Case Studies

Skyline Construction Inc.

A Collaborative Vision for Building a Better Future

Through a passion for building and a collaborative spirit, Skyline Construction Inc. (Skyline) has become one of the top 25 general contractors in the San Francisco Bay Area over the last 17 years. The 100 percent employee-owned company specializes in developing data centers, infrastructure, tenant improvements and sustainable projects. From its executives to project managers, the Skyline team focuses on empowerment through a strong company culture and meaningful relationships with clients and business partners alike.

Skyline was established in 1996 by several partners, including David Hayes, current CEO of Skyline. “I worked for ABM [(American Building Maintenance, NYSE: ABM] for nine years,” explains Hayes. “When a customer of ABM in the general contracting business recruited me to help them launch a startup known as Skyline, I jumped on board and became the fourth partner. From 1996 to 2004, we built the business and I learned everything I could about how to run a successful general contracting company in a dynamic marketplace like the Bay Area.”

Today the company employs a team of 78 multitalented individuals with civil, mechanical engineering and construction management backgrounds in offices throughout California in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay. With an invested, dedicated and motivated team, Skyline has emerged as a tenant improvement specialist for tech firms, constructing more than 2 million square feet of tenant space annually. Skyline is an industry innovator, creating the Build America Challenge and teaching others how to build American-made commercial construction project to create jobs and stimulate the local economy.

Building for a Better Tomorrow

Skyline prides itself on repeat business and providing clients with meaningful solutions, so it’s no surprise that the company was eager to use its capabilities to make a positive impact on the community. Jessica Callahan, project manager for Skyline, was approached by longtime client, Oracle, to build a new 60,000-square-foot office space.

“Oracle took note of a prior news report on building American-made residential homes and asked if it was feasible to create the first American-made commercial office,” recalls Callahan.

“The residential challenge was to convert 5 percent of materials used on the jobsite to American-made, from the nails to the siding. If builders throughout the U.S. all did this, we could easily create 220,000 new jobs.”

Callahan admits when she presented the idea of building American-made office space and creating an organization and certification around it to the Skyline team, the response was overwhelmingly positive. “Our employees wanted to go above and beyond, and do not just 5 or 20 percent American-made, but 100 percent,” she says. “Everyone was so excited about the project. This was the start of the Build America Challenge, a now established organization and certification process that has been introduced to the Bay Area’s real estate market.”

After a little extra leg work and reaching out to many U.S. suppliers, the list of pre-approved materials began to take shape. “It took some effort to establish a library of high quality products we could use and we are continually looking to suppliers to submit their products for verification,” shares Callahan. “In the end our legwork has been more than worth it to bring in American jobs. We encourage our competitors, architects and clients to jump onboard, because it’s a great way to help stimulate the local economy.”

According to Callahan, the Build America Challenge ties into Skyline’s collaborative culture. “I’m not sure this idea would have taken off at another company,” she says. “We’re so different in the sense that everyone bands together to push innovation. We share ideas and want to achieve success.”

It’s this collaborative spirit that has earned Skyline a spot as one of California’s top general contractors and one of the Bay Area’s best places to work in 2013. “Even as we grow, we’ve never aspired to become a huge company,” explains Hayes. “We just want to work with clients we’ve built relationships with and continue making them happy.” Through invested employee owners and innovative ideas, Skyline continues to build a better future today for tomorrow.

Invested Employee Owners

Skyline’s team is invested and passionate. In 2005 Skyline adopted an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and became 100 percent employee-owned. “We started the ESOP in January 2005,” recalls Hayes. “We decided it was the right thing to do for our current employees and the best way to pay the old partners back over a period of time.”

Since 2005 Skyline has operated with an open-book communication and management policy. “Our employees are aware of what’s happening at all times,” says Hayes. “We divulge important and proprietary information that normal companies do not. Open communication creates a collaborative and informed work environment, which results in long-term employee retention.

Jim Rucker, CFO of Skyline, notes that the company’s ESOP adds value to the organization and makes the workplace more attractive to younger professionals. “Our stock option puts a unique spin on traditional benefits offered by construction firms, which is appealing to recent graduates,” shares Rucker. “Many start working for us as interns and return for full time employment post-graduation, after seeing the value in our ESOP. As an S-corporation, our shareholders are the owners, and we provide comprehensive benefits, a 401(k) plan and some of the most competitive wages in the industry; we’re about giving back to our employees.”

Skyline’s ESOP is particularly unique in California, because the company includes union employees in the program. “We are the only ESOP in the state to opt for a collective bargaining agreement,” reveals Rucker. “But the most important thing about the ESOP is how it promotes company culture; we really take care of each other.”

Part of taking care of each other, adds Hayes, is to educate employees about their financial well-being. “Not only does the ESOP stock serve as retirement money for the future, we also provide financial planning and guidance to help our employees afford homes, cars, anything they want to earn.”

“It’s about going beyond traditional benefits,” adds Ali Bedwell, marketing manager at Skyline. “We have a financial adviser who guides us through retirement options and is there to answer questions. For someone who is still a ways away from retirement age, it’s beneficial to have a savings program in place for the future.”

High Profile Projects

Skyline invests in its clients the same way it does with employees, leading to the company’s ability to land high-profile jobs. The company has had the opportunity to perform tenant improvement renovations of commercial office space and data centers for some of the most recognized, high-tech companies in the industry, including the likes of Pandora, Yammer, Dropbox and

The Internet radio mogul, Pandora, is also a long-term client of Skyline, trusting the general contractor to help the company expand its real estate portfolio since 2009. In November 2012 Skyline began working with designers to conceptually plan, budget and determine the constructability of Pandora’s latest space. “I consider our most recent project at Pandora to be one of the top 10 most interesting projects we’ve done as a company, because nothing about it was cookie cutter,” reveals Mark Trento, project executive for Skyline. “This project pushed the envelope of creative design.”

Skyline was responsible for executing the office’s urban planning theme to include a subway replica huddle room, a circular park-like seating area, eight recording studios and two portal walls with live feeds to its New York office. The most notable is the booth style seating with fabric banquettes shaped in the letters RADIO, which illuminates as employees enter each booth. “The acoustics were especially important in this build-out,” details Trento. “We designed an open ceiling layout with polished concrete floors, so the building could handle the dense office population noise.”

Trento explains the goal was both functionality and eye-appealing design. “The complex design required us to work closely with designers to bring the ideas to life,” he says. “There were lots of parts with lighting, lettering, T.V. monitors and tables that needed to be incorporated to create the finished product vision. We utilized reclaimed wood, which was challenging but fun, and wall covering graphics to add life-like greenery.” Overall the Pandora office was completed by February 2013 after three fast phases of work.

Skyline also performed an 80,000-square-foot build-out for the industry leading enterprise social network, Yammer, in San Francisco. “This site was a 70-year-old furniture mart,” reveals Trento. “The old building had a lot of character, which gave us a good starting point. Our designers wanted to highlight the architectural details, so rather than building over, we built around it, incorporating the new with the old.”

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Spring 2018



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