SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Jason Carson: It’s really just competitive bidding with focus on good customer service and repeat clients, and just a little bit of luck as well. It’s also helpful that we were deemed an essential business, so we didn’t have to shut down job sites last year.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Chris Carson: We’ve managed to keep all of our team and even put some more people on throughout the last year. As difficult as it was, we retained our talent and, at least management-wise, put some new talent on. We’re pretty fortunate because a lot of people were in the opposite position of having to make difficult layoffs or sending people to their house part time.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Chris Carson: In this particular business, not necessarily. We’re focused on managing the workload we have without adding too many positions. We want to keep the talent and maybe add some, but we don’t want to put a lot of people on because we think we’re going to keep growing this way. That said, we still continue to see strong demand in the commercial building market. It should remain high for the next couple of years. But we’re also prepared for another downturn. In 2008, when the financial crisis hit, we were still busy until 12-18 months afterwards. That’s about as long as those big economic events take to hit the construction industry, at least in this part of the country.
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Chris Carson: Management and labor. We have a lot of hurdles, but the biggest we’ve found and everyone else is finding, is good management and skilled workers to complete the jobs on time. Without that, you can’t complete anything successfully. We’re seeing a shortage of those good professional managers and those good professional workers, skilled trade people. Somebody can bring all the work in the world to us, but if we don’t have the people to do it, we can’t do the work.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Jason Carson: Not really. We’ve never had volume-oriented goals. We just take on the jobs that best suit us at the time. Our goal has always been to successfully deliver projects to our customers.
SBJ: What is the worst business advice you’ve received?
Chris Carson: Someone said to me years ago, “Never say no.” We always try to make sure we put ourselves in a position where we can say no – and that we have the ability to say no. We don’t have to take every project that comes our way. If it doesn’t work for us, then we say no. If that means disappointment of an owner or our workers, so be it. But if it doesn’t fit, we’d just be doing ourselves a disservice to take it.
SBJ: What large projects are on tap for the company in the next couple of years?
Jason Carson: We’re working on a project for the city of Springfield. It’s a three-phase project at the landfill for a new steel house and maintenance facilities. We’re also working on a performing arts pavilion for [Missouri State University] as a replacement for the old Tent Theatre site. Other than that, we’re just hoping to see some more MSU projects come along, as well as public works.
A project that is now hitting its stride on the west side of Bolivar includes a retail strip and storage units.