Metal Builder: Build ’em, cowboy

For four decades, construction was a side project for Bud Grant. His “real” job was roping calves with the rodeo.
Grant began his professional rodeo career when he was 14 years old. For the next 40 years, he spent April through September traveling the rodeo circuit, sometimes putting in 300,000 miles of travel per year. From September through April, he looked for seasonal work in construction wherever he could find it, doing whatever types of jobs were available. One reason he chose construction, he says, was it was an industry that was physically demanding, and he wanted to stay in shape for the next rodeo season. MB-Grant1.jpg
In 1970, at the age of 30, Grant married his wife, Marsha, who was also on the rodeo circuit. After he married, he realized he wouldn’t be able to rope cattle forever, so in 1972, he went into the construction business with a partner. By 1975, the partnership dissolved. Grant started American Building Systems in Bryant, Ark., and the rodeo became his part-time business. For a few more years, he and his wife would compete in rodeos on the weekend while running their business during the week. Eventually, he knew it was time to end his rodeo ties, and he sold all of his equipment.
Now 65 years old, Grant has operated American Building Systems for more than three decades. American Building Systems is a metal building-only company and is affiliated with VP Buildings.
Grant could have gone into any type of construction field when he began his business because his winter-season jobs allowed him to try just about every type of construction project there is. So why did he pick metal building construction?
“I liked steel erection better than anything else,” he says. During one rodeo off-season, one of his buddies invited Grant to Alabama to work for his metal building company. He loved it. So, when he had the opportunity to open his own business, he decided to go into a field he enjoyed.
His company has been affiliated with VP for many years. This affiliation through a buildership program has created a loyalty between the two companies, and ultimately, the customer is the one who benefits most from this partnership. VP works directly with Grant and his company, giving them the best available deals and avoiding the bidding process. Grant acts as the general contractor for the VP Buildings he sells. He handles all of the sales, pricing, bidding, and building supervision. All of the actual construction work is subcontracted. MB-Grant2.jpg
“I have used the same subcontractors for many years,” Grant says. “By using the same guys, they know what I expect, and I can depend on them to run their projects effectively.”
Grant needs to depend on his stable of subcontractors. American Building Systems employs two people — Grant and his wife. His son helped with the family business while he was younger, but he got his degree in psychology and is now working in the financial field.
He could probably use the extra help right now. The business climate for metal buildings is thriving.
“We’re snowed under with quotes right now,” Grant says. “I have 12 jobs going on, and 20 bids are sitting on my desk, waiting for pricing.”
One of the reasons Grant’s business is thriving is XpresSteel Buildings. Working closely with engineers, Grant converts the XpresSteel Buildings from their intended agricultural use into commercial structures.
“The XpresSteel Buildings save the customers money and they look good,” Grant says. “Most of my customers like them because I can get the structures up quickly — a lot of times in less than two weeks — and because they are inexpensive.”
This winter, Grant won another award to add to his collection of trophies and plaques. American Building Systems was named National Sales Leader for XpresSteel.MB-Grant3.jpg
Grant doesn’t have to advertise his business. Most of the work comes through referrals, and even that keeps him about as busy as he can manage successfully.
The markets that Grant works with are commercial, industrial, or institutional. He still does plenty of big jobs, like a brick plant in Texas and an indoor arena in Arkansas, but does nothing with residential buildings. VP Buildings can be used for a wide range of uses, from retail buildings to agricultural facilities, from churches to warehouses. The buildings can be easily expanded along with business growth. They also can be given various exteriors, such as brick or siding, so that when they are completed, no one would be able to tell it is a steel structure.
After 30 years in the business, Grant has seen a lot of changes.
“Codes and OSHA demands have become more stringent,” Grant explains. “But you have to go with the flow.” The changes in codes and regulations have made the buildings more expensive, but, Grant adds, they are changes that affect everybody in the business. In the long run, he says, the changes haven’t hurt him.
Over the past few years, steel prices were rising rapidly. “It was an availability problem,” Grant says, “because a lot of steel that used to be available is now going to China.” However, the prices finally have begun to level off.MB-Grant4.jpg
The future looks bright for the metal building industry, Grant believes. “Metal buildings are cheaper than normal construction,” he says, “and with the exterior options, it won’t even look like a metal building.”
Retirement is on the horizon, Grant admits, but not for a few more years. There have been frustrations recently, particularly the changes in codes and the growing difficulty trying to get a building permit. Zoning boards insist on what Grant calls a landscaping manuscript: a detailed description on the landscaping plans for the building site.
But he still enjoys the logistics of the industry. “This business has been awfully good to me,” Grant says, “and I feel like I’m fairly good at it.”
It turned out to be a pretty good side business for this old rodeo hand.

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