Wick Starts a New Conversation with its Buildings
Wick Buildings has entered the residential market with its post-frame structures that offer new build options.
Wick Buildings wants to cut through the noise and start a new conversation with its builders and customers. “Our builder partners sell our buildings in their local markets. We want to give them the resources, UL listings, technology, fit and finishes, and design capabilities to start a completely different conversation,” President Allan Breidenbach says. “As business becomes more sophisticated and their customer’s expectations rise, we have to stay in lock step with them.”
Founded by John Wick in 1955, the Mazomanie, Wis.-based company’s history is rooted in building post-frame structures for the agricultural industry. Over the past 65 years, Wick Buildings has maintained its character of being a good, family owned company that takes pride in every build. “Our roots are firmly planted in designing and building the best building we possibly can,” Breidenbach notes. “Like any construction project, the process may have its challenges, but you will really like the building you have when we are finished.”
Rather than spend its money on things that don’t add value, Wick Buildings invests in resources that will provide its customers with a superior product. For example, the company made a significant investment to receive third-party validation on its roof steel. “We undertook rigorous testing at Underwriters Laboratory to earn three certifications,” R&D Manager Ryan Genrich says. “The testing validated the strength and durability of the steel panel and construction techniques we’ve been using for 25-plus years.”
Wick Buildings’ years of expertise and commitment to quality has led it to expand outside its traditional agriculture business recently into the residential market and new areas of commercial buildings. Over the past four years, the company has gone from agriculture representing 75 percent of its business to 25 percent today.
“When you think of post-frame, it has had its roots in agriculture,” Breidenbach explains. “John Wick started by trying to take the back-breaking labor out of farm work. The pole barn evolved into post-frame and into different uses. We do animal confinement and barns, but we see a tremendous increase in suburban, residential, light manufacturing and commercial projects.”
The Evolution into Residential
Looking back 10 to 15 years ago, homeowners would not be interested in post-frame structures because they “didn’t want to live in a barn.” Today, that perception has dramatically changed because people want to live in a unique home. “We could have done this years ago, but we just weren’t in the residential space,” Breidenbach says.
Today, Wick Buildings is seeing a dramatic increase in its residential and commercial business because of its innovative design and materials. “We are building hybrid structures,” Genrich explains. “We are incorporating steel, stick-built building practices and coming up with hybrid systems to provide better overall features that clients have never seen before.”
Wick Buildings does not sell a prefabricated package. Rather, it provides the bones and builders give the home a local flavor. “A lot of this work was presented to us,” Genrich notes. “There has been an overwhelming push from homeowners who buy a 2- to 5-acre parcel of land in the country and are looking for anything but the typical stick-built home. That market has just exploded and we had to diversify. It’s been exciting to launch into this new market.”
“We only partner with the best builders in their local markets. They know the finest tradesmen in their area for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, interior finishing and concrete to complete a project for the customer,” adds Breidenbach.
To help builders and homeowners visualize a post-frame structure, Wick Buildings has invested heavily in 3D design technology. Before customers contact the company, they can use the DESIGN 3D™ application on its website. “We didn’t have to help our farming customers see what a building would look like; they already knew,” Breidenbach explains. “Once the customer starts working with their builder, the price and design are provided in real-time through Build-It! 3D™. Our customers can see inside the building and any angle they want, providing a different buying experience.”
Wick Buildings also added a residential and commercial designer to its staff this summer who creates renderings to showcase to customers. Although Wick Buildings is entertaining new ideas in the residential and commercial market, it does have to be disciplined and determine whether a project is a good fit for the business.
“The residential and commercial markets are pushing us into a whole new set of options and design features,” Genrich says. “Every day is a new challenge and operating at 25 percent agriculture means you have to do a lot of new stuff. We have been around since 1955, so that’s a big change for us. You have to adapt and it’s fun. Sure, we have had stumbles, but we’ve landed on our feet.”
Wick Buildings says its builder partners are naturally taking it into the residential market as people explore different options. To help its builders meet the needs of their customers, the company is putting more resources into growing and its vision of getting further into the residential market.
“My days are filled with bringing in new vendors and attending national shows,” Genrich says. “Lean six sigma has its place in post-frame structures, but you also have to expand and determine how you are going to provide what our builders need to satisfy their customers. We have done a good job exploring that.”
Although Wick Buildings is in an industry that values technology, the company believes in building relationships and still providing that personal touch. “We like to sit down with our builders and help them fulfill their customer’s needs by designing something that will improve their life,” Genrich adds.
Breidenbach agrees, saying that relationships still matter and the team has not become transactional. Wick Buildings makes the commitment to take care of its builders, bringing them into the Wick family and that core value has dated back to its inception.
75,000 Builds in 65 Years
Wick Buildings celebrated the completion of its 75,000 building this summer for Capital Underground in Madison, Wis. Capital Underground provides the underground work for new subdivisions and it needed a large, heated facility to house their equipment.
Wick Buildings completed the 80-by-150 structure successfully for Capital Underground, resulting in a contract to build the company’s second building. “We have a great relationship with Capital Underground,” Genrich says. “We worked side-by-side the whole time and met a couple times per week to address everything they wanted done. We took pride in using their subcontractors to complete the project.”
Wick Buildings hosted a luncheon to celebrate the completion of the building, which drew everyone who participated on the project, as well as members of the community that were involved. “It’s a cool project to be a part of that improved the community,” Genrich adds.
Heading into 2020, Wick Buildings is optimistic about its future and the special projects it has moving forward. “We are well prepared, have good business partners and are looking forward to the next 65 years,” Breidenbach concludes.