Russell Construction Company
Since 1987, Russell Construction Company has been building a reputation for complete retail renovations, interior fixture modernizations and new store location construction with some of the country’s largest retailers. John Russell established the company in 1987 and gradually built a team of experienced professionals. Today, his son, Matt Russell, is the company’s vice president and second-generation owner.
“We acquired the business from my father in 2013,” says Matt, who entered the construction industry shortly after high school. He started out laying floor tiling for another company, but returned to Russell Construction in 1996.
Family at the core of business
The core of the team consists of other Russell family members who have joined the company at various times throughout the years. Joining early on, Ty Russell, currently serving as president, and Matt brought with them previous construction credentials, including field superintendent experience, floor laying experience and more. Having worked for outside companies helped Ty and Matt bring new ideas and processes that added to Russell Construction’s proficiency.
Next, sister Rosanna Russell joined. Having worked as an advertising project manager, Rosanna brought a wealth of computer-based project management knowledge and resources. Later, John Jr., who also possesses a strong construction competency, joined to manage field projects and eventually stepped into a payroll and bookkeeping role.
With four Russells working together in one office, it also helps to have a staff of what the family likes to refer to as ‘the core of our success’. Family-like team members such as project manager Paul Knoth are critical to the team’s success. Paul handles the company’s special projects and large-scale rollouts; the fast-paced projects where often hundreds of store locations participate in a single type of remodel or upgrade. Holding everything together is office manager Linda Darsey, the go-to person for everything from invoicing to human resources.
In the last few years this tight-knit team has helped Russell Construction successfully shift its business model, moving from finish and fixture contracting to 80 to 90 percent general contracting. Matt discusses the reason behind the transition: “We had to go where the work and opportunities were, especially in a down economy,” he says. “We turned our model around to reflect where our customers’ needs are, we adapted and we performed.”
The new face of retail
This past fall Target, one of Russell Construction’s largest customers, began testing out a new innovative line of stores in Los Angeles. Known as LA25, these stores reflect the way shopping has fundamentally changed. This new in-store experience features the latest in on-demand shopping, including fast access to products, team members and easy-to-use online and mobile purchasing options. Target is rolling out this new store concept in 25 L.A. stores.
In terms of construction, the changes are happening in two major areas: presentation and service. Presentation wise, Target is creating a more modern sales floor with updated fixtures and helpful signs, transforming the storefront to showcase the latest products and trends. To boost guest service, shoppers will be able to more freely interact with products and test products as they shop.
“We’ve been involved as Target conducts these test models throughout L.A.; if it’s successful, this program will roll out nationwide,” says Matt. “Target usually starts with a line of more successful stores and the program filters down to the next tier and so on.”
“We go in and change the look of the store, bringing it up to a more modern and fashionable feel — everything from paint and color schemes to department updates, new HVAC, refrigeration, new fixtures; new shelving and wall placement to free up more sales space,” says Matt. “We work with specific vendors that are also incorporated into the store layout. It all adds to the shopping experience.”
Russell Construction has also been active in store conversions for Stage, Bealls, Peebles, Palais Royal and Goody’s Department stores over the last two years. “We’re a key player in their remodel program,” says Matt. “We’ve completed eight projects and have more coming down the road.”
The old guard and new guard
From the field to the office, Russell Construction is finding more ways to streamline communications, which in turn, are helping it tackle higher volume for big customers like Target and Stage. “We’re focusing on electronic communications in every aspect of the job from reports to updates, ordering, purchasing and processing — we’re going paperless; it’s all done electronically. This keeps everyone up to date and in the loop,” says Matt. “The report format and timesheet layouts look exactly the same, just in digital form, so it’s a fairly easy transition. We’re also using a program called PlanGrid, which allows field personnel to see the job upgrades and progress, all from a mobile device or tablet.”
Helping to bridge this electronic communications gap between older, more seasoned employees and young talent are millennials in Russell Constructions’ workforce. “Some of our older, more experienced supervisors are reaching the age of retirement and this has pushed us to extend our workforce to a younger, more internet friendly generation,” says Matt. “By combining the two, it has smoothed our communications transition. The old guard shows the new guard how something should be done, and the new guard shows them how to communicate it electronically.”
Having the right people in place, giving them quality work and a means to make a great living is a point of pride for Russell Construction. “We certainly measure success on the fact that our profit margins seem to be growing, but also on the fact that we’re putting our employees to work and giving them a chance to provide for their family,” he says. “That really takes care of everything and has been our motto since Day One.”
As Russell Construction Company takes on more complete store remodels and new store roll outs, the company is poised to handle higher volume with the right team and more efficient communication in place.
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