Since 1962, family-owned and operated Bertelson Precast Corporation has been manufacturing concrete products ranging from parking bumpers and stair treads to custom site furnishings, planters and picnic tables and benches, all proudly made in the USA. Originally founded in the Bay Area, the company moved to Modesto in 2002 to better serve clients in both California and Nevada.
“Manufacturing excellence, outstanding customer service, and a dedication to delivering solutions to meet our customers’ needs and expectations have guided our company since the beginning,” says Chet Bertelson, who is now the company President. “This philosophy has helped to set us apart from other providers, and is the foundation to our company’s longevity.”
However, when the Great Recession struck, demand evaporated. Construction projects halted, new construction was put on hold, and customers stopped buying replacements as budgets were cut to the bone. Bertelson Precast struggled to survive, relying on capital reserves and small job sales to keep the company operational as the recovery lagged. In late 2013, Chet heard about the SBDC consulting services, and their Employer Assistance Program (EAP).
Working closely with SBDC lead consultant Claudia Newcorn, Chet determined the company needed to refocus their marketing message to emphasize not just their diversity of products, but their unparalleled commitment to customer service. “We repositioned ourselves to focus on the fact that whether an architect or contractor, project deadlines are a mission-critical part of business,” Chet explains, “and failure to complete project elements on time could impact the bottom line and upset customers. With everything they’re juggling, we wanted to be seen as a supplier who provides solutions and did not create problems through delivery delays, failure to meet specifications, or shoddy products.”
After conducting a competitive analysis, Bertelson Precast redesigned their website to market the company as a solutions-provider, showcasing their products in a customer-centric arrangement that made it easy to find information and improved SEO. Concurrently, company brochures, business cards and other materials were rebranded with a new slogan, as well as reiterating the company’s commitment to service.
“Claudia also helped us step back and look at our operational processes, financial structure, customer base, and product mix,” Chet says. “After being in business for over 50 years, we had a lot of SKUs on the books, and she challenged us to evaluate, eliminate and streamline our offerings to improve our bottom line. She has helped us develop a strategic business approach that we use to thoroughly evaluate new opportunities and concepts before we take action.”
After a review of employee issues, at Claudia’s recommendation, the company also worked with SBDC HR consultant Lourdes Urunday. She assisted them with developing a bilingual HR Employee Handbook, and fully compliant HR policies to create a more productive workplace environment.
Bertelson Precast achieved a number of significant milestones in working with the SBDC. The company was able to avoid laying off 4 employees who were “at-risk” of lay-off prior to SBDC assistance AND created three new positions as a result of SBDC assistance. 2015 revenues grew close to double digits and profits showed significant growth. The company was able to invest in the purchase of a two new large flatbed trucks to transport products, including one with a lift crane to be able to offer precision placement on job sites and improve customer service. They also invested in a new office trailer to be more accessible to clients. To diversify their site furnishings product offerings, the company purchased new molds and related equipment.
Chet credits the SBDC with being an important factor in their business turnaround. “The SBDC has really been an expert resource for us,” Chet says. “From the start, they have been all about helping us succeed, whether by educating us in areas in which we had limited experience, or coaching us on how to enhance and improve what we were doing. They have helped bring us into the 21st century, and position us for continued growth.”