Value your customers

Bill Heifner was ready to go home and get some dinner. He was a young boy who had put in his time working at his father’s wallpaper and paint store in Tuscarawas County. It was now 5 p.m. and it was time to call it a day.

The only problem with this plan was the customers who remained in the store.

“I suggested we needed to close the store and turn off the lights so they could all go home to dinner,” says Heifner, founder and president of Renier Construction Corp. “(My father) reminded me very quickly that it was the customers in our store that actually put the food on our table. That’s something that’s stuck with me all these years.”

It’s that commitment to doing things the right way and never failing to come through for your customer that has provided the foundation for Renier, which Heifner launched in 1980.

“He always told me to tell the truth and deliver on your promises,” Heifner says of his father. “And quite frankly, if you make a mistake, admit it and take the appropriate steps to correct it. That parlayed into the fundamental core values of my company.”

Heifner faces threats every day at his 50-employee company in which if he was to even back down just a little bit, his core values would be rendered meaningless.

“It’s not only integrity with your clients but also with your suppliers and trade contractors and integrity with your associates and your employees,” Heifner says. “You really can’t waver from that. As soon as you do, the trust and confidence that’s taken you many years to build up with those people, it really becomes compromised.”

Heifner recalls a large construction project his firm took on in northern Ohio that ran into a significant number of problems.

“We had an owner that was looking to Renier to deliver on our promise of a completion date for a project in terms of quality and also making sure it was a seamless project in terms of design and construction,” Heifner says.

He says it would have been very easy to pass blame and come up with a series of excuses as to why the project couldn’t be finished on time.

“Ultimately, it was our responsibility,” Heifner says. “It cost us a pretty good sum of money to make sure the project was completed on time and to deliver on our promises. But we took care of it and the owner never knew any different.”

Heifner’s first question when assessing the progress of any project is always the same: Is the customer happy?

“It’s at the top of the list,” Heifner says. “Is the customer happy? Are we on schedule, which has a lot to do with whether the customer is happy, and are we on budget? Too many times, those get turned around. If somebody isn’t doing their job, I’m going to start getting complaints from customers. When I get complaints from customers, I know that somebody has compromised the core values of the company.”

Talk to your customers and suppliers and vendors and anyone else that comes in contact with your company and gauge how your employees are following your values.

“You have to instill in anybody that comes to the company the importance of customer service and integrity,” Heifner says. “We don’t just talk about integrity, we really believe in it and we demonstrate it every day. You have to believe in it. If they don’t believe in it, they don’t have a reason to be here at Renier.”

Heifner says business leaders need to make it a point to work with young people on developing their leadership skills and their commitment to ethics and values to help prepare for the business world of tomorrow.

“I’m excited about being recognized for this honor, but I think the work Junior Achievement is doing is vitally important to the community and something that people in business need to spend more time with,” Heifner says.

“A lot of companies have volunteered people to work in charitable organizations. As budgets have tightened up, some of that work has diminished. I’m just hopeful that the great work that Junior Achievement has done, that the message gets out to people like myself so they can support it.”

Heifner says the lesson is really no more complicated than simply following through with what you say you’re going to do.

“If you look at what’s really allowed success within the work I’ve done in the community and with Renier, it’s based on the core values and having a high degree of integrity,” he says.

How to reach: Renier Construction Corp., (614) 866-4580 or