Before 2007, most general contractors self-performed at least a few different trades. This involved hiring a larger staff of skilled workers and giving them work through busy and lean periods. But after the financial crisis in 2008 killed projects and forced thousands of workers out of the industry, many contractors started subbing out almost all of their work to stay competitive.
Prodigy Construction, based in Louisville Kentucky, did just the opposite.
Bosco says his company, which he founded in 2005, started doing more work itself after 2008 as a way to win jobs by simplifying the design and construction processes. Though the company will partner with qualified subcontractors on larger projects, Bosco says the ability to self-perform has helped Prodigy double in size virtually every year, even throughout the recession.
Bringing buildings out of the ground
One area where self-performing is especially valuable is installing footings and foundations. These are some of the first and most critical steps of construction, and Bosco says that by doing them, Prodigy can ensure quality and save money.
“Quality has to be built, not inspected in,” Bosco says. “If you bring it out of the ground correctly, the rest of the building will fit correctly. If you don’t, you’ll fight it the rest of the project.”
Prodigy is building a facility for Clark County Auto Auction, for which it laid the footings, the concrete foundations, the drywall assemblies and performed several of the interior finishes. Working this way, Bosco says, has kept the cost of the project down because the crew laying the footings and foundation can communicate with the crews who follow and perform interior work.
“We interface well with each other,” he says, “and the customer receives the savings for that efficiency.”
Though the company prefers self-performing on smaller- and medium-sized jobs, Bosco says that on larger projects, such as the Marriot Towne Place Suites that it’s working on in Richmond, Kentucky, partnerships and subcontracting are essential.
To ensure quality on these projects, Bosco says the firm will invite a range of trusted subcontractors to bid, and that a major part of quality control—and keeping costs down—is having great relationships with these contractors.
Upgrades and efficiencies
Another way Prodigy competes is by staying on top of pricing and purchasing. It uses software for accounting, project management and bidding that makes use of information transmitted between the field and office.
In contrast, Prodigy used to have a fixed budget for the cost of forming, reinforcing and placing concrete, which it used year after year even as it hired new workers at higher wages, or paid more for certain tools and pieces of equipment. As a result, project costs grew unnecessarily, cutting into profits.
By incorporating software, the company can make adjustments between each project, letting its accounting department keep better margins.
Accounting and accuracy also make it into the field, as Bosco holds annual meetings to synchronize the efforts of superintendents, who manage the job site and project managers, who lead from the office.
“In order to keep our arms around a growing business and economy, we try to keep everyone informed,” he says.
“We’re always looking for ways to do better, to sharpen the sword. But we’re careful to highlight those people who are already doing something very effectively.”
During these meetings, senior leadership highlights what teams and projects are doing well, in addition to pointing out what can be improved. Bosco says an equally important part of the meeting is enabling project managers and superintendents to say what’s working in the office and the field, as well as what isn’t.
“We’re always looking for ways to do better, to sharpen the sword,” Bosco says. “But we’re careful to highlight those people who are already doing something very effectively.”
Prodigy has had a successful decade even in the aftermath of a major economic crisis. Bosco says he’s excited for the company’s future, not only because of the efficiency and cost-saving measures it has undertaken, but because the industry itself seems to be doing well.
He points out that when professionals at the front of the construction pipeline—geotechnical and civil engineers and architects—are busy, it indicates business will soon pick up.
“All of those guys are looking to hire people and they’re all working long hours, which means the industry is healthy,” he says.
Bosco says the recession ingrained the importance of efficiency into his employees, and as a result, built good habits that have prepared Prodigy for any economy.
“We have an insatiable desire to improve,” he says. “We want the best value, the best quality. And that’s not some catch phrase, that’s who we are.”
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