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The Thing About Growth In Construction

 

832%.

That’s a lot of growth. There are 18,204,600 registered companies in the United States and over the past three years, we are the 459th fastest growing one. Whoa.

Make no mistake, being on the Inc. 500 is a hell of an achievement and it is not something we as a company are taking lightly. However, in a world and an economy hypnotized and conditioned for growth, analyzing the by products of growth is something not to be ignored.

By the numbers, we…yes, us, Omnibuild…are the largest (by revenue) construction company on the Inc. 500 list. Scaling from $1 million to $8.32 million is one thing but scaling from $20.6 million to $171.6 is a whole different kettle of fish. If we continued growing at that three year rate, we’d be at $1.4 billion in revenue by 2019.

Let’s pump the brakes to talk about the challenges of that come with being a growing construction company.

Challenges 

Face Time

In most other industries, when growth occurs, the office gets bigger or it changes locations but most of the team is still under one roof. Impromptu team meetings, pow-wow’s or skull sessions are easier to come by. Even if a company were to get so big and open up an office in another city, that new office will be seeded with members of the old office to ensure that company brand and standards are adhered to. A quick video conference can allay fears and instill confidence.

That’s not really possible in construction. We have twenty active job sites with each team acting as its own de facto “company” in that the economics of their job is important to their day-to-day life. Additionally, because they are a silo’d organism without daily face time with upper management, any poisonous thought, rumor or feeling like the company does not support their needs, could create a malignant tumor of discontent among that team.

And I don’t need to tell you how fast negative gossip spreads.

 

Cohesion

If we’re growing, that means someone else is to. It’s not like we are the sole construction company that’s busy in New York. Just take a look around, there are cranes everywhere. Buildings are popping up like mushrooms after a rain. In order to handle the increased work load, it means that we have to hire more people. Even if we do get the exact candidates we wanted, if we’re linking up a new Project Manager with a new Superintendent, some of the company’s DNA, knowledge base and culture won’t get communicated as much as it would had we been able to put a current employee with a new one.

Sometimes the timing and schedule of other jobs don’t allow us to make this perfect match, not to mention that every client surely wants your best and most trusted team on his/her project. Why wouldn’t they? But the paradox is, to give everyone what they want and to keep cohesion perfectly, we wouldn’t grow at all. We would just keep moving teams from job to job, teams that know the Omnibuild way of doing things.

 

Staffing

Just because we have a job opening, doesn’t mean someone is supposed to come work for us. There is competition left and right, from very reputable firms whom we bid against. They all need good people too. We pride ourselves on hiring “people, not resumes,” but sometimes we don’t get the person we want. Sometimes we give an offer to the person we want but then lose them when their current company offers to match what we’re offering, or they get guilted into staying where they are. Sometimes we get a signed offer letter only to have that candidate renege on the Friday before they were supposed to start (this has happened four times, btw).

Either way, we still have to man our jobs with people. Do we reduce our standards for candidates, do we ask current staff to carry the burden until we can find someone to help, do we shift resources, do we turn down work?

 

Opportunities

Diversification

Do we do hotel work? What about residential? How about office space or mixed-use buildings? Any interest in infrastructure & transportation? How about renovations? Markets are cyclical and the construction industry is not immune to that. We all know that the current hotel/residential boom can’t last forever. It’s our job to stay relevant in other sectors so that if there is a shift in the market, we can switch to a different lane. This is why we stay very active in complex renovation work, in high end restaurant work, in new office builds and in mixed-use buildings. The more fingers we have to grip, the greater the odds that we won’t slip.

 

Staying On Brand

One thing that we are always in control of is who we want to be as a company and how we treat each other on a day to day basis. We want our employees to be as happy working here as we would be having them here. Do we sometimes struggle with that? Of course. But our opportunity is to continue being a place where people want to be. That means working harder to gather feedback, finding times to connect with the staff both onsite with individual teams and as a company as a whole, and offering them financial and cultural reasons to want to be here.

After all, our tagline is “Building. People.” We don’t build buildings without our people, and we don’t have people if they don’t have a place to grow, feel respected and be utilized.

 

Marketing

As we stated in our news release of the Inc. 500 announcement, we don’t do things for the accolades, but when they come we can utilize it for our benefit. One of the easiest times to get lazy with marketing is during growth because you think “What’s the point of marketing? We’re busy enough!” But it’s at times of growth and public praise when we should double down on our marketing efforts because even when the economy does eventually slow down, we’re still going to be a company that needs work and one that needs to staff its projects. Good thing we’re still going to be a company on ENR’s List of Top 400 contractors in America, and Inc.’s list of the 500 fastest growing companies in America. Those facts will never hurt us.

– written by Bassam Tarazi, Director Of Business Strategy for Omnibuild

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