Traube Tent Co. grows through a slow and steady business plan and great customer service.
Traube Tent Co. of Columbia, Ill., has earned spots on various media lists of “fastest growing companies” in recent years. But a look at the company’s philosophy shows that its fast growth could be attributed to a “slow and steady” business plan. For example, in January, the 72-year-old company launched a separate division, Traube Tents and Structures, providing temporary and permanent hard- and soft-walled structures for commercial and industrial applications.
“We’ve been building our structure inventory over the last seven to 10 years really slowly and doing it without outside financing, just using our profits to build up an inventory,” says co-owner Steve Traube.
The company could have been discouraged by the current business climate, but instead saw advantages in establishing a new division amid a recession.
“We thought this economic situation was a perfect opportunity for us to focus our efforts and resources on marketing, which is something our competitors may have cut or stopped, and some companies may have gone out of business,” Traube says.
Also, existing and potential clients note when a company is taking this kind of action, Traube says.
“If you are out there doing these kinds of things in this type of economy, you are a strong company and you are going to be around,” he says.
Traube predicts that the future of the industry lies with engineered structures, and he is intrigued by the possibility of inflatable structures.
“Labor is obviously a huge concern and cost for us, so anything we can do to help minimize that would certainly help us out,” he says.
Traube’s grandfather established the business in 1938 as a venetian blind company and later added awnings and tents. In 1996, the company split, with brothers Steve and John taking on the tent rental side and their cousin Todd leading Traube Awning and Canvas. While the company will travel nationwide, Traube says its “sweet spot” is a 500-mile radius around St. Louis, Mo.
“We very much grew our company on word of mouth, and we really just focused on doing a good job for our clients, and then the clients did a lot of the work for us by spreading the word,” he says.
The company’s customer-service focus was on display for a wedding this year at a St. Louis-area country club. Traube provided 5,000 square feet of tenting including a clearspan for the main structure plus flooring, carpet, ceiling liners, lighting, air conditioning, dance floor and staging. But the job’s real challenge came when the wedding was over, and the installation needed to be taken down by 3 p.m. the following day.
“We came in right after the wedding at just about 1 a.m. and worked all night and all day to get everything out of there, and we were out of there before 3,” Traube says. “That’s a country club where we are the only tent company allowed to work there. That’s the reason—we are able to accomplish things like that.”