It began with painting.
“I started working for Preferred, Inc. - Fort Wayne in 1981,” says Jerry Brown, now the president and owner of the company. “Back then, it was an industrial painting contracting firm. Then our customers started asking us about other services they needed. They would say, ‘If we could find a roofing contractor as conscientious as you guys are about painting, we’d hire them.’ So, we got into the roofing industry. Then our customers were asking about flooring, which is how we got into providing that service as well.”
Now in its 45th year, Preferred, Inc. - Fort Wayne is recognized as a leader in the heavy industrial field for those three areas of expertise and impeccable customer service.
“A lot of our customers become longtime friends,” says Brown. “We don’t just do a job and move on to the next one. I think that’s a big reason behind our success. We care about our customers and their facilities. They know if they hire us, it’s going to get done on time, within budget and will be completed properly.”
Brown, who purchased the company in 2001, says 90 to 95 percent of its business is repeat customers. That results in Preferred, Inc. - Fort Wayne doing business in numerous states.
“Last year, we completed projects in 13 different states. We don’t go chasing bids. Instead, our local customers take us with them when, for example, their company expands and opens a plant in another state. And I think what makes us unique is that we go directly to the customer. We’re actually out in the field and start a relationship with the customer. We have full-time sales reps with designated territories in which they do cold calling. That’s how it initially starts.”
Brown emphasizes that while everyone works together as a team, each specialty has its own staff.
“Be it roofing, painting or flooring, we all focus on our particular area of expertise,” says Stefan Peters, project manager/estimator for the roofing division. “All of our field employees are the same way. They specialize in their own division. That’s why customers like to hire us, because they may have all three disciplines that have to be done and they can hire us and we can coordinate the whole project. They don’t have to work with three different contractors to get the job done.”
“I take a lot of pride in our employees,” says Brown. “We have hardworking employees who take pride in their jobs and enjoy working here. We have a lot of employees who have worked here more than 20 years. That longevity is credited to the fact that we offer excellent benefit packages and pay. Safety and quality are our main priorities and we invest a great deal of time and money in our employees when it comes to safety and training.”
Brown says Preferred never cuts corners on anything and safety is no exception.
“We’re the only company I know of in our industry that has a full-time safety director. Most of the companies we work with are Fortune 500 companies, so they have their own regulations above and beyond what is required by OSHA.”
“Our EMR (Experienced Modification Rate) is .62, which is about as low as you can get,” says Peters. “That number is very appealing to our customers and they definitely take that into consideration when choosing a contractor.”
An EMR is a number that measures a company’s safety record and is used by insurance companies to gauge both past cost of injuries and future chances of risk. Peters says anything below 1.0 is very good.
Brown says about ten percent of its business involves new construction, with the majority of it focused on renovations or remodeling.
“I always tell people no job is too big and no job is too small. We will do what the customer wants and needs.”
“People who aren’t familiar with us may think we only do large jobs, but that’s not true,” says Barry Hicks, vice president of the flooring division. “We’ll do a 500 square foot floor all the way up to a million square feet. All of our divisions coordinate with each other to phase a project appropriately. That way, we cause as little disruption to the business as possible and provide faster return to service for our customers. We have also been recognized as Authorized Contractor of the Year with Tennant Coatings which speaks volumes about not only the number and size of projects we can do, but also our quality and workmanship.”
“We work every day of the year except on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says Jeremy Rector, project manager/estimator for the painting division. “We work nights and weekends – whatever it takes to make the project as seamless as possible for the customer. For instance, we can complete 80,000 square feet of ceiling painting by scheduling 10,000 square feet every weekend for two months or we can complete the entire project over an extended shutdown.”
Vice President of the Painting Division Phil Wilsford, has worked for Preferred, Inc. - Fort Wayne for 34 years and has seen a lot of changes over the decades. While the tools have become more sophisticated and safer and, often times, easier to use, he says the one thing that hasn’t changed is the level of quality he and his co-workers deliver.
“We have a long list of awards and honors because of the service we provide. We have reached Pinnacle status recognition with Johns Manville and have had no warranty claims in 23 years of installing its roofing systems. Also, this past March, Carlisle Syntec Systems listed us as being in the top 5 percent of its licensed roofing applicators in the country by receiving its Carlisle Perfection Award, Perfection Council Award and Centurion Award. This is the sixth time we’ve been honored with this award. It’s something we are extremely proud of,” says Kirk Butts, vice president of the roofing/sheet metal division.
While many employees at Preferred, Inc. - Fort Wayne have a lot of experience, there are also plenty of younger employees on the team. Brown and his co-workers say having a mix of generations on staff is what will take the company into the future successfully.
“I’ve always believed that you can have the best product in the world, but if you have a poor contractor, you may not have a successful project,” says Butts. “On the flip side, you can have a mediocre product and a really good contractor, and they will make it work for you. We only hire the best people and use the best products available to our customers. That’s what makes us the preferred choice.”
Owner(s): Jerry Brown
Address: 6021 Highview Drive Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818
Phone: (260) 483-8383
Years in Business: 45
Number of Employees: 100
Products & Services: Industrial painting, roofing and flooring services