Mechanical Systems Company LLC
Loyal customers, employees and strategic partners can make a world of difference in the success of a contractor. Mechanical Systems Company LLC, an industrial mechanical contractor based in Memphis, Tennessee, has all three. Lee Walker, president of Mechanical Systems Company, has been fostering industry relationships since 1996 when he joined his father’s mechanical contracting company.
“My family had been in the mechanical contracting business for 60 years,” says Walker. “I’ve just carried it along ever since. My father retired and his business was sold into a rollup. I decided I didn’t like working for a big company like that and I moved on.” While working for a much larger Fortune 500 contractor, he got to the point where it was viable to strike out on his own.
“I had the clientele and I knew I could take them with me,” he says. “So I got started in April of 2007 and I brought on an operating partner in 2008, who is now also a financial partner — we are the majority shareholders. We later purchased the assets of a plumbing company and brought on their head of operations, who is now a minority owner as well.”
Strength in flexibility
The business started out strong in mechanical construction and has continually grown since. Though the recession presented some challenges, Walker and his team have found success through pursuing new opportunities. During the downturn, the business expanded its target market to include some institutional work, such as schools. Now that the industry has regained its footing, Mechanical Systems Company has returned to its strong niche of medium to light industrial and warehouse mechanical contracting.
Beyond a handful of jobs at regional schools, the business hit the road, taking on out of state projects to keep the team working. Now, the business has resettled, working primarily in and around Memphis. While the geographic footprint of the business has shrunk, opportunities have grown. Walker launched a service division in 2012 that offers service, maintenance and repair work for a range of industrial, institutional and commercial clients.
Another factor that has kept the business on track over the years is that ownership stays involved in the day-to-day operations of business. “We know what’s going on with all of our projects,” says Walker. “If a contractor we’re working for isn’t satisfied, they pick up the phone and call us directly. We’re focused more on quality than quantity and we’d rather do smaller projects with the same people over and over than chase down large contracts with new customers all the time. We’re not a family business, but we try to run it that way.”
Irons in the fire
With a loyal staff of 104 employees, Mechanical Systems Company has tackled a range of industrial and warehouse projects ranging in size and scope over the last eight years. The business performs a majority of work in-house, including HVAC, plumbing, sheet metal and controls, subbing out insulation and testing, adjusting and balancing. The company relies on a network or trusted strategic partners dedicated to upholding the Mechanical Systems Company’s standards of quality and performance.
Recent work includes a food plant project in Mississippi. “This is their first plant outside of California,” Walker notes. “We did all the plumbing, chilled water and hot water piping, duct work, air handlers, chillers, some of the process work and controls. They moved in late May and started producing.”
The team also did a project for View in Olive Branch, Mississippi. “This company manufactures View Dynamic Glass, a new generation of architectural glass with a proprietary electrochromic coating,” says Walker. “Using a unique software program, the glass intelligently transitions from clear through multiple tint states to control the sun’s energy, providing an enhanced occupant experience and optimum natural light and thermal comfort. We continue to do work with them today – they are always adding new lines to their manufacturing facility.”
One of Walker’s personal favorite projects has been Mechanical Systems Company’s work with the expansion of a large sporting goods distribution warehouse in Memphis. “We provided mechanical installation and services for the 2 million-square-foot expansion including 100,000 square feet of office support space for the sporting goods company here in Memphis,” recounts Walker. “The company is consolidating its new product distribution in Memphis to one location. We started working on that in early 2013. They celebrated the opening with the governor in September of 2015.”
“This distribution project is the largest we’ve ever done,” he continues. “We provided all HVAC systems, plumbing, controls, and LEED items associated with our trade on that project, including the largest underground storm water system on one site that’s been done in the area. We installed approximately 3,000 feet of underground storm pipe. This sporting goods company is a great company to work for – they spend money the right way and they aren’t afraid to invest in something they want. It was great to see it completed especially with how many jobs it will bring to our area.”
Walker says 2015 has been a good year and his company has a strong backlog for the rest of the year and into 2016. As the market continues to improve, he says the greatest challenge facing contractors is finding a qualified work force. As many of his loyal field personnel age out of the workforce there aren’t enough young people to replace them.
To improve opportunities for young people and help build up the labor pool, the company has launched an apprenticeship program through the local Associated Builders & Contractors chapter. Mechanical Systems Company offers the training and experience that younger people need to break into the industry. While it is possible that people may take advantage of training and then leave, the business has a low turnover and Walker believes it is better to invest in employees for long term sustained growth.
This proactive approach — combined with a reputation for quality, safety and efficiency — guarantees that Mechanical Systems Company LLC will be around to serve its loyal customers for years to come.
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