Trends in the Commercial Construction Industry: Part 1-What's Good?
When a friend and subcontractor of ours mentioned that we might be “changing the construction industry” we appreciated the compliment, but it really inspired us to take a step back. We wanted to think through the industry as a whole, and be intentional about not just changing for the sake of change. There are a lot of good things happening, and we want to align ourselves thoughtfully with those trends. Below, we identify a few ways this is impacting our mindset, but also how major assumptions are shifting as well.
Good Trend 1: Construction in Maine is extremely busy
If you haven’t noticed, there are construction cranes up all over the state of Maine at the moment. Southern Maine, our home-base is a buzz of commercial construction projects, fit-ups, repurposing projects and other commercial improvements. So all the general contractors are growing. We believe there is an opportunity to grow with the industry, but not in the typical ways.
There are two mindsets that crop up when things are this busy:
1. The “feeding frenzy” mentality which is, “make as much money as you can.”
2. The “Grow Well” mentality which uses the opportunities for more work as leverage to invest intentionally into the business.
Optimum believes that #2 is the most relational path. We are currently using this market as an opportunity to build our team, processes and our culture by reinvesting into our business so we can bring the highest value to our clients, no matter the market conditions. What about giving the gifts of time and money to the relationships we value, wouldn’t that make for a great company to work for and with?
Investing in “Stuff”
It’s alluring to imagine investing in a bigger and more prominent office space for the company, or buying a whole new fleet of trucks, but unless it adds extreme value to the team and our clients, we’re focused on other things. What we value is not how we’re perceived, but rather who we really are. That means we invest in people and relationships first. Sure, this is the slow path, but we’d rather remain understated and become recognized for who we really are as opposed to building some kind of inauthentic image.
Technology that builds relationships
That said, we are investing heavily in technology that allows everyone to communicate more consistently and effectively. Allowing everyone to feel confident that we’re on the same page is a powerful way to undergird the relationship, so whatever “tools” we can purchase to enhance this, we’re all about it.
One of our wonderful subcontractors is a multi-generation business that has actually adopted some of the same technology that we use. They saw how streamlined and efficient it made our work, and so we introduced them to our tools so they could implement it throughout their company. There’s no higher compliment than getting to share our knowledge with the people we care about. And this affects a client’s bottom-line quickly. Our team gets to spend more time on the work rather than messing with lost information and bad communication. Know people, communicate well, build better.
Subs now pick their Preferred General Contractors
Yep, you read that right. It used to be that subcontractors all clamored for whatever business they could get, but as the commercial construction industry has picked up, the number of high quality workers and subcontractors has not, which means they have an excess demand for their services.
This has been a huge benefit to Optimum’s commercial construction projects. Because we prioritize the people, everyone knows that we value their relationship. When we pick up the phone to call them, they are eager to work with us because they know the kind of experience they are going to have. That’s not to say the project will go perfectly every time, but they know we will resolve issues with a high degree of integrity and respect for the human beings we do business with.
We are proud to have no shortage of subs and workers, which means we can really serve our clients and their projects well. We have the ability to mix and match whatever the project requires. If it needs speed, we have subs with large teams capable of working quickly. If you need extremely precise work, we know the right team. Or if it’s just a matter of price to get the job done, well, we know them too. Something Kendrick learned about during his time in the NFL is that a deep bench is important to any team. Know People = Build Better.
Contracts Are good Protectors
It’s no secret that there are a lot of contracts and documentation in the commercial construction industry, but are they all working effectively? We’re huge fans of setting expectations up front, and contracting is incredibly important, so we’re glad the industry standard is to use well-formed legal documents. However, some of our trade partners may not fully understand the implications.
Protecting our subs from “Mayhem”
Anything can happen to anybody, that’s just the world we live in. And when you’re talking about heavy equipment, sharp tools and a lot of moving parts, the risks are higher. We typically slow our process down a little at the beginning to help our subs double-check their insurance work and contract language. We help to verify that everything is correct because a misplaced sentence or incorrect “additional insured” could cost them the business if insurance won’t cover a claim. We want to make sure we manage our business very well, and that means helping others do the same. If we can help them mitigate their risk, that’s a way to invest in the relationship.
This is the kind of business practice that serves our clients well, ultimately. If a subcontractor is worried about being sued and losing their business, they won’t do great work. By mitigating their risk, we free them up to serve well, and that’s something we value as “shared success”.
The changes won’t slow down in construction. The expansion of technology and a high demand for commercial construction services are fuel for even more shifts to occur. We think a lot of good can come from this and we’re excited to be a part of it. If you have any other thoughts on what you’re seeing in the industry, shoot us an email and we’ll consider it in the next blog!