Mt. Airy, NC
Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories has been building and selling portable storage units and trailers from its 50 factory outlets in and around North Carolina since 1963. The economic downturn really hit the business hard. Leonard’s sales in retail locations were down 30% causing a significant reduction in production, sales and corporate staff. Soon David O’Neal, President and CEO of Leonard Buildings, and other members of the management team were searching for creative ways to turn the business around.
TJ Glover, Marketing Director, was seeking business assistance resources online when he learned about the SBTDC. He contacted and was soon visited by Blair Abee, director of the SBTDC’s Winston-Salem State University office. Working with Blair, Leonard’s management team assessed the company’s strategic needs and realized expanding their customer base by effectively using the internet and selling to state and federal government agencies would be key to success.
Abee brought in undergraduate marketing students from UNCG who completed market research for Leonard Buildings as a course project. Two of the students went on to work as paid interns for the business focusing on projects to make it easier for people to find Leonard through search engines like Google and the online yellow pages. With this assistance, Leonard gained many new customers through online marketing.
In 2009, with the help of the SBTDC and Governor Perdue’s Biz Boost initiative, even better things happened for Leonard. The business received a grant from the Workforce Development Board to provide technical training for management skills. In addition, strategy sessions with the SBTDC’s Strategy and Organization Development experts led to a new rent-to-own business model for Leonard’s products. Sales under this model went from zero to 200 units per month in just a few months.
“Having the counsel of the SBTDC support our senior leadership team in its strategy formulation, planning, and execution has made the biggest difference for Leonard Buildings,” says TJ.
As a result of their turnaround success, Leonard doubled their sales of storage buildings and has been adding new jobs in Surry County where the unemployment rate reached as high as 13% in 2009. “Over the last three years we went from 70 manufacturing employees to as low as 45, but in just the last few months we’ve hired 40 more employees in manufacturing and operations,” said David.
TJ added “The SBTDC has helped build a think-tank around us so that we don’t have to evaluate decisions in a vacuum.”
Story originally featured in the SBTDC's 2009-10 Annual Report.