Metal Builder: From large corporation to small business

Glen Richardson’s career with Strickland Construction began with a well-timed telephone call.

“I had been with Butler Manufacturing for 25 years, and I felt like I was doing the same job over and over,” Richardson says. “I was ready for something different.”MB-Horse Pavilion 1.jpg
While at Butler, Richardson did some engineering design work for Strickland Construction, so he decided to give the owner, Rogers Strickland, a call. As fate would have it, Richardson happened to call on a day when Rogers and his partner were talking about a change in management.

That was eight years ago. Today, Richardson is president and minority owner of Strickland Construction in Olathe, Kan., sharing an ownership with Rogers Strickland and Eric Hughes. In his role as president, Richardson is responsible for field operations, and financial and human resources issues.

“I went from working for a large corporation to a small business,” Richardson says. “I went from a building design and manufacturing company to a building construction company.” It has been quite a change for him, but he enjoys it. “I love the chance to learn,” he adds.MB-Inside Horse Pavilion.jpg
Raised on a farm in eastern Kansas, Richardson attended Kansas State University, receiving a degree in structural engineering, but as a student, a career in the steel building industry was not what he envisioned.

“I graduated in the ’70s,” he explains. “The country was in a recession, and engineers weren’t in high demand.” When the job offer from Butler Manufacturing came, he took it. “It all worked out very well.”

He began his career as a steel design product development engineer and over the years, he moved up the ladder as a product manager and a vice president, working both at Butler Manufacturing and at Lester Building Systems, Butler’s post-frame division at that time. His final position was general manager of Lester’s Midwest region. Richardson credits his work at both Butler and Lester with giving him well-rounded experience in the building industry. MB-Liberty Guatemala Large DPI Shot.jpg

Strickland Construction might be a smaller company than what Richardson was used to, but it is an active, thriving business. Founded in 1980, Strickland Construction employs 60 employees year-round, and takes care of its own concrete, steel erection, and carpentry. The company subcontracts for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, finishing, and earth-moving work.

“Almost all of the business today is commercial,” says Richardson, “but we are currently doing some on-farm grain storage.” Ethanol plants require a steady supply of grain from the farmers who supply them, which has created a need for large on-farm storage facilities. That need has regenerated the market for large on-farm grain storage facilities.
Strickland Construction also has a strong market emphasis on church construction and self-storage buildings, two key markets the company pursues. In addition to those two targeted markets Strickland builds many office/warehouse and office/factory combination projects.MB-Outside Health Center.jpg

“A typical client of ours is an entrepreneur who starts a business in a rented facility, outgrows the building, and wants to build his own facility,” Richardson explains. “Ninety to 95 percent of our construction is design-build. We hardly ever build on spec work.”

Much of Strickland Construction’s business is within a 50-mile radius of Kansas City, making it insular to a changing economy. “Kansas City’s economy doesn’t depend on one industry,” Richardson says, “so it makes things somewhat repression proof.” That said, the market has been very good over the past 24 months, and Strickland has reaped the benefits of the area’s growth.

However, Richardson is quick to point out that while the bulk of the company’s business is local, Strickland Construction’s outreach stretches much further than the Kansas state borders. Over the past 10 years, Strickland Construction and its employees have constructed about 40 buildings in countries such as Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Sri Lanka. MB Strickland

According to Rogers Strickland, in 1986, he was asked to come up with a small building for a church camp. Ten years later, the youth director for the church came back to him to ask about constructing a metal building in Guatemala as part of the church’s mission trip. Since then, Strickland Construction works with all types of groups, providing the materials and employees to construct a building. Most are 24×72 (top left) and are used as community centers, schools, churches — whatever the community needs.

“We invite a church group or school group to join three or four employees on the trip,” Strickland says, “and sometimes customers send people along on the trip.” When an employee travels on a mission trip, it is considered work time, so it doesn’t require using vacation time, and the employee is encouraged to invite a family member to share the experience. Strickland Reviews Plans

Since joining the company in 1999, Richardson has gone on five trips — three to Guatemala, and one each to Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka. The trips have not only been an uplifting personal experience for Richardson, but he also sees the good they do for everyone in the company.
“The trip builds a bond between the employees who travel together,” he says, adding that this bond carries over to the workplace.

Because of their durability, the steel buildings are ideal for the Third World regions. However, Richardson, having experience in both the metal and wood building industries, says that back in Kansas both materials are good for smaller buildings, but he recommends that larger buildings, or anything over 60 feet wide, be built with steel. MB-Strickland Mgt 2.jpg

A current Strickland Construction project is the nearly completed building for Heartland Midwest. “It is a combo office and warehouse. We met with the owners to identify and plan the project, and we were able to give them a nice new facility. The owner had a firm deadline for occupancy, and we able to complete the project on time and on budget,” Richardson explains.

After eight years on the construction side of the business, Richardson says he gets a lot of satisfaction seeing a project that begins with a bare piece of ground and ends with a finished project.

“When I was an engineer,” he says, “I’d design a building, but I couldn’t tangibly measure the progress. I enjoy taking raw materials and building something, both at work and for personal projects.”

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