Blueprint for success Featured

8:00pm EDT September 19, 2006
 When FH Martin Constructors was designing its Warren headquarters last year, President Andy Martin included in the plans a centralized lunchroom called The Collaboration Caf.

“It’s easy to get holed up in your office or job sites and not communicate with each other,” says Martin, the company’s third-generation leader. “Yet there are a lot of good ideas out there.”

The caf’s environment encourages Martin’s 51 employees to spend time together bonding and brainstorming about how to continue growing the firm, which had 2005 revenue of $71.5 million, up from $53.5 million in 2003.

Smart Business spoke with Martin about how he creates partnerships with and among employees to help his company succeed.

What techniques can other business owners use to grow their companies?
Hire talented people and give them some room to grow. Years ago, I felt that in order to do the job right, I had to do it myself.

You know what kind of expectations your customers have and what expectations you have about how you want to deliver your projects. It’s hard at first to let go of that, but I’ve found that as I have, our people have stepped up to the challenge.

I try to instill in them the basic values of what we’re about. They understand that we’re about serving our clients, delivering our projects and maintaining a high level of integrity. There are always a lot of details, but focusing on the core values of the company — the way we want to treat our clients — the rest of it falls in line.

Getting the right people first is the key to that, people who take that responsibility seriously and are willing to embrace it and solve their own problems. I’m still very involved with the business, but I don’t necessarily have to be at every job site and see every piece of paper.

How did you learn to trust your employees?
I learned out of necessity because of growth; they go hand-in-hand. Growth comes from doing good things for our clients but, at the same time, I can’t be at all places at all times.

Once I realized that (trusting others) was not only possible but really helped us thrive, I embraced that more as a philosophy of management.

What are the main qualities that business owners should look for in the people they hire?
We use a tagline: Integrity, experience and results. Integrity is first, so I look for people of high integrity, who are honest, stand by what they say and will follow up on things. In the long run, operating with high integrity will come back to us time and time again.

How can business owners make decisions regarding growth?
It’s a plan to grow, and you have to have the people in place first. It’s not, ‘Go get the work and then figure out how to do it.’ Get the people in place, make sure they’re properly trained and appropriate for the work that you’re doing, and then go get the work.

I’m a firm believer in doing what we say we’re going to do, and I can’t go out and sell work to a customer if I don’t feel comfortable that we can deliver on what we’re promising. It’s just not in my makeup to go tell somebody we can do it when I don’t have that confidence.

How did you create your growth strategy?
A step prior to that was deciding if we wanted to grow. It’s important to look at. There’s really nothing wrong with companies that say, ‘We’re going to do this very well and keep doing the same thing.’ We just decided it wasn’t the direction we wanted to go.

Once we decided we did want to grow, and although construction is a competitive and price-driven business, we also determined that the level of our client service and trust was still a big component.

It might be easy to say, ‘We’ll only deliver the minimum that the clients ask for because that’s all we can afford to do.’

By going above and beyond expectations, clients come back to us and give us positive referrals. There is a reason for stepping up, doing things the right way and delivering quality. At times, it costs us extra money to make things right, but it’s a long-term proposition. It’s not about how much money you can make on this one job.

How you grow is the next step. There are lots of charts, graphs and theories on that. Being the low-priced, low-cost solution is clearly one place to be, and there’s room for that.

We decided that our growth would come in being competitive from a cost standpoint but also delivering a good-quality, on-time, high level of service. We build buildings, but we also develop relationships.

HOW TO REACH: FH Martin Constructors, (586) 558-2100 or www.fhmartin.com