Case Studies

Tectonic Systems Inc.

For the Love of the Trade

In 2004 Masonry Magazine profiled Linn Thomas, founder, president and CEO of Tectonic Systems Inc., a commercial masonry contractor based in Indianapolis, Ind. The magazine gave a number of reasons – depth of experience, tenure and enthusiasm for the trade – for Thomas’s success in the industry. However, Thomas himself, a humble man, would credit God.

Thomas and his wife, Debbie, came to Indianapolis from Austin, Tex., in the early ’90s and founded Tectonic Systems in the likeness of their former business, Austin Commercial Masonry. Four years ago, Thomas had the foresight to move operations into neighboring Ohio, and set up shop in Columbus. Today, the company maintains its two locations, with 18 employees; however, performs the lion’s share of its work in the Buckeye State.

Doing it the Right Way

Tectonic Systems has logged an impressive 20 years in the industry, and its leader, Thomas, has been in masonry much longer, or, as he says “all his life.” Thomas has a strong belief in the strength of the masonry industry and the ability of skilled tradesman to propel it forward. In order to boost the pool of talent, Thomas also runs an apprenticeship program and trains young guys.

“We bring people up and teach them how to do things the right way,” says Thomas. “Then these guys have the right to get out and be productive and earn good money. We bring them up through the trade.”

With full masonry capabilities, Tectonic Systems self-performs everything unless more hands are needed due to a tight schedule or heavy load. When more hands are brought in, the team can rest assured of the quality of the workman entering the jobsite. “We know these guys because I’ve trained them all,” nods Thomas. “It’s a very good relationship that with have with these guys.”

Thomas truly encourages people to better themselves and go after good things. “If you learn your trade and become a craftsman, you can work anywhere. If you want something bad enough, it will happen. It’s out there; you just have to go after it.” Thomas himself got his start as an apprentice in the Union in Cincinnati and began his career at Turner Construction; therefore, he recognizes the importance.

Expert in Schools, Often in Ohio

As a masonry contractor, Tectonic Systems works in the public and private sector and has completed a number of public works projects and commercial structures, including retail stores, industrial and office buildings, hotels. However, the company has become well-known for the work it has done on schools.

“We’re on our seventh school currently,” says Thomas. “We have a really good track record in schools.” Indeed, the company won two prestigious awards for its work on the $30-million Franklin Monroe School (K-12) in Greenville, Ohio, completed in 2012. One was from the Ohio Masonry Association and the other a national Team Award for Excellence from the Masonry Contractors Association of America (MCAA), which is an award given to only eight masonry contractors nationwide.

Tectonic Systems completed work on Liberty Place, an apartment complex in downtown Columbus that is part of a large, phased redevelopment of downtown. Farther uptown, near Ohio State University, the company is building an office complex, and additional work in the area includes the elementary school Prairie Norton. Up next is a $38-million retirement center by Vrable Healthcare Companies.

Since 2009, when Thomas brought his company to Columbus, 90 percent of jobs for Tectonic Systems have come from Ohio. Moving one state east was done out of need; Thomas saw that in order to keep his business afloat he would need to expand regionally and capture work outside of the lagging Indianapolis market.

Never Sacrificing Quality

Tectonic Systems stays ahead of the competition, in an increasingly competitive environment, due to its reliability and good reputation with general contractors, who seek out the company repeatedly. “We get in and get our work done right the first time around,” says Thomas. “We never have to come back and do repair work.”

On masonry jobs, Tectonic Systems is well-versed in an array of materials – many varieties of brick, block, stone and cast stone – as owners and architects combine materials and flex creativity.

“With the right people, you’re on the road with the tailwind behind you,” says Thomas, who relies on his team as much as general contractors rely on him. Still, he stresses knowing the limits of what his team is capable of at any given time, managing projects and taking on new work accordingly. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” he continues. According to Thomas, many contractors have succumbed to the tendency to do so, but not Tectonic Systems.

“When the recession hit, a lot of people couldn’t make it through,” he continues. “You have to be able to float the ship.” The ship has not only been sailing, but also receiving accolades. In addition to the dual awards garnered for Franklin Monroe, Tectonic Systems won an award for its work on the $30-million Renaissance Hotel in Carmel, Ind., in 2008.

Never Giving Up

“The good lord is taking care of us,” Thomas says of overall business. Yet, Tectonic Systems has done its part to battle the difficult economic terrain and subsequent increase in competition. “We’ve worked harder and been more careful,” he continues. “You have to watch your P’s and Q’s, dot your I’s and cross your T’s. And you have to sacrifice, that’s the way it is.”

In doing so, Tectonic Systems has not faltered in its goal to meld excellent customer service with exceptional workmanship. In the process, the company also contributes to a happy and productive workplace: “We work very hard not only to complete quality work on projects, but also to have quality relationships with the architects, owners, general contractors and the other trades,” he says proudly.

It’s no wonder that the company continues to thrive today. As Masonry Magazine highlighted nearly a decade ago, Thomas’s enthusiasm for the trade is apparent; after all, he designed a monorail systems out of I-beams on a job most wouldn’t have even bid on. Thomas continues striving to make skilled tradesman out of young men; he believes that with dedication and hard work these guys will eventually become the next entrepreneurs in the industry. Not unlike himself. Above all else, Thomas’ enthusiasm continues today as he leads Tectonic Systems Inc.

Published on: August 8, 2014


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