Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Capco Steel Inc.

July 1, 2004

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Capco Steel Inc.

Capco Steel Inc.
Constructing life-long relationships

By Kimberly Hundley

If self-storage builder Capco Steel Inc.were an individual, it would be old enough to vote, marry, serve its country andbuy beer in Canada. The San Antonio-based construction company is 19 years old,a veritable elder statesman in the realm of self-storage history. When founder and CEO Charles Plunkett talks about hisbusiness, he even sounds a bit like a seasoned senator at the podiumwith oneexception. Plunkett means every word.

We are one of the oldest companies in the industry, and weare known as one of the highest-quality companies, he says. The level ofrepeat business and referrals we get from our customers is extremely high. A lotof people use the word loosely, but I believe we really demonstrate qualityin the work we do. To us, quality of craftsmanship is not another slogan, itswhat distinguishes us.

In fact, Plunkett struck out on his own nearly two decades agobecause of ethical conflicts with his employer, a manufacturer/installer ofsteel stairs and framing systems. Confidant in his belief that good morals makefor good business, his ambition was to earn a fair dollar in exchange fortop-notch service.

So, at the age of 25, I left and founded Capco Steel,Plunkett says. I basically had nothing to start with but an idea I could doit for myself. A mini-storage developer gave the young entrepreneur a chanceto build one project, then another and another. The rest is Capco history.

Today, most people in the storage industry know the name CapcoSteel and its reputation for award-winning work. The company took home the Facilityof the Year Award five of the last nine years and has completed hundreds ofdevelopments throughout 42 states. Projects include construction of single- andmultistory facilities, conversions, mini offices, boat/RV shops, and basicdesign services.

Building Relationships

As the self-storage product advanced, Capco evolved with theindustry. We started out building single-story installations that werentterribly complicated; and now were building facilities up to five storieshigh, some of which are extremely architecturally complex, Plunkett says. One thing that hasnt changed, however, ishis commitment to building relationships along with facilities. The company isin it for the long run, and Capcos extensive experience translates todiamond-studded value for clients.

We often get involved very early in the stages of ourcustomers developments. We have a wealth of knowledge in self-storage. We dont just know about steel buildings; we can help peoplenavigate a myriad of issues, such as special-use permits, zoning andpre-evaluations of sites based on constructability, Plunkett explains. We become a central part of thedevelopment team and help clients avoid mistakes. Were not about Letsclose this deal today. We look at each project as the potential for along-term relationship.

Owners may send Capco a property survey with goals for a newfacility. Company staff will work an initial site plan, and help with laying outbuildings on the property, planning for turning radiuses and traffic flow. Thenwell work with a designer to refine that plan to meet the objectives,Plunkett says. Its not uncommon for us to encounter a civil engineer whois working for the owner but isnt experienced in self-storage. The engineermay not understand the elevation of the driveway is directly related to theintended use of the buildings. We work with him on how to do that.

The Cost of Ignorance

Owners may get more information than they bargained for whenworking with Capco Steel. Plunkett strongly believes its important for ownersto understand what their suppliers are supplyinghes seen too many getburned by unscrupulous companies with murky bids. With us, there is no roomfor misinterpretation. We bid a project according to specifications and plansdown to the letter of the law. We write out in clear language exactly whatthey are getting.

Educating potential customers on the companys value hasbeen key in guiding it beyond the wave of rival upstarts to its enduringsuccess. Cheapest doesnt mean best, after all. Or, as Plunkett likes to say,If you think education is expensive, just try ignorance.

For most owners, the longevity and reputation Capco offers ishighly attractive. They know their builder will still be around in 10 years tobe accountable. Another Capco perk is its integrated, centralized structure. The salesperson you talk to the first day remains involvedwith production, crew coordination, etc. Customers arent handed off tosomeone else. Everyone knows whats going on with the project, Plunkettsays. I think that gives us a high degree of control over what is happeningin the field.

Over the last few years, numerous construction companies haveplunged into the self-storage marketplace, and Capco has responded withstreamlined efforts and reduced margins to remain competitive. Still, the company wants to get as good as it gives: quality.

I dont believe there is a project in the self-storageindustry we arent capable of building; but we dont want to build everyonesproject, Plunkett says. We want to work with quality customers. They donthave to be big; they just have to be committed to a fair and equitablerelationship with us. We provide a top-quality service for them, and in returntheyre happy to pay us a reasonable amount.

For more information, call 210.493.9992; e-mail [email protected];  visit  

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