Feature, V2I2

‘Struggles Make Us Stronger’

Ryan Keller, owner of Oakland Structures in Waynesboro, Georgia
Keller says the right people help make success, and that includes his family. (Left to right) Garrett, Cortney, Keller, Ava, wife April, and Whitney.

At the age of 21, Ryan Keller, owner of Oakland Structures in Waynesboro, Georgia, had a discussion with his father and brother about constructing portable buildings.

“We ended up doing a lot of on-site construction, along with sheds, playhouses, and retailing playground equipment,” he says. “After working with them in that for four or five years, I decided to be completely dedicated to just building sheds.”

29-gauge metal or 30-year architectural shingles for shed roofing
Oakland Structures uses either 29-gauge metal or 30-year architectural shingles for roofing.

According to Keller the trio had their share of challenges. However, as he looks back, Keller can see how that experience was shaping and preparing him for moving on to founding his own company.

Keller’s desire to own a business started well before the age of 21.

“From the young age of about 12 or 13, I watched other business men and had the desire to be one of them,” Keller says. “Business always grabbed my attention, so starting my own at age 25 was no random second thought for me. This had been in my plans for many years already.”

However, a recession wasn’t part of the plan. Still, in 2008, Keller started Oakland Structures, in spite of the Great Recession going on, and was determined to make a successful shed-building business.

“Struggles make us stronger,” says Keller. “Most of us try desperately to avoid problems, struggles, the hard and difficult. If we look at successful people in history, we see their lives full of road blocks, seemingly impossible to succeed, just plain struggle, but an absolute determination to succeed.”

Keller says he’s had his share of struggles, problems, and failures. In his mind, if people choose to learn from those struggles, they can go far beyond what would have been if they had never experienced the hard and difficult.

He says that he’s learned a lot from Zig Ziglar, quoting, “Failure is an event, not a person.”

personal shed delivery
The company personally delivers every shed.

“There are two keys I hinge my success on and I believe are vital for anyone’s success. Well really I should say three,” says Keller. “The first is a faith, trust, and confidence in an Almighty God that created me, and an ultimate desire that supersedes all else to be in His will.”

The other two keys Keller says are, first, surround yourself with the right people.

“For my success it was, and still is, absolutely vital for me to have a person/people in my life to mentor and teach me. At 25, my knowledge and experience were extremely limited. I needed someone specific in my life that had experience and wisdom from past years that I didn’t have. Someone who was successful and was in a business position that I wanted to move toward.”

Keller says that he was blessed by having a mentor in his life, but that wasn’t enough. What made the difference was that he listened to that older, more experienced man.

“The ability to listen is really a whole other subject and a key all to its own,” he says. “I must have people in my life, but it won’t do me much good if I don’t listen. If you’re selling something, and we all are, listen. If you want others to hear you, listen. If you want to grow, listen.”

Second is to have vision and goals that go far beyond today.

“In the Bible there are many truths for us to live by and that we can apply to our everyday life, whatever you are, as in my case a businessman,” Keller says. “Hebrews 11:13 says, ‘These all died in Faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.’ How does this apply to me in business?”

Keller says that in order to be successful, he had to be persuaded of success and embrace it even if he wasn’t experiencing it at the moment. He had to plan what success would look like down the road.

Another Ziglar quote Keller cites is, “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

And Keller has made Oakland Structures a success. He says the company focuses on building a quality building, paying attention to detail.

 “We take a lot of custom orders to get our customer exactly what they want and strive to exceed their expectations,” he says.

customer service in the shed industry

When it comes to his customers, Keller says that the company mostly sells its sheds through dealers, so the dealer is first and foremost the customer. That being said, he still considers the end user his customer, too.

“It’s very important to us that we care for the dealer and the end customer. We are careful to give support to our dealers,” he says. “We deliver all our own buildings. It’s a way to have more relationship with the end customer and to ensure they are 100 percent happy.”

Most customer feedback that Oakland Structures receives, says Keller, praises the company’s customer service, price, quality, and attention to detail.

“When I started in a recession, I knew there were three things I need to keep in front of me. I always said if I can keep excellent service, premium quality, and a good price, I will be well on my way to having a successful company,” says Keller. “There’s a lot that goes in to all that, but it’s good to keep in focus. Our customers also like the customizing that we’ve offered.”

A big part of the service, quality, and price that Keller mentions is using quality products. He says that since the company focuses on a quality building, they try to be careful in what products they use to construct them.

“When we started eight years ago, I knew the Duratemp siding had been a long-standing quality product in the shed industry in the north. When I started, it basically didn’t exist in the south,” he says. “Overall, I’ve been happy with the Duratemp and feel it has helped me maintain a quality, clean building.”

Keller also says that the company has focused on painted buildings, which also was almost nonexistent in the area when he started.

Other quality products the company uses includes roofing material that is either 29-gauge metal or 30-year architectural shingles. They also use a solar board sheeting on the roof as standard for all buildings. And, he says that all of Oakland Structures’ wall studs are 16 inches on center.


Oakland Structures

What does Keller look for in terms of the future of Oakland Structures? Growth.

“I plan to continue growing as a company and in my own life,” he says. “I don’t ever want to become stagnant or satisfied with what I’ve attained. There’s a certain growth that should be happening in a company to keep it fresh, new, and exciting.”

A specific goal Keller has is to grow and empower leaders from the people he has in the company now.

“As an entrepreneur, there’s constant challenges, but having the right people and empowering them can minimize potential problems,” says Keller. “People are an important part of my business. I’ve been blessed with good people to work with, and I want to improve our team.”


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