Case Studies

Tectonic Systems Inc.

Linn Thomas built his skills and his business one brick at a time

People have been building with stones, blocks and bricks since before they had language to describe what they were building. Sturdy, fireproof and low maintenance, stone buildings have carried humanity from the temples and fortresses of ancient civilizations to modern skyscrapers.

As the times have changed and the materials have evolved, the need for craftsmanship hasn’t diminished. Few people understand this like Linn Thomas, president and chief estimator for Tectonic Systems Inc., a masonry contractor that does millions of dollars of work in Ohio each year.

Since starting the company in 1993, Thomas has built it to a point where he has all the work he can handle and sometimes more. Specializing in commercial and multi-tenant residential construction, Tectonic Systems Inc. has become a go-to contractor for some of the state’s largest developers.

To win bids with major developers, Thomas says he relies on a mix of trade knowledge and relationships.

Trade winds

“I came up through the trades,” Thomas says.

After graduating from an apprenticeship, Thomas worked as a union bricklayer, later graduating to assistant superintendent and then project manager. He hit the big time when he took a position at Turner Construction in Cincinnati, Ohio—one of the largest contractors in the U.S. with landmarks like the Sears Tower on its resume.

As he came up in his career, he broadened his skills with classes in mathematics and engineering.

“I learned how to read blueprints and do structural drawings as I climbed the ladder,” he says.

Thomas’ respect for education and skill informs how he hires subcontractors. Not only does he vet the people he works with, but for the most part, he trains and mentors them.

“I’m a stickler in what I do. I have to have first class masons,” he says. “So we train these guys and they end up working for me directly.”

Tectonic Systems has a core staff of about 15, but is supported by the deep pool of “dexterous and skillful professionals” Thomas has mentored.

Friends help friends build

Those professionals have helped Tectonic Systems Inc. win five state awards and be selected as one of only eight contractors in the U.S. to win a national team award from the Masonry Contractors Association of America. The company received the team award for work it did on Franklin Monroe K-12 School, the most energy-efficient public school in Ohio.

Thomas says these accomplishments don’t happen in a vacuum and that big projects require developing strong relationships with the customer as well as other contractors.

“This business boils down to relationships,” he says. “And building good relationships is a sign that you know what you’re doing, starting with the building, but also the planning and pricing.”

Thomas says these accomplishments don’t happen in a vacuum and that big projects require developing strong relationships with the customer as well as other contractors.

For example, he says he couldn’t secure jobs or be competitive if he didn’t have close ties with his suppliers. He mentions partners like Kent Grubaugh, president of Custom Cast Stone, and Chris Herold, president of Columbus Builders Supplies, as two men who will work with him to supply materials at a price that helps Thomas win bids. Thomas has worked with Grubaugh as long as Tectonic Systems Inc. has existed, and forged his relationship with Herold after buying materials for numerous projects.

“They both run a hell of a business,” Thomas says.

Thomas also establishes long-term relationships with the general contractors who team up with him. After completing the masonry work on a nursing home in Dublin, Ohio, that entailed mixing techniques and materials like limestone, cultured stone and brick and block, Tectonic Systems Inc. teamed up with Brackett Builders Inc., one of the largest general contractors in Ohio.

Since then, Thomas says 90 percent of his work has been with Brackett Builders Inc. They’re currently collaborating in the Bridge Park West area of Dublin on a series of projects including retail spaces, condominiums, an event center, parking garage and AC Marriot hotel.

Life’s too short

In addition to masonry contracting, Thomas will do budgeting and project estimation work for developers and the other contractors he works with. Thomas says he lands these jobs by having good relationships and a strong work ethic.

My bids have been competitive and that puts me in the position to work with large contractors and developers,” he says.

Between furthering his math skills and running his business, Thomas stays busier than many people just entering the field, not to mention veterans typically eyeing retirement. But Thomas says that while he doesn’t plan to leave the business any time soon, he still makes time for a life outside Tectonic Systems Inc., which includes perfecting his golf swing, studying the bible and spending time with his wife, who, along with their son, owns Work Smart Systems, a 5,000 employee human resources company.

“I like some serenity,” he says. “Life is short enough you don’t need to worry yourself to death about making more money.”

Published on: April 11, 2017


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Spring 2018



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