By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
It’s been four years since Chesterfield Fence & Deck Co. moved into a new 25,000-square-foot showroom, office and warehouse in the Chesterfield Valley. The firm is already planning to build another 20,800-square-foot warehouse and office across the street.
Chesterfield Fence is a family-owned company, started in 1968 by Dennis Wibbenmeyer, father of Shari Thiel, corporate secretary and marketing director, and father-in-law of Tom Thiel, president. Shari’s brother, Kevin Wibbenmeyer, is vice president.
Tom Thiel joined the company in 1997, when it was doing about $3 million a year in business. The company has grown fairly steadily since then, except during the recession. He expects sales to reach approximately $15 million this year. Chesterfield Fence serves areas within a 60-mile radius of its office.
The company has three core products: fences, decks and sunrooms, and the current location allows the company to warehouse and show all its products to current and prospective customers. The company also manufactures fence railings and its own vinyl fence.
“Our vision currently is to deliver top level quality as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety,” Tom Thiel said. “That is a tall order.”
To meet that goal, Chesterfield Fence has ongoing training in customer service, products and safety with its 96 employees, including 18 sales consultants. The company uses its own employees on most projects, avoiding subcontractors as much as possible, Shari Thiel said. Managers meet with crews weekly, and salepeople meet regularly, usually every week or two.
Each sales consultant follows up with customers after jobs are finished, emailing them to make sure everything went well. Customers are asked to complete a survey, rating the company on 10 aspects of the service and a few additional questions, including whether the customer would recommend the service.
Two dedicated customer service employees handle any repair calls and get them addressed right away, Thiel said. The company offers a five-year labor warranty.
When asked about company values, Thiel said he expects employees to follow the Golden Rule. “Treat customers the way you want to be treated, with fairness, kindness and respect,” Thiel said.
The company currently is working on two ethics documents, an employee bill of rights and a customer bill of rights. Thiel said the company plans to publish the documents and hand the customer bill of rights out to customers.
“I want to develop a document that is authentic, that we can be passionate about,” said Thiel, an avid reader of business books.
Chesterfield Fence has adapted to trends as well as neighborhood and municipal codes that specify particular types of fencing. “It’s our job to be in tune with those, and to please municipalities, homeowners associations and customers,” Thiel said.
As the company has grown, Thiel says he’s tried to develop a more diverse workforce. Whereas in the past, most promotions came from within, he finds a need now to hire employees with specific skills. Many employees have been with the company 15 years or more.
Chesterfield Fence recently won a family-owned small business of the year award from the Small Business Administration. Last year, it came in 43rd on Remodeling Magazine’s list of the top 550 replacement contractors nationwide.
The company’s community activities include sponsoring a hole at the Monarch Firefighters & Paramedics’ golf tournament to benefit Muscular Dystrophy. The company also has raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of St. Louis for the Team In Training marathon. The company donated materials and labor for a fence to the Extreme Makeover Home Edition in 2008, and it often donates fencing to pet adoption agencies.
Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. This year’s TORCH Award Luncheon will be Oct. 14 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St .Louis. For more information, click here.