Long standing businesses have a unique competitive advantage—their heritage.
There’s something remarkable in saying your company has been around for 20, 30 or 50 years. And it’s even more remarkable if you can say your company is 92 years old.
Vets Sheet Metal was founded in 1921 by Fred T. Rayner in Edmonton, Alberta. Vets is a fourth generation family business with a rich heritage dating back to the end of World War 1.
Without even discussing how Vets Sheet Metal operates today, their heritage brings the brand immediate credibility. A company has to be doing something right to exist for close to a century.
Anchoring today on yesterday
Well established companies anchor their brands on their heritage.
Procter & Gamble: “Since 1837, P&G has built a rich heritage of touching consumers’ lives with brands that make life a little better every day.”
Walmart: “Since the first Walmart store opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas, we’ve been dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our customers. Our business is the result of Sam Walton’s visionary leadership, along with generations of associates focused on helping customers and communities save money and live better.”
Looking back provides a company’s leaders an anchor to guide today’s decision making and support value based judgements. As Walmart goes on to say, “This rich heritage defines who we are and what we do today.”
Vets Sheet Metal leverages its heritage as a guide. The vision and values established by Fred Rayner have carried on through the generations, and guide the company’s current leadership.
A name worth protecting
Heritage is a point of pride. It’s something to invest in, evolve and grow.
Sean Rayner, CEO of Vets Sheet Metal, is the first to say the construction industry in North America is broken. The industry is driven on lowest-cost bids, and firms undercut each other to win the business.
Cut throat pricing doesn’t leave much room for quality and customer service, let alone brand building. Construction firms under quote to win the business, and then cut corners or leave things out because they can’t deliver what they promised. They focus on short term profits versus building a brand that stands the test of time.
Vets heritage is a point of pride. They value quality, customer service and doing things right over winning at all costs. These values may mean they don’t win every bid, but they also don’t take on needlessly risky or unprofitable projects either.
Celebrate the past
In 2011 Vets Sheet Metal celebrated their 90th anniversary. It was a reason to celebrate.
Vets partnered with Valour Place as a philanthropic project to celebrate their anniversary. Valour Place is a home away from home for Canadian military, veterans and their families who require medical attention in the Edmonton area.
Vets worked with Valour Place to build a new home. They donated $90,000 in ventilation equipment, labor, metal and money to build the home.
The project was a very visible and tangible way for the Vets Sheet Metal team to celebrate their heritage. The name Vets is derived from veterans. Fred Rayner named the company after his WWI service, and the project paid homage to that military connection.
The project engaged both the employees and the community, and helped demonstrate the values and heritage of the company.
Defining the brand for the present
Being a well established business doesn’t mean you do what the previous generations did.
John Deere highlights evolution and change when describing their history, “Since its founding in 1837, John Deere has seen a great many changes in its business, its products, its services. Change always comes with opportunity. And Deere has always been ready and willing to embrace it.”
Vets Sheet Metal has undergone several shifts in its history. With each generation the company has focused on growing new markets, and adapting to the competitive landscape. The company started in residential ventilation and heating, and today works primarily in commercial and industrial ventilation construction, maintenance and service.
Heritage does not dictate the business model. It’s a guide to support the values and vision of the brand, and it’s the leadership of the day that grows a profitable business.
Brand heritage is a competitive advantage
Growing a company through the generations has inherent competitive advantages:
- Name recognition: The longer a company exists the more people will be exposed to it.
- Credibility: History demonstrates stability, reliability and expertise.
- Relationships: With strong brand stewardship, a company develops long standing relationships that grow with it through the decades.
And above all else, heritage brings with it stories and lore. These stories provide a powerful compass for staff and management by looking to the examples of the prior generations.
Heritage cannot be replicated by the competition. The stories, relationships and history are assets a brand like Vets Sheet Metal can own, leverage and promote. Heritage gives the brand credibility and gravitas that a startup just doesn’t have.