Some construction companies are known for their residential projects. Others are experts at office buildings or shopping centers.
Roger Hendrick Construction is known for its versatility.
In 10 years, the Charlotte-based general contractor (of no relation to the Hendrick Motorsports empire) has completed projects that range from public school buildings to high-end bars and restaurants, Carowinds’ roller coasters to a university cancer research center, Department of Energy facilities to an annex on the Mecklenburg County jail.
Currently, the company is building the new polar bear exhibit at the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro and doing renovations on the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
“We’re a specialty contractor,” says Hendrick, 42, “A lot of our jobs, they’re atypical.”
That wide range of projects was critical in helping the company weather the recession and general malaise of the construction industry with only a slight dip in revenue.
In fact, even while the U.S. construction industry had an unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) of 11.3 percent in August 2012 – the highest of any industry, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, a lobbying organization – Hendrick never had to resort to layoffs.
He told ShopTalk how he did it:
Widening the scope: Before the downturn, Hendrick’s company was flush with local projects, and he rarely had to send a team farther than one hour and a half outside of the city.
That changed during the recession, when there were fewer local projects and increased competition for them. So Hendrick started pitching proposals outside his typical radius.
That’s how he got a number of high-profile gigs, including a $30 million expansion for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a $25 million aviation support facility for the South Carolina National Guard in Greenville, S.C., and a salt-waste processing facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.
‘Finding bits and pieces’: With only 22 employees, Hendrick wasn’t in the same predicament as many companies whose workforces ballooned in times of plenty. But work was still harder to come by and the company couldn’t count on just big projects for revenue.
So Hendrick used his network for “finding bits and pieces.”
That often meant taking smaller jobs, a simple renovation instead of a huge ground-up endeavor.
But it helped them survive when many other general contractors closed their doors.
Investing in a network: Hendrick got some of his ideas for diversifying through the Charlotte chapter of the international Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Hendrick traveled with the organization to Vancouver and Hong Kong, where he met other entrepreneurs. He networked and got a better understanding of emerging trends and new technologies.
Are companies opting for 20,000-square-foot structures, instead of 30,000? Are they interested in green building? Those are the types of trends he’d be privy to through the group.
“A lot of those...are good leading indicators of where I need to be looking,” says Hendrick. “If you’re standing next to a guy in manufacturing, and he says ‘We’re gearing up, demand is up,’ that’s a clue for me of what projects to look for.”
Keys to Success draws on insights from small business people on building a successful enterprise. Contact Caroline McMillan at 704-358-6045 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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