Build Group Inc. is an atypical construction firm based in San Francisco—a place where many things are surprisingly possible. The company’s chairman and cofounder, Eric Horn, is taken aback by how, ten years after founding the company with four other partners and about $340,000 in business, the company’s earned revenues […]
Build Group Inc. is an atypical construction firm based in San Francisco—a place where many things are surprisingly possible. The company’s chairman and cofounder, Eric Horn, is taken aback by how, ten years after founding the company with four other partners and about $340,000 in business, the company’s earned revenues in 2017 are projected to be $725 million. Together, Horn and his cofounders are riding a construction wave in California that required a certain degree of mastery to catch.
Horn and his Build Group partners imposed humble beginnings on themselves in 2007.
“We paid ourselves $18 an hour to get started,” he says of the original group of five. “We were making just enough to keep our families fed while staying afloat. We also wanted to bring value to our clients from beginning to end while creating a fresh culture for employee growth.”
That meant taking risks early on in a variety of market niches. One early venture was prefabricated bathrooms: whole-room pods that builders could plug into multiresidential projects. The bathroom pods might have been a good idea, but Build Group had the misfortune of entering the market as the Great Recession hit. Fortunately, they were able to switch quickly to other ideas.
“We were able to adapt the prefabricated concept into solar carports and, believe it or not, cable car kiosks,” Horn says. Build Group ultimately created and installed solar arrays over more than twelve thousand parking stalls for public schools, military bases, and hospitals, and the company also installed a couple of cable car kiosks in San Francisco.
As the economy improved, the lending market loosened, and long-term clients started coming back to Build Group. The company has since amassed an impressive portfolio of projects that includes commercial office buildings, public works projects, historic renovations, seismic retrofits, data centers, healthcare facilities, educational buildings, residential/mixed use, demolitions, retail, parking garages, restaurants, hotels, and resorts. A large number of these buildings are LEED certified, including hyper-energy-efficient, net-zero commercial spaces.
Horn and his original partners remain intact, and they’ve added three more at the partner level. They also manage 260 salaried staff plus another 200–350 union workers who are actively engaged in projects. In 2015, the firm established operations in southern California, as well.
That kind of growth in a single decade may reflect a strong regional economy, but it wouldn’t last long if Build Group didn’t have smart employment policies. Build Group has extensively deployed the Myers-Briggs and Strength Deployment Inventory tools.
“They help our teams be teams. Part of the challenge is that we work with a broad range of age demographics,” Horn says. “Our processes and team building help employees work cohesively through all the stages. We say it’s form, storm, norm, and perform...
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