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Business Spotlight

Customer service is key

Gilpin Inc. focuses on clientele to stay ahead of competitors

Gilpin
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Marc Howe welds metal fencing at Gilpin Inc. in Decatur.
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Adam Sauerwine pulls decorative fencing from the oven line where the finish is baked on.

Gilpin Inc.

Address: 1819 Patterson St., Decatur

At a glance: The manufacturer makes ornamental metal fence and railing for commercial and residential use. The products are sold through retailers and fence installation companies.

Employees: 30 to 35, depending on demand

Annual revenue: Not disclosed

When was the company founded: 1937

Biggest accomplishment in the past 12 months: Gilpin has expanded its online presence through retailers and social media. The company has also used magazines and websites to expand brand recognition within the industry. The goal is to encourage more fence professionals and architects to seek out the Gilpin brand, President Todd Gilpin said.

What was your biggest mistake so far in operating this business: “About seven years ago, we acquired a competitor, and I don’t feel we did a quick enough job of integrating the products they carried and their customers into our operation,” Gilpin said.

What are the key challenges facing your business or industry: “Imports,” Gilpin said. “Foreign competition flooding the market with less-quality goods at lower prices.” The Decatur company reduces costs by buying some smaller parts from overseas suppliers. But, in the past five years, Gilpin has moved some sourcing back to the U.S. after a supplier found less expensive ways to produce parts, including having some of them packaged by workers at Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana, a non-profit that provides jobs to adults who are developmentally delayed.

What is your strategy for staying ahead of your competition: Gilpin relies on outstanding customer service to differentiate its business. The company creates installation brochures, which are available in retail stores. It also provides phone and online customer service to talk homeowners through the installation process, as needed.

What resources have you found most helpful in running a business: The Adams County Economic Development Corp. helped Gilpin with its acquisition some years ago and with some financial advice since then. Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program has helped the manufacturer innovate by researching some coatings and testing some alloys. Gilpin didn’t have the staff or facilities to do the work on its own.

What are your growth projections for the next five years: “I don’t get into projections too much because there are too many external assumptions I can’t control,” Gilpin said. Among those are the economy and steel prices.

What is one thing about your business that people might not be aware of: Even though Gilpin is a small manufacturer based in Decatur, it sells to major, national retailers, including Lowe’s, Menards, Do it Best and True Value. If more people were aware of the things made in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio, Gilpin said, “they might be a little more apt to buy that product instead of something made in China because they’re helping out their neighbor directly – someone who works for that company.”

If you weren’t running this business, what would you be doing: Gilpin would be a high school teacher. His favorite subjects are economics, government and mathematics. The father of three settles for helping his kids with homework.

Source: Todd Gilpin, president and co-owner Compiled by Sherry Slater of The Journal Gazette Business Spotlight profiles small businesses that are at least three years old and have 100 or fewer employees. To recommend a business, email the name of the company and the name and phone number of a contact person to lisagreen@jg.net or fax to 461-8893.

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