Building on Strength and Success
Carra Builders Commercial Construction Co. looks to future trends
As a general contractor, Carra Builders Commercial Construction Co. (Carra Builders), located in Clayton, Ohio, enjoys stability and success from 38 years in the construction business. What makes the company exceptional is the staff’s ability to work together as a team. “You can get a lot of irons in the fire, and it takes a lot of patience, a lot of stepping back, a lot of listening, a lot of knowing your project in and out,” says Carra Builders Vice President Sheryl Bowman.
The team of 11 full-time employees uses Monday morning meetings as a time to connect. “We come together, we problem-solve and we create new solutions,” says Carra Builders President Keith Bowman. Keith takes the general contractor role seriously and says that it’s important to cover every aspect of the job, from pre-construction and owner expectations to product research and accounting. The company specializes in three main markets—restaurants, medical/dental facilities and veterinary clinics—and finishes between 20 and 30 jobs a year. Just a few of the company’s clients include North Main Animal Clinic and Paragon Crossing in Dayton, Ohio, and various locations for Buffalo Wild Wings, Hardee’s and Grimaldi’s.
One of the top trends is an increase in the number of veterinary clinics being built. Sheryl mentions it’s a development that they expect will continue to grow in the future. “A lot of people, especially Baby Boomers, do like pets, and you have the younger generation that haven’t gotten married yet and are postponing having children, but they are having pets,” she says. The company plans to be at the forefront of that building trend by utilizing their in-house interior designer, Jessica Fox, who understands specific design elements, such as paint, flooring and furniture, that appeal to animals. “Animals can get very anxious,” Sheryl says. “They need to be able to feel like everything is OK.”
Communication Creates Cohesion
An important part of the construction business is dealing with different personalities and communication styles. From the owner to the architect, from each subcontractor to laborers, Carra Builders keeps the communication lines open. “You must make sure you understand what people are saying and what they are hearing you say,” Sheryl states. For example, subcontractors and laborers must comprehend the scope of work and deadlines. When everyone is on the same page, the team can achieve its main goal—meeting owner expectations.
The company’s communication strategy includes coordination from Keith. When he enters the office each morning, he’s already considered each project, its current stage and which problems need to be solved. He takes a few minutes each morning to read and catch up on current events to be aware if anything might affect one of their projects. “He’s ready to go,” Sheryl says. “He’s ready to problem-solve.”
Setting Themselves Apart
Carra Builders is determined to stand apart from the competition in the commercial construction business. The company keeps a project manager and project supervisor for each job until the project is completed, a practice not typical for general contractors in the past decade. “It seems like people are trying to do away with the project superintendent or maybe there’s not a project manager,” Sheryl says. “They are trying to figure out a way to cut costs.” Yet the costs should outweigh the liability of confusion and wasted time. “When you have 23 different trades on a project, it can get confusing. It could end up costing the owner, the general contractor and the subcontractor. Their time is valuable,” she says.
Carra Builders recognizes the importance of its employees, many who have been with the construction company for decades. The company is celebrating 38 years and has employees that have been working there 25 to 30 years. Multitalented employees allow the company to extend new services to clients. For example, Jessica is skilled in interior design and offers her expertise to the veterinary and dental offices that they build. Another employee, Jason Moore, the company’s resident lifelong learner, has earned three master’s degrees and helps with licensing specifications.
Safety is essential to the general contracting company. In addition to monthly safety meetings, the project manager and project supervisor review procedures before each project, making everyone at the site aware of the safety route and emphasizing that the site is a hard-hat area. “If there is any type of language barrier,” Sheryl says, “they are on top of that and make sure we know that everybody is aware to communicate and everybody’s on the same page.”
As a local and national general contractor, Carra Builders is licensed in 15 states. “Most states require you to take tests to be a licensed general contractor,” Sheryl says. “Each time that’s required of us, Jason, the lifelong learner, steps up and does it.” Being able to procure licenses for the company outside of Ohio is a great tool to have as a general contractor, as it reflects the company’s commitment and instills confidence in the local subcontractors who work with Carra Builders.
Looking to the future, the company is working on green initiatives. For instance, the office eliminated plastic bottles and installed a water filtration system at the office in consideration of the environmental impact. “It’s a little start on green initiatives, and it turns a light bulb on,” Sheryl says. “We’re always looking at what that would mean to a project. If an owner would come to us and say, ‘We want to use green initiatives,’ we would learn it and use our creative capabilities to get it done.”
Commitment to Others
Carra Builders donates to many worthy causes. For example, the owners have opened the offices for drop-off donations for hurricane relief in the past. The employees boxed up the contributions and delivered them to the next destination for victims.
Because the company has built nursing homes and assisted living communities, employees are especially honored and motivated to give back to senior citizens. Every year for the past 10 years, the company has sponsored the Senior Olympics program at a nearby skilled nursing community. “One day a year, the nursing home demonstrates the spirit of the residents by giving them the opportunity to shine and make a memory,” Sheryl says. “The residents love it. They are the stars for the day.”
From honoring senior citizens to honoring employees, Keith believes in the value of his staff. He provides them with opportunities for self development, a pleasant place to work and flexibility for their family lives. “Your work life can affect your family life. The part we can control is the work part,” Keith says. Sheryl feels he’s very supportive of each employee and wants to see them grow.
Keith’s dedication to his employees and clients shows. He wants customers to know that Carra Builders’ staff members will share their knowledge with clients and will deliver professional results within budget and on time.
“It really is an exciting industry. It’s challenging, but overall it is rewarding to help a client,” Sheryl says. “The construction business is a timeless piece of history that can last for many years.”