Three Maxims for Life and Work
PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. knows a strong foundation sustains a building—and a company
It may be hard for some to imagine that PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. CEO, John Norton, found his calling in the painting and flooring contracting industry decades ago. After graduating from Taylor University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, John first dabbled in commercial real estate and banking, but when a recession hit, he went to work for a small local painting company. Enthralled with the company culture and leadership, John became part of its succession plan and, in 1997, he purchased the Indianapolis, Indiana, branch of the business. The rest is history.
Specializing in industrial/commercial painting, resinous floor coatings and concrete floor polishing (e.g., epoxy, urethane, decorative floor systems, polish/dye), PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. primarily works in the retail/commercial, manufacturing/production, food/beverage and automotive industries.
Same Roots, Different Name
Originally founded as a small painting company in 1972, PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. has expanded its clientele and changed the name to reflect a now-global reach. However, the founding principles that shaped the firm remain the same—integrity, urgency and communication.
John’s team strives to outperform other contracting firms by disproving common misconceptions. “I’d say everybody seems to have the same complaints about contractors. They are late, they don’t show up or they cut corners,” John says. “We’re different because we want lasting relationships with our customers, so we are extremely communicative and perform consistently at a high level to achieve trust.”
The Three Maxims
To John, the company’s founding principles exist in everything employees do every day. Elaborating, John says, “We want to overcommunicate with our clients, respond with urgency and always demonstrate integrity. That’s critical to us.”
One example involves a large project the team recently completed. The company first performed a “test” concrete polish and resinous flooring system section for a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for Akebono Brake Corporation in Kentucky. The sample, a customized solution the team provided, was so impressive that the client hired PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. on the spot.
A similar story involves a project where a portion of the work required a subcontractor. Upon inspection, the project manager discovered the subcontracted work was poorly executed. He made the decision to correct the work, at a cost of $100,000. John says, “We knew the client wasn’t going to be happy with the work and, ultimately, it was an issue about our integrity. So, it was a no-brainer that our team would make this right and incur the cost to do so.”
Relationships, Not Projects
Long-term relationships, like the one PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. shares with retail giant Nike, has been key to its success. “When you contract with a large company like Nike, you deal with many layers of people who are continuously looking for consultants who provide better value or better people. Nike has hired less-expensive contractors, but they’ve come back to us every time. They realize it’s not the cost of the project that’s an issue. It is the relationship the foreman and superintendent have with the owner and other trades on-site,” John says. “And, all of our repeat manufacturing business in town is the same—they’ve tried to find somebody else, but always come back to us because of our strong relationships.”
Justin McKinzie, National Sales Manager for PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC.’s Painting Division, says these strong relationships are fortified by trust. “Our average foreman has been with us for more than a decade. Our experience in the field means we are battle-tested and know what works and what does not. It’s this level of hands-on experience that has won our clients’ trust—and not just here in the Indianapolis area, but throughout the country.”
Give and Take
The company’s polished concrete services have become a huge part of its business—and many big retailers are opting for this type of flooring. To continue growing, John says. “We had to look at specialty products to pour over the existing concrete to make it look like the existing slab, so we created a polishable overlap using TRU products from CTS Cement Manufacturing Corp.”
In the shop you will see samples of different kinds of products. Thanks to its vendors, the company stays actively engaged in research and development. According to John, “Most contractors want to be the expert—and we are—but they also need specific vendors to partner with because these vendors can provide incredible support and insight about the products and how to install them.” John feels strongly about treating his key vendors like customers. The mutually beneficial relationship means the team will go to bat for the product and can install materials without issues other contractors may experience.
It’s not just about vendors. Subconsultant relationships are a high priority as well. Justin says, “Because we self-perform most of our work, we use a small, vetted pool of subcontractors. The reason we choose to hire people and self-perform is because hiring random people to outsource tasks on individual projects equates to ‘hoping for the best.’ That’s not what we do here. We hire people to grow with our company and train them on our founding maxims and expectations for excellent client service.”
True to Local Roots
PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. is headquartered in Indianapolis, but also has locations in Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Yet, according to Justin, the headquarters office is where the magic began. “Out of all our offices, this is the largest and has the longest legacy. There is a staff of approximately 15 and our crews focus mainly on painting and polished concrete projects, followed closely by epoxy flooring systems,” he says.
A recent project that stands out to Derek Brown, Vice President/General Manager, is Sazerac of Indiana in New Albany (now known as Northwest Ordinance Distilling). Sazerac purchased the former Pillsbury plant and needed to refurbish the flooring. The team at PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. applied a resinous base and performed concrete polishing and painting at this 200,000-square-foot facility. “We completed the project in phases to accommodate the company’s production schedule and were able to adhere to FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] requirements for food storage expertly because of the high volume of food/beverage work we perform,” Derek says.
Other clients include Nestlé, Mars, PepsiCo and Heartland Food Products Group. Because flooring systems are easily damaged by substances such as fats, oils, sugar and food acids, expertise in this market is crucial. To adhere to the health and safety guidelines of the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), flooring systems must be bacteria-resistant and maintain cleanliness. To streamline achieving USDA approval, PREFERRED GLOBAL, INC. offers flooring products uniquely and specifically designed to USDA requirements.
Rewarding Great Performance
To John, operating his company with integrity also means supporting his staff as he would family. “I would do anything for my staff,” he says, “and I know that feeling is reciprocated.” He rewards excellent customer service right on the spot. “If I have a customer that pays a foreman a compliment, I hand out a $100 bill in that moment for the compliment. And, we give every team member who reaches their 10-year anniversary a Rolex watch. Believe it or not, I’m giving away more and more of these because our employees are staying longer. It’s an honor to see this.”
When John first started this job, he followed in the footsteps of those who came before him, embracing the belief that, if he could make people feel important, they would perform at a high level. “I want to show I truly care about my staff personally, and how they operate from a business perspective is secondary. I want them to know how much I care for them,” John says. Most recently, an employee working in California was away from his family for a long stretch, so the company gave him time off and flew his family out to see him.
This philosophy resonates with Derek. He says, “John explained his three maxims to me prior to becoming an employee. His integrity, and the amount of repeat business the company has as a result, is what appealed to me.” Since joining the firm, Derek is proud to represent these values. “Clients know when they come to us, we perform the job right. We provide quality, one-on-one, personalized service. I’m not looking to win projects, I’m looking to find long-term, repeat clients.”