In 1993, Michael Branon, owner and chairman of the board of Mako Steel Inc., began a niche company focusing on the self-storage construction market. He was joined a year later by construction veteran Caesar Wright.
Since Mako’s specialty is self-storage, 80 percent of its projects are in this industry, with the remaining 20 percent in commercial/industrial. An estimated 70 percent of the company’s business is design/build, while the remaining 30 percent of its jobs involve bid/spec.
Headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., Mako Steel also has an office on the East Coast in Jacksonville, Fla., allowing it to serve the storage industry nationwide. Recently, Mako Steel opened an office in Vancouver, Wash., and brought new staff on board. Inside Self-Storage spoke with Wright about these changes.
ISS: What does Mako provide the self-storage industry?
Mako specializes in the self-storage market, which includes single- and multi-story facilities, climate-controlled, re-roofs and boat/RV storage. Mako can ship and install our products anywhere in the United States. Customers can use our complete in-house engineering department for assistance with the steel and foundation design. Also, we have reliable and reputable steel suppliers and use the best steel erectors we can find.
ISS: Why did you choose to expand to the Northwest?
Wright: We wanted to have a physical presence in the Northwest that will reinforce Mako Steel’s strong ties with repeat customers as well as earn new business. This expansion will also enable us to focus on supplying Canadian customers, especially in British Columbia.
ISS: What company changes did you make as a result of opening the Washington location?
Wright: We brought Paul Holmes and Beth Holmes on board. Paul heads up the Vancouver office as district sales manager, and Beth is the new sales coordinator. Paul and Beth possess a unique combination of knowledge and 16 years experience in the field with a reputation of working efficiently to complete their building projects professionally and on time.
ISS: Describe your customer base.
Wright:After our third year in business we saw a definite niche in the storage construction market and really began to focus on it. We have a mix of new and repeat customers and referrals. These last two each make up 35 percent of our business. Our superb service and products has resulted in more than 70 percent of our business coming from repeat and referral customers. This is rare in our industry. We like to work with first-time facility developers and, as a result, they tend to stay with us as they grow their portfolios.
ISS: What are your company’s goals and what strategies do you use to accomplish them?
Wright: Our goal is to do a steady volume, be honest and treat people how they expect to be treated. We go to great lengths to make sure we treat every customer and subcontractor as we would wish to be treated. This has allowed us to establish ourselves as one of the leaders in the industry.
ISS: How does Mako operate?
Wright: Without question our strength as a company comes from the knowledge and expertise of our staff. Here at Mako, everybody wears all hats. There is no corporate ladder to climb here. We’re all about being efficient and getting the job done in a timely and professional manner.
Our structure means that most likely the person a customer initially talks to at Mako will be the one to handle the project throughout the course of construction. The customer’s estimator also is his service rep, quality-control rep and project manager. He has the authority to make decisions during the construction process. This makes us unique.
ISS: What is your company’s business philosophy?
Wright: I encourage "Business 101" and feel you should treat people how you expect to be treated. Another philosophy I have is "keep it simple." And most important, be fair and honest with everyone—especially the people you work with and for.
ISS: What advantages does a self-storage developer get from using your products?
Wright: Although we have had phenomenal growth, our staff still takes the time to offer a personal touch to the owners and builders that we work with. The most important construction element of a self-storage building is the metal roof. A leaking roof is the last thing a facility owner wants to be dealing with. In the Western region, we currently use the Mirage panel manufactured by McElroy Metal. For our East Coast customers, we use a Clip-Loc panel produced by Metal Sales. Our roofs are constructed with a standing-seam roof panel, which means it has no penetrating fasteners through the roof. This virtually eliminates any chance of leakage.
ISS: What changes have occurred in the storage industry since Mako was founded?
Wright: Since the company was founded, I have seen the industry change quite a lot. In the early 1990s, the majority of Mako’s projects were basic single-story, exterior-access metal storage buildings. Now, due to rising construction costs and land costs, about 50 percent of our projects are high-end retail and multi-story facilities. I have also seen considerable increase in the demand for climate-controlled storage and boat/RV storage. But the design and construction of metal storage buildings has not changed much, and we have to always keep up with the changing building codes.
ISS: What do you see happening in the self-storage construction industry over the next few years?
Wright: The storage market is changing. In southern California, it remains healthy, and we have quite a bit of work on board. In self-storage nationwide, the main concern is the increasing cost of construction and land. If property prices continue to escalate, a developer may not choose to build a storage facility on that parcel.
For more information, call 800.383.4932; visit www.makosteel.com.