Case Studies

Western States Mechanical Inc.

Integrative mechanical contracting in Utah

When Eddie Ballard saw an opportunity to start his own company, he wasted no time. After 14 years of working for others in the mechanical contracting industry, Ballard started Western States Mechanical Contracting Inc. (WSM). Located in Springvale, Utah, WSM is a leading plumbing and heating contractor serving the commercial and private sectors.

Ballard began his career in the industry 39 years ago as a laborer when he was hired by a company that his brother worked for. “In 14 years with the company I started as a laborer and ended as a foreman,” Ballard explains. “In ’90 I had the opportunity to start the business so I took it.” When the company began, the first years consisted of revenues in the range of $300,000 to $400,000. 25 years later, WSM’s annual revenue is nearly $30 million.

In the past 15 years, WSM has focused on health care facilities, universities, institutions and guaranteed maximum price (GMP) design-build jobs. Ballard attributes the company’s efficiency as a reason for WSM’s sustainability in these markets. “We are always ahead of schedule,” explains Ballard. “We have a great field and office crew, and we are extremely teamwork oriented.” With a staff of 80 employees, the WSM team includes an in-house building-modeling manager, three project managers and estimators as well as an office staff which facilitates the submittal and bidding process.

Western States MechanicalA growing portfolio

As a contractor working in the institutional sector, WSM often works with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Qualifications for working in these LDS temples include what is known as a “temple-recommend,” which certifies an employee to work in a sacred facility.

“In order to receive a temple-recommend, an employee must have an ‘ecclesiastical endorsement’ which allows them to enter the temples and work,” Ballard explains. “Receiving the temple-recommend is a very personal process between the employee and their ecclesiastical leader.” Possessing the qualifications required, WSM was able to enter the LDS conference center in Salt Lake City and provided a new clean-steam system for humidification.

WSM recently completed a GMP project for Daybreak Hospital at the University of Utah/Rio Tinto. The 213,000 square-foot job was completed in less than 12 months. “We’re also currently up at Utah State University in Logan doing a health and wellness center,” says Ballard. “This project is a design-assist as well as a GMP job.”

2015 has started off strong for WSM. The company is beginning to work on the Central Utah Medical Clinic Facility in Salem, Utah. “We’re also working in Oakland, California on another LDS temple,” says Ballard. “There will also be another LDS temple job in Chicago this summer.

A major risk factor for any contractor is the bidding and estimating process. Once that phase is complete, the focus is shifted to management and assuring the proper manpower and jobsite controls are in place. For the past five years, WSM has used an outside safety consultant that performs monthly inspections on WSM’s jobsites. “We take a lot of pride in our safety,” Ballard explains. “We have a 0.69 safety mod factor and we use a tracbook to control our safety.”

While WSM self-performs a majority of the work, the company will hire subcontractors for HVAC services as well as insulation. After 25 years in business, WSM has established a solid network of suppliers and subs which the company trusts to represent WSM. “We have a second-tier supplier and subcontractor that network that we use extensively,” says Ballard.

Thriving from preparation

When the recession hit in 2008, the construction industry was at the forefront of the repercussions of the economic downturn. While many contractors were slashing workforces, others were forced to close down completely. WSM managed to not only survive the recession but to thrive through the tough times. Ballard attributes this success to the company’s ability to analyze future trends of the industry. “We do a lot of forecasting, sometimes two years into the future,” Ballard explains. “We try to analyze where the market will be economically as well as politically. Staying out of debt and making sure we have the proper amount of working capital makes life a lot easier for us.”

Continued growth is in the near future for WSM. Ballard is in the process of paving the way for the next generation of leadership at the company. In addition to increasing the office staff, Ballard has recently brought one of his sons on board who has just completed the construction management program at Brigham Young University. Ballard’s two other sons are currently working in the field for WSM.

“We hope to continue to grow the business over the next five or six years,” says Ballard. “We’re putting the key components in place to do it effectively. We’ll increase the company size as long as we are maintaining the same profit margins.”

Pay now or pay later

As an entrepreneur who has created a successful business from the ground up, Ballard has maintained one philosophy: “You can pay now or you can pay later,” says Ballard. “If you put in the work upfront and work 70 and 80 hour weeks it will pay off and you’ll have more free time later. If you think you can start a business and coast along working 40 hours a week you will pay later. And by pay later I mean you’ll go bankrupt.”

The success of WSM is a testament to the fact that Ballard puts in the work up front and “paid now” when the time called for it. The business is certainly paying off for him and his employees. With the foundation laid for future growth, Western State Mechanical Inc. continues to make headway in the industry by providing innovative plumbing and heating solutions throughout the western United States.

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Spring 2018



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