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Bassett Mechanical: ‘Creating customers for life since 1936’

The mechanical company is expanding Kaukauna facility to position itself for future growth

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May 5, 2023

KAUKAUNA – It’s not every day you hear of a company celebrating eight decades of business, but Kaukauna-based Bassett Mechanical is one of them. 

The full-service contractor was founded in 1936 and has spent the last 87 years continuing to grow and thrive. 

Kim Bassett, CEO of Bassett Mechanical, said within the past 10 years, new marketing strategies and employees exceeding the bar with its clientele have led to business tripling.

That growth, she said, has created the need for an expansion of its 1215 Hyland Ave. corporate headquarters. 

Groundbreaking set for early spring  
A groundbreaking for the two-story office structure – which will add 16,200 square feet to its existing 268,000-square-foot building – happened last month, with anticipated completion by December. 

Kim said the expansion will include:
A new instruction room for internal training and development sessions, as well as a place where the company can host customer events.A new cafeteria that can be converted into three separate collaboration rooms.An outdoor patio area for dining or social gatherings.A modern entryway, interior lobby and reception area.A new board room and more office and cubicle spaces. 
“When our associates have enough space to work together, they are more likely to collaborate and share ideas, leading to greater innovation, high-quality products everyone can be proud of, (as well as) customized solutions for our customer’s unique needs,” she said. “The significant growth we’ve experienced is due to the collective efforts of our associates – and it was all done organically.”

// Bassett, CEO of Bassett Mechanical, said a lot of growth happened within the company when it started to integrate new marketing tactics, which sparked the need to expand. Submitted Photo

Originally, the current Bassett space, Kim said, was more than the company needed, as it occupied less than half the space in the shop area and three-quarters of the office space. 

“But with our significant growth, we’ve now run out of office space,” she said. “So, the addition will create more office space for us.”

Reorganization led to growth
Kim said the company started a reorganization process in approximately 2017-18, which was implemented over a five-year period. 

During that time, she said Bassett’s market strategies changed and, as a result, the customer demand increased. 

“When you have more demand, you need more people to serve them,” she said. “Here we are today, where we need this expansion to make sure we can continue to serve our customers with what we do best, and with more people.” 

Kim said the company’s marketing tactics were impacted the most by the reorganization.

“I think the most significant thing was how we approached the market,” she said. “We reorganized internally so we could better align our services. We were also bringing better experiences to our customers. When you bring better experiences and make it so they want to continue to do business, and do more business, it creates an important cycle. What you’re bringing to them is something they want – it feeds itself.” 

Positive impact 
One of Bassett Mechanical’s core business strategies, Kim said, is to create a foundation to ensure it sustains its culture of empowerment and respect for each other. 

She said those are some of the things that make this third-generation-owned company a great place to work. 

“With this expansion, we’ll be able to host customer events and conduct internal training and development sessions to sustain our commitment to personal learning and career growth, engagement, empowerment and all of the things that come with that,” she said. “I attribute our success to everyone who is part of the Bassett Mechanical family. That’s everybody – from the person who answers the phones, to the young kid who sweeps the shop floors, to the people under the welding hood, to the engineers – you name it. They all have made this possible. The space we’re creating will be inviting and welcoming for everybody.” 

// Bassett

Kim said the company is “very fortunate to have amazing associates.” 

She said at the end of the day, it’s all the people who work for Bassett, the great work they do, the expertise they bring and the way they take care of customers and each other.

“The culture we’ve built helps to ensure our associates stay part of the Bassett Mechanical family and continue to serve our customers,” she said. 

And, although Kim said she knows culture has become a “buzzword,” the mechanical company has been implementing it for quite some time.

“We were talking about and working on our culture decades ago, long before ‘culture’ became a buzzword,” she said. “We make it a great place, a safe place to work and a place people want to come and stay.” 

Kim said the company also uses a variety of tactics to attract and retain employees. 

“We’re always working to enhance the way we take care of our associates,” she said. “We’ve done a good job over the years, but you have to evolve with the times. So, we try to pivot and be flexible.” 

Employee retention and growth 
Kim said Bassett has between 525-550 employees at any given time – most of whom are represented by two unions. 

“We have a great partnership with the two unions our associates are represented by,” she said. “We work closely in collaboration with Local 400 – the Pipefitters, Steamfitters and Plumbers union, and Local 18 – which is the sheet metal workers’ union. I think it’s important to acknowledge that partnership. We can’t do our job without them, and they wouldn’t have a job without contractors.” 

Kim said the company is always recruiting to add to its team, especially for engineering roles. 

“We are building the facilities with the anticipation of continued growth,” she said. “This new expansion will facilitate and house those additions to the team.”

Kim said every year, Bassett has a number of positions to fill due to growth, not turnover.

“I think that’s an important distinction, especially these days where you read every day about people changing jobs or whatnot,” she said. “Ours is truly due to growth, which is exciting.” 

Kim said Bassett will try to hire internally first, if appropriate. 

“If we have the skill set internally and people want a new opportunity or want to take on more responsibility and challenges, then we look to promote from within,” she said. “Of course, that’s one piece to the puzzle. The other piece is to add from the outside – if you don’t have the expertise internally or you need more additions than what you have internally for those promotions.” 

Bassett’s beginnings 
Bassett Mechanical was founded in 1936 by Al Bassett – Kim’s great-uncle.

Over the years, Kim said it has grown from one man servicing home refrigerators and light commercial units in Appleton to a full-service contractor that provides complete design, fabrication, installation, preventative maintenance and service solutions for a wide variety of customers state-, nation- and world-wide. 

// expansion will include a new cafeteria space, which can also be converted into three separate collaboration rooms. Submitted Photo

Kim said her father, Bill, took over the company in 1974 and created an environment that was poised for growth and had the ability to sustain market downturns.  

“My father added different capabilities and diversity to the organization with his entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “That helps us when recessionary times come in the market. If one sector of business is down and another is up, we’re so diverse that it helps (sustain us during those times).” 

Besides the corporate headquarters in Kaukauna, Bassett currently has four service operations – located in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau and just west of Rochester, Minnesota – that perform service in those areas, as well as the Upper Peninsula. 

“Our niche is industrial refrigeration and our proactive preventative maintenance because we do service differently from others,” she said. “We’re recognized for that throughout the state, as well.” 

Kim said Bassett has more than 100 technicians.

“As far as we know, we’re the largest proactive preventative maintenance provider in the state,” she said. 

Kim became president & CEO in 2009. 

In 2022, Jerod Steigenberger was named president, while Kim remained as CEO.

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