Richard Doyle Jr., now president of Richards Corp, says he began learning the ins and outs of the construction industry as soon as he was able to walk and talk. “My grandfather was in the construction business,” recalls Doyle Jr. “My father also ran his own business, which actually started as a gas station back in 1967. He ended up buying a dump truck and then a backhoe and began doing odd jobs and gravel deliveries around town.”
A Self-made Business Man
“I would ride along with him and I was probably in his way more often than not, but I learned from him as soon as I could,” jokes Doyle Jr. With no formal business training, Richard Doyle Sr. made his way as a self-made owner, passing his knowledge onto his son.
“After high school I went to work immediately for Richards Corp,” continues Doyle Jr. “I learned everything I could from my father, but because he had no formal business training I decided to take some college classes at night in engineering and estimating. I went to The Construction and Estimating Institute in Sarasota, Fla., and got a lot of good experience there. Running this business has been a learning process and I learn every day. If you’re trying to make a buck and you lose two you learn pretty quickly what not to do.”
Learning as you go has worked out pretty well for Doyle Jr., as well as Richards Corp. Based in Terryville, Conn., the company now employs 105 professionals, serving Connecticut, western Massachusetts and eastern New York.
“Our project team is staffed with project managers, engineers, superintendents and foremen who we consider the industry’s best,” adds Doyle Jr. “From maintenance to management, they’re the best out there… plain and simple.”
Tackling Tight Timelines
Richards Corp has made a name for itself with a trusted team in the municipal, education and commercial sectors. Doyle Jr. says the family-owned and -operated company specializes in large, complex projects on a tight timeframes.
“We do a lot of municipal and large-scale K-12 jobs on compressed timelines, but we’re especially good at commercial projects on a fast deadline,” he explains. “We have the resources, from manpower to equipment to really tackle these challenging jobs.”
At Max’s Place LLC, a commercial retail development in Old Saybrook, Conn., Richards Corp has served as a fundamental part of the project’s launch. The original proposal for the retail development was a 135,900-square-foot shopping center with seven retail buildings, including a 63,400-square-foot Big Y supermarket and a 21,400-square-foot Bed, Bath and Beyond. However, the design and layout of the area has been under design changes throughout inception.
“Getting this project off the ground has been a bit of a challenge, because it’s technically still in design,” notes Doyle Jr. “As we’re building, the architects and engineers are coming to us with changes and it takes a trusted relationship to get things moving.”
To put the timeline into perspective, Richards Corp broke ground on the sizable retail area on Sept. 1, 2013, and the initial schedule has the pad being ready for vertical building by March 1, 2014. “The final design is going to be approximately 300,000 square feet of retail area for Kohl’s, Big Y and other smaller outlets,” he says.
According to Doyle Jr., in instances like Max’s Place, Richards Corp utilizes past project experience to seek out obstacles before they turn into change orders. “We are in constant meetings with engineers and owners to keep the budget where it’s supposed to be,” he ensures. “We strive for repeat business and to get that, you never want to change-order an owner to death.”
Experience Hard at Work
From the fast pace of a commercial build to the logistical issues of an occupied school zone, Richards Corp’s nearly 50 years of experience makes the difference. “We often carry out complex school projects, on tight budgets, timelines and in occupied areas,” adds Doyle Jr.
One of the company’s largest educational projects in the works is at Guilford High School in Connecticut. “We broke ground at Guilford in August 2013,” details Doyle Jr. “Richards Corp is performing all of the site work preparation, foundations, drainage and athletic fields at the high school, totaling about $10 million.”
Guilford has presented a particular road block for Richards Corp: 50,000-yards of bedrock to be exact. “This site needed extensive preparation before any building began,” reveals Doyle Jr. “Keep in mind; we’re working on an occupied site with students just 50 feet away. We’ve had to be very careful with the blasting, working with a team of school administrators, getting them to buy into our method and ensuring no rock flies in the air. We’ve gone in, breaking up the rock little by little, making small explosive charges. We’re about 30 percent complete at this point and the target is mid-2015.”
At Old Lyme High School in Old Lyme, Conn., Richards Corp performed $4.5 million in additions and renovations. “This project consisted of the construction of athletic fields, geothermal wells, drainage water structure and several acres of new pavement, in addition to furnishing and placing structural gravel for concrete footings and walls,” notes Doyle Jr.
Overcoming the Downturn through Diversified Service
Richards Corp has ventured into the health care world, a prime example being Milford Hospital. “This brand-new, two-story medical walk-in clinic consisted of 30,000 square feet and a full basement,” details Doyle Jr. “We performed $3.3 million worth of site work, including a storm retention system. The main building involved structural steel, metal studs with a masonry dry bit system along with EPDM roofing, an asphalt parking lot, sidewalks and landscaping.”
The company also frequently performs for the state of Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT). “Richards Corp assembled a $2 million salt shed for the DOT,” shares Doyle Jr. “We demolished the old storage facility, blasting and moving 25,000 cubic yards of rock, extensive underground utilities and handling the removal of controlled materials, new walk ways, landscaping and paving.”
Doyle Jr. acknowledges that it is Richard Corp’s diversity in capabilities that have allowed the company to weather a less-than-ideal economy. “Our biggest struggle is to find big enough work, because our specialty is retail and commercial time-compressed projects, but there simply hasn’t been a lot of that going on lately,” he explains. “We’ve had to put more eggs into the school and municipal aspect, dividing our business about 50/50.”
The next step is for Richards Corp is finding new avenues to grow and diversify into. “I have three children; two sons and a daughter,” details Doyle Jr. “My oldest son and my daughter, who’s the middle child, are taking some interest in joining the family business, but right now I don’t have enough going on to occupy everyone. I’m always looking for another avenue, because you need each person in charge of their own thing.”
With the third-generation readying to contribute to Richards Corp, Doyle Jr. says the company’s future is bright. “We’re growing, especially our general contracting side in the municipal sector,” he adds. As Doyle Jr. leads the company to meet its 50-year anniversary, Richards Corp continues to diversify while applying time-tested experience to some of the toughest jobs in the area.
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