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"NRB, Inc. and Britco Structures Form a Unique Strategic Partnership"
by Laurie Robert, NRB, Inc. and Mike Ridley, Britco Structures

Britco Structures of Vancouver, British Columbia, and NRB Inc., Modular Building Systems of Grimsby, Ontario are forming a unique strategic partnership. One that has nothing to do with finances, ownership, or shares. One that can be considered in part, a result of the repeated exposure to each other through the MBI.

From the Perspective of NRB, Inc.

For a few years now we have quietly studied each other's progress with construction technology and expanding markets. It wouldn't be uncommon to see each other standing in front of the others entries for the Annual Awards of Distinction at an MBI Convention. Not as a typical competitor might do (wondering how they missed that one), but more in admiration of the accomplishment. Although our two companies are separated by over 3,000 miles, we still began our discussions prudently, somewhat like "wannabe" competitors. While we should not be in a competitive arena due to the geographical expanse, NRB was in fact, shipping a few steel and concrete buildings into Vancouver through a national contract. That particular account, with its extensive freight costs going west, was what prompted us to begin questioning the business sense of shipping over 3,000 miles. Remaining competitive with site built construction was difficult, if not impossible, so we could eventually risk losing business on a national basis. This was of no benefit to NRB, the owner (who appreciated the speed and quality of modular construction), or the industry.

Enter Britco, a company not unlike ourselves, with similar history, goals and objectives; with the desire, manufacturing capabilities, facilities, and certainly local presence to help us service this account. The only missing element was the construction methods and materials NRB applied to these buildings. Being situated in a province where forestry is a major industry, for Britco, wood frame construction was the method of choice; steel and concrete construction was not typically used.

The answer then, was first, to share our building technology so the owner could expect the identical building, second, release the western building requirements to a modular builder better situated to be competitive, and third, have the owner remain on a modular building program nationally rather than regionally.

It is a real departure from what I would consider "normal" business when you think about turning over some of your potential customers to another company, regardless of the geography. However we have established both the trust and comfort levels necessary for a successful alliance, and the benefits are quite apparent. Our sales people are working together and customers are pleased with the "expanded" capabilities. Leads go west and come east. Britco may also become a stocking distributor for our panelized building system - a new product for them - an expanded geographical area for us. This has put a whole new "spin" on how we do business today.

From the Perspective of Britco Structures

Both our companies have developed national accounts that require servicing coast to coast. Up until now, we have found that our ability to remain competitive across the country has been difficult. Many of our customers do not have the desire to source their own manufacturers in other regions and begin all over again. Through this partnership, Britco and NRB can now effectively and efficiently establish a national presence, creating further business opportunities. Companies that have building projects across the country and in the United States can now rely on one source to help ensure their needs are met consistently, regardless of location. This will provide our customers with better service, more choices and a consistent quality product, better local after sale service, and more competitive pricing.

Leads that come into each company can now be passed on to each other so that the customer receives local representation. Britco and NRB each have certain market and product niches that will be shared between the two companies. Differing technology is one item that will be openly shared, ultimately providing the customer with a higher quality, more versatile building. Our two companies also plan on joint marketing efforts, linking web sites to each other, and exhibiting co-operatively in national trade shows.

Operational activities such as estimating, design, purchasing, project management, job costing, and accounting will be reviewed and discussed to extract the best of what both companies have to offer.

Both companies see this partnership as a great opportunity to increase business and provide our customers with a higher level of confidence and service. Britco and NRB look forward to a long term and rewarding relationship.

The Proof is in the Implementation!

  • NRB recently shipped a building to Vancouver (from storage). Britco installers completed the site finish.
  • After unloading the two section building in Vancouver, NRB's transport crews headed for the Britco manufacturing facility where they picked up enough pre-built wall sections to frame 40 of NRB's classrooms back in Ontario. This was in an effort to help NRB through a backlog of work.
  • Britco released three members of their labor force to Ontario for a four week period recently to cross-train and assist NRB through an extremely busy period. Given labor shortages all around, this was an unbelievable bonus for NRB.
  • Purchasing managers from both companies have been able to provide alternate sources of supply that can potentially save each company and the customer money.

For obvious reasons, the partnership that NRB and Britco have developed is not for everyone. But if you are not competing directly, and have similar needs, it can make some good business sense. At the very least, co-operative marketing is important to show what we are capable of. And rather than tossing out a lead that you receive from outside your own marketing area, take a moment and pass it along to the MBI or to another member. Someone might just return the favor someday!

Copyright © Modular Building Institute, July 1999.