1st Choice Industries
- Written by: Ivy Carter
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Many construction companies aren’t able to offer maintenance services, while many facilities maintenance companies are often unable to provide construction services. Crews and technicians at 1st Choice Industries (1st Choice), however, can provide all of the above from headquarters in Sarasota, Fla. The company is a full-service construction and facilities maintenance firm working with clients nationwide to ensure success.
Gary Simone, CEO of 1st Choice, has been in the construction industry for more than 25 years. Gary established a similar business in New Jersey in 1989 and founded 1st Choice as a spin-off in 2005. With a second office in New Jersey and a network of allied technicians across the country, 1st Choice takes pride in its ability to respond to customers’ needs anywhere, anytime.
“We handle $100 jobs, as well as jobs over $1 million and everything in between,” says Gary. “We have a cradle-to-grave kind of scenario here. We can take a project from design through construction and then handle all of the day-to-day maintenance of it. Being able to do everything, from small to big, really sets us apart.”
But that is not all that sets 1st Choice ahead of the competition. “For us, work does not quite seem like work,” says Gary. Perhaps this is due in part to the company’s culture, which is strengthened by George Rutigliano, vice president of construction at 1st Choice, who is also Gary’s longtime friend and trusted business partner.
“We have a very unique group,” says Gary. “We’re a family business. My family is very involved.” Gary is proud to note that his brother, Darrin Simone, vice president of 1st Choice’s facility services, is also an active partner in the company. “Darrin is also responsible for managing our restaurant and hospitality division,” Gary notes.
Gary’s wife and son have also joined the team; ensuring 1st Choice is the only choice for general contracting. “Eileen [Gary’s wife and administrative director of 1st Choice] plays an active role in the corporation,” Gary continues. “Every area of the company is managed by someone with a vested interest, ensuring 1st Choice is the right choice to serve your contracting needs.”
Of course, all would not be possible without 1st Choice’s staff of approximately 90 employees, which handles the company’s day-to-day operations. In addition to the company’s own employee base, Gary reports 1st Choice works with over 10,000 allied technicians across the country. With a quick search of the company’s database, 1st Choice is able to find the nearest and best technician to a specific client’s location and dispatch for service.
The team at 1st Choice seems to have it all figured out. “All of the partners believe that nobody works for us,” adds Gary. “They’re working with us. If you’re not working with us, then you’re working against us. We believe that if you surround yourself with good people, good things happen.”
It is this mentality that has allowed 1st Choice to become many commercial clients’ first choice, including Starbucks, Michaels, Home Depot and Burlington Coat Factory, just to name a few. “We currently work with over 40 large, national retail chains,” adds Gary.
Enhancing the company’s corporate culture, 1st Choice’s highly capable team is able to offer new construction, renovations, tenant fit-outs and maintenance services at competitive rates, while exceeding corporate and franchise standards alike. Such additional qualities ensure the company stays ahead of the competition.
Turning Negative Into Positive
Gary, George and Darrin believe the success of 1st Choice, despite a struggling construction industry, is based on the company’s outstanding customer service. “The most important thing to us is the relationships we have with our clients,” says Gary. “Rule No. 1 is the customer is always right. Rule No. 2 says, ‘When the customer’s wrong, refer to rule No. 1.'”
Gary is humble in recognizing the economy hasn’t been great, even for many of 1st Choice’s clients. However, the team has managed to make the best of it and grow the company even through the recent recession. “We’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “In the down economy, we’ve grown every year in sales volume, client base and employees.”
The majority of 1st Choice’s business comes from repeat clients and referrals, as the company works very hard to maintain the client list it has acquired over the years. Gary points to Starbucks Coffee as one example of 1st Choice’s satisfied clients. “When the economy was turning south, everybody was closing stores,” he says. “We did a lot of store closings for Starbucks.”
1st Choice previously worked for the Seattle-based coffee franchise in about eight states at approximately 1,200 locations. “We took the chance to meet with Starbucks’ corporate partners and offer a lower rate for the work 1st Choice was doing,” Gary explains. “Our theory behind it was we didn’t want anybody else playing in my sandbox.”
By cutting 1st Choice hourly rates, the company was able to continue work with Starbucks. Within a couple of months, 1st Choice was working in nearly 4,000 locations over 20 states. “It was about partnering with the client and listening to what they need,” says Gary. “We’re not big on marketing the company, because we’re more relationship-driven.”
1st Choice seems to have found the key, as the success of the company is showcased through its annual revenue. Between 2010 and 2012 the company had a marked revenue growth of about $5 million. Gary anticipates more financial growth in 2013.
Go-to Guys for Project Delivery
Under George’s leadership, the construction division of 1st Choice includes a team of project managers, site superintendents, skilled technicians and qualified subcontractors. Gary explains that each project is staffed with a senior project manager and on-site supervisor to oversee all phases of the project.
With skilled professionals, 1st Choice can assist in all phases of a given project. Projects can include: tenant fit-outs, design-build, commercial office, restaurant or retail construction, medical buildings and remodels.
“We are proud to report 1st Choice has become the go-to company for many commercial clients across the country,” says Gary. He believes the company’s esteemed reputation derives from 1st Choice’s genuine mission to offer unconditional accountability, as well as its dedicated staff.
As the company diversifies, the team recognizes it is 1st Choice’s performance on each job that gives the company – not only a competitive edge, but – the opportunity to be hired for another job. “I can guarantee you that you can find somebody cheaper,” Gary says. “I also guarantee at some point we will make mistakes, but when we do, I guarantee we’ll fix it no matter what. It’s our goal that we always make it right no matter what the reason.”
Again, it is the team’s go-getter, yet humble family-oriented mentality that ensures each project 1st Choice takes on receives special attention. “We’re better than most and not as good as some,” continues Gary. “You always have to keep pushing to do better.”
Gary sees continued, steady growth for all divisions of the company within the next few years. Gary, George and Darrin also envision 1st Choice delving into new markets and honing in on skills the firm has been developing with, and perfecting, both its own employees and allied technicians alike. According to Gary, if there is one thing that will continue to be a driving force behind the success of the company, it is 1st Choice Industries’ ability to diversify successfully.
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