Building a Legacy

For 125 years, family-owned Michael Kinder & Sons has provided top-notch, turnkey construction solutions to northeast Indiana
6/5/2017
Tammy Davis
Jeffrey Crane

Three terms describe the foundation on which Michael Kinder & Sons (MKS) has built its 125-year construction legacy: people, passion and hard work. The company has earned a reputation for doing whatever it takes to bring the most value to its projects and leave customers satisfied. “Even if it makes our job harder,” says MKS President Doug Kinder, “we’ll find the best solution.”

Doug and his brother Bill are fourth-generation owners of MKS, which was established in 1892 by their great-grandfather. Michael H. Kinder began building homes in Fort Wayne as a general contractor, but it didn’t take long for him to add commercial projects to his repertoire. One of the first, St. Patrick’s Church in Arcola, is still operational 118 years after its original dedication in 1899.

Today, MKS focuses on commercial, industrial and institutional construction, including many well-known projects around the area. Turnstone’s Plassman Athletic Center, the Manchester University School of Pharmacy, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, many buildings on the Indiana Tech campus and scores of others were built by the MKS team. The company has evolved far beyond where it started. 

“We were a traditional general contractor in 1892, but we’ve innovated and improved for what we do today. The boys are always looking to improve systems and procedures to provide clients the best value for their dollar,” says Tom Kinder, Doug and Bill’s father, who owned the company before selling it to his sons. 

More than evolving and expanding its market presence, MKS has also changed the way it approaches projects. Though it can easily engage in the construction process once plans have been established, Doug and Bill feel that the company can be most effective when they are involved from the very beginning.

“We listened to customers and realized that the key to getting rid of their pain in building projects starts in the planning stage,” explains Bill, who serves as CEO. “If you have it right on the front end, the construction piece goes smoothly.”

Accordingly, Doug and Bill place heavy emphasis on planning, design and accurate budgeting – long before the construction phase of a project begins. Ideally, they want to be involved from the moment a client starts exploring possibilities. That way MKS can help develop a design concept that correlates with the customer’s schedule and budget, and then manage the moving parts throughout pre-construction to ensure a successful outcome. 

The MKS team has turned it into its specialty. By considering details from the very beginning of a project, it has helped many clients avoid costly oversights. To underscore the importance of early involvement, Doug recounts a situation not related to MKS when a church failed to consider soft costs such as furniture in its overall budget. When the building was finished, there was no money left for chairs.

“We want to be the first call a client makes,” says Bill. “When we’re involved on the very front end, we can help find solutions that tap into the appropriate expertise needed for the project.”

In its ideal business model, MKS functions as a client’s single source, offering accountability for the entire project. The company builds long-term relationships with its suppliers; in fact, Doug and Bill consistently refer to them as trusted partners rather than contractors or vendors. They know the work done by their partners ultimately reflects on MKS. It is important not only to choose the right partners in general, but also to select the best fit for each particular job.

“Having an effective process and accountability is crucial,” explains Doug, “but in the end, it’s the people who make the difference.” 

Bill adds, “We need partners who can trust that what we say is what we do, and vice versa.”

Notwithstanding their status as owners, Doug and Bill become personally involved in every project. In fact, they learned the business from the ground up, starting as laborers before they matriculated to Purdue University. Doug earned a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and Bill in building construction technology, and then both went to other companies outside the area to round out their experience. When they rejoined MKS, they possessed a robust blend of classroom education and hands-on learning.

“There are no gimmes here, no hand-me-downs.” says Bill. “Not only can customers call us at any time, but as owners, we’re involved in every job from start to finish.”

The Kinders expect the same of their employees. “Our guys in the field have a passion for what they do. They’re craftsmen, and they care,” says Doug. “Our employees always put the customer first.”

Doug and Bill agree that just as their employees and partners play a significant role in their success, customers who share their values and passion help them grow and thrive. 

“We like to work with people who will challenge us,” Bill says, “and we try to surround ourselves with upstanding people with integrity.”

Doug adds, “I’ve learned so much from our clients. We’ve worked with some of the smartest and most forward-thinking people around.”

The combination of people, passion and work ethic has driven the growth and success of MKS throughout the past 125 years. The company’s list of accomplishments is impressive, and it includes more than buildings. MKS has taken on projects from swimming pools and athletic facilities to data centers and cell towers, traveling as far as Argentina to serve a client. 

 “We can do anything asked of us; we have a passion for delivering on our promise,” says Bill.

MKS has built its reputation of quality by doing whatever it takes to get a job done right. It shies away from embracing buzzwords like “on-time” and “on-budget” because, says Bill, those should be standard.

As hands-on owners, Doug and Bill take their legacy very seriously. “The quality of the work you do is your reputation,” emphasizes Bill. “Titles are nothing to us. We do whatever it takes to support our people, our customers, and our partners.”

Michael Kinder & Sons

Owner(s): Bill Kinder, CEO; Doug Kinder, President

Address: 5206 Decatur Road Fort Wayne, Indiana 46806

Phone: (260) 744-4359

Website: kinderandsons.com

Email: info@kinderandsons.com

Years in Business: 125; founded in 1892

Number of Employees: Approx. 75-120 (depending on season)

Products & Services: Planning, site selection, design-build, general contracting, construction management, development. MKS provides one-stop, turnkey expertise for houses of worship, healthcare facilities, senior-care residences, industrial facilities, academic and athletic facilities, office and commercial buildings of all kinds and size.

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