Steve Ward & Associates Inc.: Delivering Custom Interior Solutions
- Written by: Steve Ward & Associates Inc.: Delivering Custom Interior Solutions
- Produced by: Steve Ward & Associates Inc.: Delivering Custom Interior Solutions
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Steve Ward founded Steve Ward & Associates Inc. (SWA) in 1979 as a full-service dealer to commercial and institutional clients. The SWA team has now been providing and installing custom millwork, furniture and casework for over 30 years. Ward still owns the company, but David Smith, president of SWA, now runs the managerial end of the business.
“We’ve grown over the years with a primary focus on meeting the needs of our customers, honoring our employees and leveraging technology,” explains Smith.
“What we are finding to be most important in the marketplace today is to add value for our customers,” continues Smith. “Certainly that means having the infrastructure to deliver and install quality products complete and on time, but we seek to do more. We offer consulting services to owners and architects during the planning stage and follow up by helping develop an accurate budget for our scope of work. Simply put, we try to provide services that help our customers achieve their functional objectives while staying within budget.”
SWA is an employee-centric company. Smith stands by a firm belief that happy employees bring happy customers. “To meet our corporate objectives, we must have good people with good attitudes,” says Smith.
“It’s not easy to do that,” Smith further explains. “Traditional corporate mentality speaks against that, but in the midst of business, people still have to live their lives. We try to focus on the total health of our employees. We want team members who work hard and are living a balanced life and at the same time are fulfilled by their contribution to company goals.”
Part of the process is identifying employees who share the leadership team’s vision for quality products and practices. Longevity and low turnover are keys to any business’ operation, and many of the team members have been with SWA for over 20 years.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based SWA focuses on the Southeast, although the team has completed hospital projects all over the country. SWA also operates out of satellite offices, with single- and multiple-person sales teams in both Florida and Tennessee. Combined, SWA employs around 60 people in sales, project management and manufacturing.
“In addition to our full-time associates, we have established relationships with highly qualified companies that specialize in our scope of work,” says Smith. “Also, we have purposefully developed a network of subcontractors that supplement our in-house installation personnel on an as needed basis. Both of these relationships are critical to our meeting the ever changing project scheduling and delivery requirements.”
Getting the Work
SWA is constantly involved in new, unique projects with unique challenges. The team is currently in the process of completing a hospital installation in Kentucky. “It’s a big hospital,” says Smith. “The building is around 700,000 square feet. We’ve been mobilized on the site for about a year installing casework and millwork and we’ve got four to five months to go.”
Market shifts have pushed the team’s laboratory installations division into new territory. “There’s a lot of interest happening there,” reports Smith. “We’re pursuing large research labs. This is a shifting market, and we are allocating the necessary people to respond to these opportunities.”
SWA recently landed a contract with a major university near its home office. “We’re doing a large, university lab project,” elaborates Smith. “It will be a complicated project. We’re just getting started on it, but it’s a research and teaching laboratory building. We’re providing and installing all of the lab furniture and equipment there.”
The business continues to grow, although Smith and the team are running long and lean. “We’ve been really fortunate here,” explains Smith. “SWA has set a tone of our ability to operate within the market demands, whatever they may be. This adaptability is a critical component of our maintaining a healthy backlog and the resulting opportunity for our associates.” Amidst a difficult economy, SWA has been fortunate not to experience any layoffs.
Team members strive to serve customers, but SWA also prioritizes giving back. SWA has been involved in many community service efforts over the years, and the company sets service hour goals for each year. “We have a production facility where we host a pinewood derby/pizza dinner every year,” says Smith. “Each employee teams up with an inner city child to build a derby car and we give out awards.” The team has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and serves meals at a local mission. Community service is part of the ongoing culture of personal employee growth and an effort to give back to local people.
SWA’s commitment to family is strong, and the company continues to operate in a manner that benefits employees, strategic partners and customers on a larger scale than just business. Regardless of the economy, Smith and his team stand by three basic principles: honor people, meet customer needs and invest in technology. “Growth will take care of itself,” says Smith. Such values have kept Steve Ward & Associates Inc. ahead of the curve, with a business plan continuously centered on improving and innovating.
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