The Ruby Group
Active since the 1950s, the Berman family knows the business of the building industry in metropolitan and upstate New York. Brothers Pete and Howie Berman, CEO and COO of The Ruby Group, respectively, run the family business today. The 15-person boutique is located in Goshen, N.Y., and is active in both residential and commercial markets.
The Ruby Group team tackles projects in land development, project management, general contracting, design-build and consulting for professional investors, property owners, developers, landlords, tenants and financial institutions alike.
Of Historical Significance
“We’re a third-generation business,” says Pete. “My grandfather started buildings homes in Brooklyn in the late 1950s, and my father was a builder much in the same model.”
Pete’s grandfather, Julius Berman, a cabinetmaker turned homebuilder, launched the family’s involvement in construction and real estate development. Years later, his son, Marty, joined the business.
A turning point came when Marty’s sons, Pete and Howie, followed suit and entered the business in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. “We got our start in residential new construction: townhomes, semidetached homes, single-family homes,” explains Pete.
The company has diversified over the years and now performs a significant volume of a diverse range of commercial projects. The brothers saw the need for a project management firm capable of doing both commercial and large-scale residential projects in the Hudson Valley. Therefore, the duo moved the business upstate, establishing Ruby Construction Services (RCS) in 2006.
Eventually, the Berman’s many ventures were banded together into The Ruby Group. “We recognized the need for brand continuity,” says Pete. “We are one group made up of many companies.”
In Business for Your Business
When building and developing for commercial clients, The Ruby Group prides itself on its business-first mindset. “We identify with our customers and their needs,” Pete details. “We know what’s important to them from a business standpoint. We are business people running a construction company. Clients are interested in getting their business off the ground and starting their mission, whatever that mission may be, and we’re there to assist them. We recognize that and we are there to help them accomplish their goals.”
The design-build model used by The Ruby Group means that the company oversees and manages clients’ needs from start to finish. “We work with clients from the very beginning,” Pete continues. “We help them get municipal approval and government permits. We even procure the land. Our help extends to financing (debt or equity), plan development, engineering drawings, construction and even maintenance after their building is finished.”
The Ruby Group’s full-service format makes up 90 percent of the company’s construction management work. This holistic approach drives The Ruby Group; the company enjoys taking full responsibility and utilizing longtime trusted partnerships.
“We try to keep a cohesive team when possible,” says Pete. “There are 39 vendors that The Ruby Group uses on a regular basis, and many of them have been with the company since the very first project in the region.”
As project managers, The Ruby Group connects key pieces for the client. However, the company has six people – with construction know-how – in the field full time. The Ruby Group’s team is cross-trained, but also has well-defined skill sets. Therefore, the team is able to fill change orders and also fix things quickly.
The Gamut of Work
The Ruby Group portfolio of clients is diverse, ranging from small entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies. Additionally, the type of work being pursued by The Ruby Group from year-to-year varies just as much. Work is commercial and residential (owned or non-owned) and the puzzle pieces of what type of work, and where, are continually moved around.
“In 2012, 80 percent of our revenue was from commercial non-owned projects, but in 2008 consulting was a huge chunk of our profit,” explains Pete. “This year we’re doing a tremendous amount of new homes; 15 to 18 new homes on property that we own and on client-owned lots.”
The homebuilder model is regularly pursued by The Ruby Group today. However, the company has the flexibility to prioritize as needed and is able to shelf some of its own projects on occasion in order to focus on a contract and complete a client’s project first.
Whatever the project may be, The Ruby Group process is based on solving problems using a can-do approach that saves clients from headaches. “We solve their problems in the background,” Pete says. Clients trust the expertise and wealth of experience The Ruby Group has: the team knows its locale, the building codes, the process and the hurdles – all of which are essential in speeding along projects.
“We have a constant hurdle unique to New York, a law called Home Rule,” Pete explains. “Every planning decision is in the most local level of government and approval. Fortunately, we know the planners. We know how the process works.” The team’s know-how translates to quickening the pace of every project.
Focusing on Recent Work
Recently, one of the projects where owner representation by The Ruby Group was paramount was for a locally owned private professional-grade race track. The Ruby Group was relied on heavily to manage and move along the project, which encountered resistance from adjacent property owners. The expansion work that the team skillfully managed includes a new go-cart track for members’ children with supporting facilities.
On the design-build side, the team has several ongoing projects with Brotherhood Winery, a locally-owned winery in Washingtonville, N.Y. “We started working with Brotherhood Winery about four years ago,” says Pete. “The first need of Brotherhood Winery was the adaptive reuse of a 5,000-square-foot building from the late 1800s that was devastated by a fire. We did all the planning and secured municipal approvals and turned it into a high-end catering hall.” Next, the 11,000-square-foot expansion of the winemaking facility took place, which was followed by the renovation of several historic outbuildings on the property.
Quality Control for Success
The Ruby Group is happy as a small company, without too much overhead. According to Pete, the company doesn’t want to grow into a big organization; however, it will branch out and establish a new location if the right opportunity came along.
“We might open another office,” says Pete. “But only if we find the right partner who can execute our business plan with us.” The goal is to maintain a high-quality boutique operation run by a superior business-minded management team.
“For us it’s really been a comprehensive approach from an owner’s perspective that has driven us,” affirms Pete. “The idea is to charge less and make more; with a formula like that, everybody wins.”
At any given point, The Ruby Group can be found developing land, helping clients realize varying business goals, managing projects from start to finish, building sustainable homes or providing consulting services in order to assist others in growing their own businesses. It is these broad capabilities – all carefully managed – that tell the story of why The Ruby Group was ranked No. 23 on Inc.’s Top 100 Real Estate Companies and was rated as one of the Top 100 New York Companies, as well.
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