Broomfield Sheet Metal (BSM) began in 1955, arguably a simpler time, more attuned to “traditional” business values. According to co-owner and Vice President Christine Christensen, the philosophy of business taught by the original owner was “Business on a handshake should be good enough. If you give your word you keep your word.”
Today, under the leadership of Christine and her partner, John Coogan, the company still operates according to those principles. Eschewing advertising, BSM continues to thrive despite a challenging economy, in large measure due to the strength of their reputation for quality and reliability.
A good reputation was invaluable to the company’s success during the Great Recession of 2008. At that time, much of their business was centered on designing and installing commercial HVAC. The impact of the recession meant that there were not only fewer businesses ordering installations, but a wave of now unemployed installers began working out of their trucks for cut rate prices, siphoning off portions of the dwindling new business market.
Unfortunately, many businesses later discovered that short term savings wound up costing them more money in the long run when they needed repairs or replacements and their installers were nowhere to be found. “We were always the ones called when the installers disappeared,” says Christine.
“Our previous owner used to say ‘We’ll be with it until the end. We won’t bail out on you. We will stick with it through all the bugs and problems.’” Christine and her partner have steadfastly maintained that ethos and that is why repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals generate the majority of their business.
A Strong Partnership and Weathering the Recession
Christine’s partner, John, began with BSM in 1980 as a designer and then project manager. Christine herself started in 1990 as a part-time employee while finishing college. She never intended to stay with Broomfield, but she found herself not only staying on after college, but also eventually sharing ownership in the company.
The two make an excellent team, with Coogan’s expertise in design and manufacturing and Christine’s in managing the financials. “We make a good team because we’ve worked together so long and defer to one another’s area of expertise. We’ve lasted longer than most marriages,” she states with a chuckle.
Christine and John purchased the company in 2008, just before the Great Recession. At a time when many other companies were laying off customers or even shutting their doors, BSM did neither, in large part due to an emphasis on diversifying their products and services. In addition to HVAC, they expanded to designing and installing commercial air purification systems, as well as customized architectural metal design and fabrication.
“If anyone can do it we can,” said Christine, “because our people care, are creative, and always looking for a new challenge and solution.” Today their company’s designs can be found in applications as diverse as 500 gallon water tanks in Antarctica, parts on race cars, custom designs in trendy restaurants, and even a “Jewish Christmas tree.” “We are willing to attempt anything,” says Christine. “We are big on being inventive. The only limit is the customer’s imagination.”
Their philosophy of diversification paid off: during the height of the 2008 recession, they not only kept the doors open, but avoided any layoffs. Another example of their innovative philosophy was to have solar panels installed on the roof of their large facility. This has enabled BSM to save significantly on utility costs and continue a tradition of being good neighbors by helping to reduce carbon emissions. “It hasn’t been hassle free but it was the right thing to do,” she said.
Leaving Behind the “Dinosaur”
When Christine started with BSM she inherited an archaic software accounting system run by what she said was a “dinosaur” of a computer. While searching for a solution to their cumbersome and limited software, she discovered Cougar Mountain Software. She was attracted to Cougar Mountain’s software because
it is simple to use and the support is phenomenal. With a program like Quickbooks you don’t have support. If you don’t have support it’s worth nothing.”
She also noted that in today’s economy, job bidding has become extremely competitive. Companies like BSM are under constant pressure to keep their bids low while maintaining adequate profit margins.
The Job Cost module is a big reason why after 23 years, Christine and BSM continue to rely upon Cougar Mountain’s software to empower them to maintain cost controls. “The Job Cost feature allows you to enter every screw, every piece of material, all labor costs and track it. It shows every aspect of the job and gives you a line-by-line reading of every item you’ve entered against that job to see how your costs are.”
Tracking and controlling costs are a vital component of effective bidding; manufacturing companies in particular need an accurate accounting of their real costs while efficiently managing the utilization of on-site job materials. According to Christine, Cougar Mountain’s software is
like a microscope on every job that goes through here. You can see weaknesses in your bid really quick. I’ll know if estimators overbid, underbid, and where can we improve from here.”
This in turn allows them to bid more effectively on future jobs, maintain cost controls, and protect their profit margins.
The owners of BSM are not simply maintainers, they are innovators. That is why Christine appreciates the way software developers at Cougar Mountain take the input from their customers seriously and continually work to innovate and improve their solutions. She noted that many of her own suggestions were eventually adopted by Cougar Mountain. “I started from scratch installing a new Cougar Mountain Software system in 1990 and stayed with it ever since. It is a good relationship.”
Integrity and innovation—two elements that BSM and Cougar Mountain Software share that have enabled both to continue to provide their customers with great products and excellent service.