How does one define a prosperous, reliable subcontractor: Is it by the quality of the work? A willingness to keep customers happy? The successful completion of numerous jobs? Taking responsibility for the work and responding to clients’ requests even after a warranty expires? Or would one measure the success of a company by the number of years in the business?
For Joe Trepke, the answer to all of the above is a resounding, yes. As president of Compass Building Systems based in Powder Springs, Ga., Trepke knows what it takes to prevail in the competitive world of self-storage construction—by striving to answer positively to all of the above. But most of all it takes experience.
Compass Building Systems prides itself on focusing exclusively—100 percent—on self-storage construction completed as economically as possible in the shortest time. The company chooses only high-grade materials, specifically first-quality metals, and most of the installation is at the hands of employee crews, who bring valuable expertise and devotion to the job.
“Some of our staff members have been in the industry since the 1980s,” Trepke says. “Two of our crew foremen have been employed with us since 1983. Experience is key.”
Trepke can say this matter-of-factly because his own legacy in self-storage stretches three decades long, back to the 1970s, a time when the industry was in its infancy and few other contractors had hit the scene. He began as a project manager and assisted in the development of several facilities, “mini-warehouses,” in the Southeast. “I remember working on the eighth or ninth self-storage facility in Atlanta. Now there are probably 800 or more in the area.”
“I’ve being doing this so long it seems like it’s been most of my life,” he jokes, remembering his early years as the southeast construction manager for a very young operator known as Public Storage. When the regional office of Public Storage relocated from the Deep South up the coast to New Jersey, Trepke decided to linger in his Georgia homeland. He began working as a construction subcontractor, which proved to be a natural transition.
“Back when we first got started, 90 percent of our business came from Public Storage,” Trepke says.
In 1990, Trepke’s subcontracting company became officially known as Compass Construction and business was spreading. The home-office administrative duties were handled by Trepke’s wife of 42 years, Jerri, who served as secretary and treasurer. The family operation redefined its name to Compass Building Systems in 1993, but its direction remained focused on self-storage construction.
“We do structural and steel metal buildings, working with various general contractors and owners. We also get a lot of repeat work,” Trepke says. “One client has recently hired us for his 10th project. I think we have so much repeat business because contractors know the quality of our work and that we’ll stand by it.”
Although Compass strives for perfection, offering a five-year warranty to prove it, one can never fully guarantee a job won’t encounter problems. For example, says Trepke, one client called recently because screws were rusting on a 7-year-old roof. “We’d gotten them from a well-known manufacturer, but they were definitely bad screws. Our warranty had long expired, but we still replaced 45,000 to 50,000 screws.”
It’s all in a day’s work and what it takes to run a solid, caring business, according to Trepke. “I think the fact that we’re so successful is because I treat employees well and want them to do the same for customers. We sell good products with good service.”
Fast Facts: Compass Building Systems
- Founded in 1993
- Self-storage building supplier
- Engineering, design and erection capabilities
- Serving clients east of the Mississippi
- Full employee crews
- Top-quality materials
- Roofs roll-formed on site
- Heavy-gauge clips and plates used to attach buildings to the slab
- Short lead times
- Very few change-orders