Northland Fastening Systems
Mixing personal relationships with business banking helps forge success
When Ken Godbout left his job in sales for a stud welding company to start his own business and spend more time with his growing family, he knew he would need good people on his side to make it work.
Today, Woodbury-based Northland Fastening Systems, which Ken founded in 1987, is a thriving company providing stud welding equipment, service, and training. Stud welding is a specialized skill used to attach fasteners such as bolts or flanges to metal, leaving the back side unmarred by holes or bolt or rivet heads.
Financial matters are another specialized skill businesses need to thrive, so Ken was looking for a banker he could trust who wasn’t just interested in selling banking product. He first developed a relationship with Brad Benesh, today Senior Vice President of Business Banking at North American Banking Company, soon after he started his business.
A constant relationship in a changing business
A lot of things have changed in that time, including his facilities, his customers, and his own role in the business. One thing that has remained constant is the relationship Brad and Ken forged over the years, which is why Ken has trusted Brad to help the business adapt and grow for decades, even as the industry has undergone seismic shifts.
“When we started out, we probably had 80% of our business coming from the construction industry. If you remember back then, between Minneapolis and St. Paul, there were probably 27 cranes up in the sky,” said Ken. “Today, probably 80% of our business now comes from the industrial market and maybe 20% is in construction.”
Brad helped Ken arrange financing for new buildings and investments to allow Northland Fastening Systems to adapt and grow. Brad also helped with the financing to transition full ownership of the company to Ken when partners in the business were ready to sell their stakes.
When Brad’s career brought him to North American Banking Company in 2006, there was no question whether Ken would follow him. Their history and shared values made it a natural move.
“Ken has been an amazing customer and friend for almost 30 years,” said Brad. “Ken is an extremely hard worker, fantastic leader, and would do anything to help his customers and employees.”
Brad has remained at North American Banking Company for so long because its culture allows him to tailor his service to his customers. “I have the ability to make decisions quickly when Ken needs something,” Brad says. “I can take the time I need to really get to know Ken’s business and his family and his personal goals.”
Building a bridge to the next generation
One area where Brad and Ken’s personal relationship has paid dividends is in the transition of the company to Ken’s sons, Jason and Brent. Because of his close relationship, Brad knew the boys since they were young, even helping Jason get an internship in 1998, and consulted with Ken on their future roles. Brad now has relationships with Jason and Brent as well and serves as a constant source of support across the generations.
Today, Ken is semi-retired and his sons have taken over. Jason started working at Northland Fastening Systems in 2005 and became president in 2011 but still manages key accounts and helps pack orders on busy days. Brent started in 2015 after a successful career in commercial real estate and is responsible for inside and outside sales.
Jason attributes their success to their customer-first approach. “We’ve had people down in Iowa call us at 4 in the afternoon and say ‘We forgot to order these studs. We have a pour tomorrow morning. Can you help us out?’ And we’ve put them in our truck and driven them down to Iowa overnight. That’s how our business has grown. Our customers understand that we’ll go the extra mile for them.”
And that’s what they appreciate about working with Brad and the rest of the North American Banking Company team. “It’s like working with a friend,” said Brent.
“Or a neighbor,” adds Ken. “But at the same time, working with someone that absolutely knows what they’re doing. You can trust them. More than anything, it’s a comfort knowing that we can go to him and say ‘Here’s what we want to do but we need your help.’ “
As Brent explained: “We take the deposit slips there every day and it’s ‘Hey Brent! How are you doing?’ every single time we’re there. They greet you with a smile. They’re just good people."