Weldin Construction Inc.
“My wife, Jennie, and I started Weldin Construction in 1991 in the laundry room in our house. We had one computer on the folding table, next to the washer and dryer. She was still working a full-time job, and I would take whatever contracts I could get. We just kept our overhead very low, and worked on getting bigger. It wasn’t a family business, it wasn’t handed down; it was completely just her and I. We didn’t get (or ask for) any help from either of our parents or any loans. We just kept working and we got to where we are today. It’s been a bit of a journey” reveals Richard Weldin. Things have changed quite a bit since then; the company now employs around 110 people and expects to budget roughly $25 million this year.
Teamwork is Invaluable
Richard takes a novel and refreshing approach towards the concept of management and building camaraderie in his employees. Richards explains, “We have an extremely ἀat structure, very unique you won’t see this often. There’s myself, and the level below me is totally ἀat, just project managers. I don’t really get into titles; it’s just set up where all the project managers answer to me, and none of them a title above the others. We have a different focus. We promote teamwork over climbing a ladder to some level of perceived authority.” The Ḁrm also uses a markedly different set of criteria for the incentive bonus program. “It’s not proḀt based. We are 100% focused on performance. It’s based on teamwork, attitude, safety, and client satisfaction. That’s a long term view, proḀt based incentives create situations where people will sacriḀce safety, teamwork, equipment maintenance, etc… in order to enhance their margin on a particular job. It works against the values that make a company successful and sustainable” notes Richard.
Literally, the Middle of Nowhere
Weldin focuses primarily on commercial projects, and is contracted most often by the various military installations around Alaska. Richard recounts the details of one of their more difḀcult projects. “We had a project on Attu, at the Coast Guard’s LORAN (Long Range Navigation) Station. Attu, if you didn’t know, is the westernmost island in the Aleutian chain. We sent out two engineers, and two carpenters, and two welders, whatever else was needed, and that same group of people had to pitch in and do the concrete ἀoor. It’s so remote, we had to improvise. When you go out to a place like that, you have to be sure, you take everything with you. The expense, to ship items you’ve forgotten to bring is not acceptable. We literally went and bought everything we needed, brand-new, and we bought two of them. If something quits working, you still have to get the job done, and going to get a replacement tool is not an option.”
The services offer a pretty substantial contract to qualiḀed Ḁrms; it’s the opportunity to guarantee all of the bases’ construction needs for a set period of time. Because the military is involved, there’s naturally an acronym associated with the program as well. In the Army it’s called, Job Order Contracting or JOC, and the Air Force calls it, SimpliḀed Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements or SABER. Weldin recently won the SABER contract from Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB). Essentially, the Ḁrm is guaranteed all of Elmendorf’s work for the next Ḁve years with a $10 million cap per year. Richard expounds, “These contracts are very unique. They have their own set of difḀculties. You’re mandated to use a means based pricing program; and also there’s a design element. SABER contracts are generally limited to projects in the $750,000 range, so you’re doing a series of smaller projects for them. But, it is very helpful for company stability with a Ḁve year contract like that. You’re not just going from bid to bid and job to job, and trying to retain your good people. That’s a huge help for a manager.” Richard made a conscious decision to keep his company ‘small’ as deḀned the Government, which is averaging below $33.3 million (in revenue) for three years. “I have no plans at all to grow; I just want to watch the economy and see if things improve. Until then, I just want to maintain this market range” Richard reveals. Richard and Jennie have guided Weldin Construction into a debt free situation, and with a signiḀcant contract with Elmendorf to secure the Ḁrm’s near term future. I think the transformation from a “laundry room” business is complete.
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