SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Ben Bills: I think a lot of it has to do with my knowledge of the industry and my reputation. I was born and raised in Springfield, and this town is a big, small town. Reputation is extremely important here. The other thing is, I think my job is to take care of my employees. I pay them better; I pay them very good benefits and I try to make it a positive atmosphere. I tell the guys I appreciate them. I train. It’s a whole different culture here, and I think that has to do with not having trouble getting good, quality people.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Bills: When you’re growing as fast as we are, managing my time has been an issue. For the longest time, I worked seven days a week.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Bills: Bid bigger projects. We’re doing a $3.5 million project at Ozarks Technical Community College and Jarrett [Middle School] and some other projects that are over a million [dollars]. I probably have $11 million under contract right now.
It also increases our bonding capabilities. We’re growing in other directions as well. I started a low-voltage division about a year ago with data cabling and access systems.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Bills: It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with this economy and the material prices and how they’ve skyrocketed. It’s going to affect the construction industry in general. The supply has to catch up to the demand.
SBJ Is there such thing as growing too fast?
Bills: There probably is, but not in my case. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle this growth this fast. I think my age and my experience helped me with that.
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Bills: That’s tough to say. Part of my problem is I have a hard time saying no. As long as I can keep things going, I’d be happy staying with 45 employees from now on, but that’s on the electrical side. I want to grow the low-voltage side.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Bills: They have on the low-voltage side. I never really thought about that when I was starting the business. I was having a hard time controlling low-volt subcontractors. I got frustrated not being able to get them on the job, get the paperwork right. If it’s going to be under my scope and I’m going to be getting pressure from the GM to get this work done, I’m going to control it.
I have a lot of goals for the guys. I want to eventually be able to provide health insurance for their whole families and have all of my men making six figures. I want to be good at what we do and have fun doing it.
SBJ: What is your business philosophy?
Bills: I can’t and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing or how they do it. I had this vision and this goal and this knowledge for a while, and I wasn’t getting any younger. It was really now or never, and I decided to jump in with both feet to see if my way would work. So far, I think it is. Our objective here at Falcon is to do quality electric work as efficiently as possible. Our culture here is what I think makes us successful.
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