Profiles, V7I5

Action Sales

Action Buildings (from left) branch managers Christian Weierck and Jonathon Briggs, and Brandon Cantrell, co-owner and general manager.

Action Buildings started in 1979 as a retailer of wood buildings when my grandfather, James Newman Cantrell, shifted from the automotive business due to the economy. In the early ’80s, he made the decision to begin manufacturing our own buildings at a shop in Columbus, Georgia, which is still open today. 

We purchased a second manufacturing property in Columbus in the late ’80s and still occupy that property. 

Our manufacturing operation ran from 1984 to 2019 with 100 carpenters working three shifts a day during our peak. We opened several retail stores in various cities in Georgia, including Columbus, three locations in Macon, two locations in Savannah, two locations in Valdosta, and one location in Lagrange; and in Alabama, one location in Phenix City and one in Auburn. 

We also sold truck accessories and redwood playsets at all our stores, as well as steel structures and gazebos. We held our own rent-to-own and financing paper for around 15 years or so with 5,000-plus sheds on the books.  

We were seeing a shift in the industry over the last few years, and we found ourselves complacent and not advancing our growth. 

In 2016, my grandfather passed away, and I took control of the company, along with my father James Marcus Cantrell and uncle Spencer Ray Cantrell beside me. 

I have always been one to admit that I don’t know everything. I’m always looking to see what we can do to improve our company and our sales.

I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss business strategy regarding manufacturing, and, as a result, we got out of the truck accessory business, the steel structure business, the playset business, and the gazebo business, and we are now laser-focused on selling one thing: portable buildings.

Portable buildings are what brought us to our peak back in the ’90s, and they are what will propel us forward. We’ll do what we do and do it to the best of our abilities. 

I also realized that I cannot be a phenomenal retailer and a phenomenal manufacturer, so we had to prioritize one of those. When you do too many things at one time, you do nothing right. When you do nothing right, you might as well pack your bags and go home. If you don’t realize that, you’ll be out of business soon. 

We’ve found several established and unique manufacturers in our home state of Georgia and beginning in 2018 we began phasing out our manufacturing operation. 

We made the decision that we are in business for five main reasons:

  1. To provide the best and most unique product for our customers.
  2. To provide our employees and their families with the best standard of living that we can.
  3. To provide our suppliers with a reliable business partner who wants them to succeed as much as we want ourselves to succeed. The street runs both ways.
  4. To provide our financiers, including our finance and rent-to-own companies, with a continual source of revenue, via paper.
  5. And finally, to provide our shareholders, with a profit. My grandfather always said, “If you can’t make money, you might as well go fishing!”  

In December of 2019, I made an important phone call that changed the trajectory of our company’s marketing strategy. On that call to KSM I learned how important digital marketing could be to our company and how my now previous marketing strategy was holding back our growth. 

We talked about a proper website, with interaction, that converts to incoming calls and online sales, without a slick salesperson on the other end. We talked about how we could use SEO (search engine optimization) to surge past our competition on Google, Bing, and other search engines. We talked about various other types of online marketing avenues and techniques, some of which I was completely unfamiliar with. 

With my newfound information I met with our shareholders, and we made the decision to move forward. 

I was told that this would take time and it wasn’t going to be an instant success; however, within six months we saw an increase in our monthly sales volume. Closing out 2020, our sales volume was very strong compared to the previous year. 

Rolling into 2021 our sales have gone beyond expectations. We’re seeing record sales and even some completely hands-off sales with e-commerce. 

I now realize that the old ways of marketing aren’t effective with our tech society and how the industry has changed.

We finally got out of manufacturing completely in the first quarter of 2020. This allowed us the freedom to be able to finally do what we do best: selling portable buildings!  

What’s not talked about much in our industry is theft at the expense of manufacturing. It’s tough to track but we know it’s being done. Since our conversion from manufacturer to dealer, we have zero theft.

Currently, we have 10 locations, and we’re beginning to realize that we can sell sheds anywhere that we want to without having a physical location due to our online marketing. 

We’re always looking to expanding slowly but surely. We operate on a cash basis and want to make sure that we make sound, financial decisions. 

So, how do I plan on Action Buildings expanding and being in business another 42 years? By making sound financial decisions where we own most of our lots, all our inventory, and all our delivery rigs. This in turn makes sure that our employees have a future within the organization if, and when, we hit bumps in the road, we’ll not only survive but continue to thrive and expand.    

We currently only sell portable buildings unique to Georgia and Alabama, and, generally speaking, we can build-to-order any building within four-to-six weeks. In this environment, you need to be very clear in your conversations with customers to let them know about the supply shortages within our industry.  

We’re customizing now more than ever due to the shift in who seems to be buying sheds today. It seems that around 80 percent of all shed purchases sold through Action Buildings’ 3D Shed Builder are either to a woman or a female spouse who will have the final decision on the shed purchase. As a result, we’ve made sure that we offer a diverse product line that will hopefully appeal to a lot of the ladies. 

I’ve realized that technology has gotten better, quicker, but not less complicated. In my conversations, I hear people say, “Yep, that tech is coming,” and I know that those folk are goin’ because they just don’t get it!

Our strong online presence has given us the opportunity to get in front of buyers who never had the knowledge of our company’s existence. Because of this, we’ve introduced multiple tools to our sales process, some online and some in equipment upgrades.

KSM has implemented the following tools on our website:

  • Call Tracking
  • Instant Call-Back Software
  • A Website Buddy – Conversion Tool
  • Remarketing Software
  • 3D Shed App
  • ADA Compliance Software – To keep us safe from ADA violation lawsuits
  • HubSpot CRM
  • 360 Degree Virtual Shed Tours System

We’ve also purchased new Mac desktops for our sales staff to make closing the sale online as smooth as possible. With up-to-date equipment, we’re now adding Zoom sales meetings to keep our team up to date. This saves us driving time, frustration, and is far more efficient and effective with our sales staff. 

In the very near future, we’re going to be implementing this same type of technology with our sales team’s interaction with potential buyers who are on our website. They’ll be able to request chat support but will find themselves talking to one of our team members, face-to-face. This personal touch can be a game-changer.

Regarding our team, I believe in hiring based on merit and talent. That talent must be reflective of the areas where we live.  As a result, we prioritize the hiring of diverse individuals from all ethnicities and backgrounds.  

We would love for Action Buildings to be an absolute rainbow of different types of people.  

As a retailer, I believe that it’s essential to form strong relationships, which are more of a business partnership. What I mean by this is that you need to be able to have a close relationship with your manufacturer, your marketing company, RTO companies, finance companies, and shed delivery companies. 

For example, I have conversations with my manufactures regarding business about once a month. My marketing/SEO company is in constant communication, and we talk strategy at a minimum twice a month. We’re meeting with our RTO and finance companies once a month.  

As we grow Action Buildings into the future, we’re constantly looking to see what we can do that would be effective in our growth strategy.  

I love the shed business, it’s sort of in my blood. I want to continue to grow the company and make the Cantrell legacy a name we can be proud of.

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