Supporting the People in the Field
BuilderGuru Contracting, Inc. | Gardiner & Gardiner Contracting, LLC keeps customers smiling
The superintendent is the quarterback of every project, according to Owners Ben Harries and Todd Haynie of BuilderGuru Contracting, Inc. | Gardiner & Gardiner Contracting, LLC (BGC | G&G). “The office staff exists to support the people out in the field. We put our superintendents on a pedestal because the job they do is what gets us more work.”
With up to $35 million in business a year, BGC | G&G’s field-driven philosophy is certainly working for the general contractor. Headquartered in Millersville, Maryland, the company serves commercial customers throughout the East Coast and across the nation. “We go all over. We currently have four projects in New York, two in Pennsylvania and jobs in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida,” Ben says.
Services include new construction, design-build, pre-engineered metal buildings, renovations and tenant fit outs for a range of spaces, from medical offices, cannabis facilities, schools, churches and government buildings to retail shops, restaurants, mixed-use developments, commercial offices and multifamily residences. “We do a great deal of travel for national restaurant chains and for the cannabis industry,” Ben says, explaining that the company is known for its work on cannabis cultivation, process and dispensary facilities.
BGC | G&G takes on jobs up to $10 million in size. “We have a good mix of both fast-paced jobs, like tenant fit outs, which often last anywhere from 10 to 14 weeks and ground-up construction, which might take six to 18 months,” Ben says.
A Lifelong Partnership
Ben considers construction his calling. Soon after graduating from college, Ben made a connection that would turn into a lifelong partnership. “I joined Herman/Stewart Construction in 1998, and my first boss was Todd Haynie, who was working as a superintendent,” Ben says. “Todd’s been doing construction since before there was color TV,” he jokingly adds. The two formed a great working relationship and later joined Shawmut Design and Construction, where they both fell in love with restaurant construction.
By 2003, Ben found himself at a crossroads. “I was too young to be an executive at Shawmut, but I was ready to do more. My feeling was that I could make more money on my own.” Ben founded BuilderGuru Contracting, Inc. (BGC) and asked Todd to join him as Co-Owner. “We started the business out of my garage in Annapolis, Maryland,” Ben says.
One of the company’s first jobs ended up being pivotal for the young business. “Skip Gardiner at Gardiner Realty and Development Company gave us our first big tenant fit out at Priest Bridge Business Park in Crofton, Maryland.” The project not only gave the company the revenue needed to hire its first superintendent, Neil Rains, who now serves as Vice President of Operations, but the job also gave the fledgling business the opportunity to work with Skip’s sons, who owned Gardiner & Gardiner Contracting, LLC (G&G). “We started following Gardiner & Gardiner around on jobs. They’d do large mixed-use construction projects, and we’d come in and do the interior fit outs of the space,” Ben says.
Although BGC grew, the company eventually hit a ceiling, according to Ben. “We couldn’t get jobs larger than $2 million and wanted to expand our service offerings beyond tenant fit outs,” he says. About that time, the brothers at G&G told Ben of their interest in selling their business. BGC acquired G&G in 2009, and BGC | G&G was born.
Creating Opportunities for Women
The company’s 37 employees include “some of the most talented women in the industry,” according to Ben. “We have women in positions from receptionist on up to our Controller, Karen Benner,” he says. With a 13-year-old daughter at home, giving women opportunities in the industry is something of a personal passion project for Ben. “It’s important for women to be treated the same as men and to be given the same opportunities,” he says. “If we had a woman here who wanted to be a superintendent out in the field, I’d teach her everything she needed to know to excel in that job.”
The BGC | G&G team credits open, honest communications for its success. “We have a lot of different personality types, but when there’s a problem, we huddle and solve it together. There’s no finger-pointing, just problem-solving,” Ben says. “What we do is hard, but our people are very good at it.”
A compensation package on par with some of the industry’s largest players is only part of why employees stay loyal to BGC | G&G, Ben says. The other reason is a culture focused on treating employees like family. “We work 10- to 12-hour days. We respect each other and consider everyone part of the family here.”
Employees take great pride in their work, according to Ben. “Our people are very good at performing high-quality work and completing projects efficiently. They take pride in what they do and what they accomplish.”
When not hard at work, the team at BGC | G&G hosts fishing outings for employees and customers and is active with The Arc Central Chesapeake Region, which works for equity and access for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “I’ve chaired a golf tournament for four years, and BGC | G&G participates in that and other fundraising events,” Ben says.
Bringing Projects to Fruition
BGC | G&G has had many notable projects over the years. A renovation project for CATCH STEAK restaurant had BGC | G&G and its subcontractors working around the clock for six months in New York City’s trendy Meatpacking District. “Our vice president of operations, assistant project manager, two superintendents and Todd were actively involved in bringing this project to fruition,” Ben says. The 20,000-square-foot upscale restaurant, frequented by Hollywood celebrities and famous athletes, features built-in booth seating, coffered ceilings, fluted glass, Calacatta marble, custom woodwork and a spiral staircase with mosaic tile.
For an $8 million new construction project for Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Gambrills, Maryland, the team installed insulated concrete form (ICF) walls, which are cast-in-place concrete walls sandwiched between two layers of insulation material. “This type of construction not only creates an extremely energy-efficient building, but also results in less waste during the construction process since the ICF walls remain in place permanently to provide insulation,” Ben says.
Another project had the team working with long-term vendor, LINQ, the company’s cellular service provider. “LINQ was relocating its headquarters to a historic foundry in South Baltimore,” Ben says. The company contracted BGC | G&G to carry out the sophisticated fit out, which included high-end finishes of polished concrete, glass, metal and stone. The unique workspace features a pool table and motorcycle. “The culture at LINQ is ‘work hard, play hard,’ and the space really captures that.”
Ben admits that construction can be challenging work. “Commercial construction can be a grind. You have to be very hands-on to be successful.” He and Todd can often be found on job sites—whether in or out of town. “Our customers get a check-signer overseeing and visiting their projects each week,” he says. “Todd and I believe that no matter how large our business grows, ownership should be involved in the day-to-day operations of a project.
“I absolutely love construction. Every day is something new. I’m lucky I get to do what I do. Every morning, I wake up with a big grin on my face,” Ben says.