they choose other construction methods and miss out on all the benefits post frame has to offer. We believe in educating potential customers about the cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, structural resilience and beauty of a post-frame building.
What is your business philosophy? What values do you believe in most strongly regarding customer service?
Matthew: Integrity. Humility. Value. Trust. We want to grow and learn everything we can learn. Mistakes and failures are our greatest teacher. People can only do what they know until they know to do better. We want to learn how to do more for our customers by providing a high-quality product at the best price point, which is not always the cheapest. We wouldn’t be here without the lessons we’ve learned from other builders and from NFBA about how to treat the customer right.
What is your favorite part of the business? And your least favorite?
Shawna: We take the good with the bad, but certainly one favorite part of our work is meeting the clients and getting to know them on a personal level, especially after the building is complete and we’ve exceeded their expectations! There is no greater feeling. A customer who is merely satisfied just isn’t good enough anymore. We strive to create raving fans!
Our least favorite part is when we fail to meet expectations. Or course we know we can’t please everyone, and every project isn’t a natural fit for our vision of the company. So we have to study those instances and see where we can improve. If the truth be told, I’d say self-reflection is difficult for any rational organization, and our company is no exception!