- Written by: Matt Dodge
- Produced by: James Logan
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Located in Houston, Texas, Wier Enterprises is a design-build general contractor that has found a niche specializing in car dealerships and kidney dialysis clinics across Texas and throughout the region.
Founded by Steve Wier in 1991, the company will soon celebrate 25 years in the business. In that time, the design-build firm has established a loyal following of clientele based on its commitment to high-quality workmanship and transparent budgeting.
“We treat clients right and don’t try to take advantage of them,” says Steve Wier, owner of Wier Enterprises. “We don’t try to get rich off one job and we have an open-book policy. A lot of my competitors out there will argue over a dime and end up not getting the next job, but if we have to give a little something up to leave the owners happy, we’ll give it up and end up working with them again.”
This customer-first approach has paid dividends at Wier, where the company has nurtured longstanding relationships with some of the area’s largest automotive dealerships and dialysis clinics despite not having a dedicated sales team.
As much as 90 percent of Wier’s work comes from referrals, and more than 75 percent of projects are completed on a negotiated cost basis rather than through a bid process. “All these guys do a lot of negotiated work with us because they feel comfortable,” says Wier.
Lord of the lots
Born in Brazoria, Texas, Steve studied construction at Texas A&M before settling in with a larger construction firm where he developed an expertise in the construction of automotive dealerships. When he left the company, a number of clients followed him out the door and gave him some of his first work as an independent construction outfit.
“They called me for more jobs because we gave them a personal relationship, a warranty and honesty,” he says.
The decision to focus on a niche sector of the construction industry such as automotive dealerships has paid off for Wier, especially when it comes to repeat business. Auto dealers, who largely work as franchise operators for large automotive companies, are constantly being pressured by corporate headquarters to upgrade their facilities to ensure the aesthetic matches with the company’s latest branding effort.
“I had a client who told me ‘write a contract, put an amount on there and send it over so I can sign it. If I show Toyota a contract they will give me a five-year franchise, but if I don’t show them I’m remodeling, they’re going to come in every year and have something new they want me to do,’” says Steve.
“That’s why our work continues to expand; they might not be building a new facility, but they need to do a facelift to the interior or exterior,” he adds. Today, 60 percent of Wier’s business consists of interior renovations while 40 percent is new, ground-up construction.
Having established itself as a leading name in the Houston contracting market, Wier has become the go-to builder for a number of recognizable local brands, including Sonic Automotive and Group 1 Automotive.
With a strong reputation in the local market, Wier often finds itself in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating contracts with clients, allowing the design-build firm to take on projects under only the most favorable conditions.
“I had a client who wanted to do a project cost-plus and I said I would rather work for free until we can get a lump sum contract, because then I know what the costs are and they know what the costs are and we can go from there,” says Steve. “For a contractor, you’ve always got the scenario where I finish the job, they move in, we start to get payments and then start arguing over the definition of cost.”
No job too small
In an effort to keep the company’s loyal stable of clients satisfied, Wier tackles job of all sizes, typically completing as many as 50 projects every year. While projects typically exceed the $10 million range, the contractor will often take on much smaller jobs for established customers.
“If I have a client who wants to give me a $10 or $15 million project but also want me to do a $30,000 remodel, I can’t say I don’t want to do that for them because I want to be their contractor,” says Steve. He points to one recent example where a client who he knows to have a $40 million project coming in the near future asked him to tackle a $19,000 remodel on a Lexus dealership. “I can’t tell them no,” he says.
As a busy design-build general contractor, Wier relies on its tried-and-true network of subcontractors to ensure that every project comes in on time and on budget. “We have three or four subs for each trade that we might switch out, but we keep the same people,” says Steve. “Subs like us because we pay on time and others don’t, so I can get a better rate because I treat them right.”
Operating in a state that has experienced 20 percent population growth over the last decade, it can often be difficult to find qualified workers. “Houston and Texas in general are so busy that it’s been hard to push jobs because you can’t get the manpower,” says Steve.
Given the current dearth of experienced construction workers in the Houston area, Steve is especially focused on how he treats his own employees. “We paid out $800,000 in bonuses last year to employees,” says Steve. “My guys don’t have to start their own company if they’re happy here,” he says, alluding to his own career arc.
While Wier has plenty of work in the Houston area to keep the firm busy for the foreseeable future, the company is currently eyeing an expansion into the Dallas area. The company already has superintendents stationed in Austin, Dallas and Brownfield, among others, but a full-time presence in Dallas is a vital aspect of Wier’s planned expansion.
Strong relationships and a full slate of repeat business among automotive dealerships and dialysis clinics will see design-build contractor Wier Enterprises remain a leader in the Texas construction market.
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