Turning Visions into Reality

Sentinel Building Systems
Written by Josh Carmody

Why settle for a chintzy dull box when Sentinel can help you create your ideal dream?

In the evolving world of commercial architecture, Sentinel is building on its success by expanding its customizable solutions into larger commercial markets.

Sentinel Building Systems is a company that has built itself around the notion that no two customers are going to be satisfied by the same product; there is always going to be variation, even if only slight. Most are not satisfied with an out-of-the-box, one size fits all solution. Working hand in hand with each customer, Sentinel’s experts develop the perfect custom steel building by engineering a solid structure that actualizes the initial vision.

“If they can dream it, Sentinel is going to build it,” explained Keith Kirk, Marketing Director for Sentinel Building Systems.

What started in 1987 as a one-man shop out of a residential home, making cold sales calls over the phone to produce private label buildings, has since expanded to a successful manufacturer of metal or steel buildings. The original owners made the decision to move beyond private labels and bring on a team of engineers to create Sentinel Building Systems, with some of those people still working there to this very day.

In those early days it was decided to play things smart and safe, refusing to borrow money to expand the business and instead only investing in new technology or expansions when profit allowed. This proved to be a wise decision that kept the company safe in times of recession. Sentinel was purchased by Global Industries in 2000, which in turn was purchased by AG Growth International (AGI).

Building relationships
Going from a small, family-like company culture to integrating into the corporate cultures of Global, and most recently AGI, was a transition made all the more smooth by the desire to hold onto the values Sentinel had from the beginning. Everyone on board was there to preserve the respectful, small business values that had served the firm so well – and now, in 2019, the marriage of cultures has created a successful business with an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Sentinel is now working on building its future, with plans already set in motion that will allow the company access to more commercial jobs and get the name Sentinel Building Systems out to even more customers than ever before.

Sentinel’s expert work is elevated by the partnerships it takes pride in establishing with dealers. Working through these dealers, who will handle concrete, erection of the building, and the finished work, Sentinel is promoted as the go-to for the specialized designs of custom structures. Territory managers work in the field to find dealers who are the right fit, using a targeted approach to create a service that finds those who specifically benefit the most from Sentinel’s expertise. Seeking out dealers who are going to be active in the steel building business is important to Sentinel, and the firm works to build lasting relationships with dealers who may expand their businesses in the future and return to the company for additional custom solutions.

Meeting customer needs
With a major manufacturing facility as part of the resources on hand, Sentinel is able to perform most of its own production, including rolling the sheeting and red ironwork. Situated in the Midwestern state of Nebraska, Sentinel has more than established itself as the major provider of steel buildings in not only its home state but in the surrounding states as well. Being acquired by AGI has considerably increased the company’s buying power by way of the connections AGI brought with it – which has in turn made it easier to produce exactly what the customer wants.

“In the beginning, the owners were against borrowing money and would only invest in new equipment when they could pay for it outright,” explained Jason Spence, Lead Sales Consultant for Sentinel Building Systems. “With the corporate team, Sentinel has been able to grow much quicker.”

The Sentinel team approaches each project through the customer’s eyes, taking extra steps to ensure that every building is everything they could have imagined. Other objectives remain in constant flux as Sentinel evolves with the industry, always looking to increase its manufacturing capabilities by adding more modern and high-tech machinery to help the team get the job done to exact specifications. Staying on the forefront of advances in engineering and machinery helps keep the company ahead of the competition, ensuring that it always has the tools in place to grow the business and meet all customer needs. “We really want to break the market down into different niches and market directly to those niches,” said Kirk.

Always evolving
Working toward accreditation is going to open up a new world of jobs Sentinel will be able to bid on. Currently successful in agricultural buildings, horse riding arenas, mini-storages, airplane hangars, and small commercial projects, the company’s goal is to expand that focus in commercial efforts such as office buildings and shopping centers. While this may seem like a broad approach, it is actually part of the company’s plan to focus on targeting niche markets that require a great deal of metal and steel building work. Keeping this approach in mind, it is evident that Sentinel isn’t going for a blanket approach to earning new customers, but instead is being careful and specific to speak directly to the types of customers who will benefit the most from what Sentinel has to offer.

“One of the things I’ve been excited about since the AGI acquisition is that we worked with some outside reps when Global took over in 2000 but they were really focused on grain handling and those types of things. With AGI, in the short time they have owned Sentinel, I have, from a sales point of view, seen far more opportunities arise in a major way,” shared Spence.

Looking ahead
At the end of the day, Sentinel Building Systems has been established upon – and prides itself on – its ability to creatively address each and every customer’s particular situation. The addition of AGI’s resources and the relationships its representatives have built with large firms over the years means that Sentinel is taking on some of the largest projects in the company’s history, and the firm will only continue to grow from here. Going into the future, Sentinel will be proudly approaching new and diverse customers with its custom approach to problem-solving.

As Spence said, “AGI and Sentinel are focused on solution selling; instead of telling the customer what they need, we work with them to come up with a solution specific to them.”

From the humble beginnings of a home business born at the end of the 80s to the well-oiled solutions-providing machines of today, Sentinel Building Systems will continue to build upon the philosophy that there is no problem that is best solved by limiting the customer to a prepackaged solution. From office buildings and grain storage to horse riding arenas and airplane hangars, there is no telling just who the next customer could be or what they may be dreaming of.



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