A Boutique Success
Crimson Building Company is a rising star in construction
There’s a worn-out old saying about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. When life—and the Great Recession—gave Eric Little the lemon of losing his job, he whipped up a fresh batch of lemonade in the form of Crimson Building Company, LLC (Crimson), one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation, as reported in Inc. magazine.
“I was a senior project manager for UDR, Inc., a large real estate investment trust specializing in multifamily,” says Eric, who holds the title of CEO at Crimson. “When I got laid off, I realized I had the choice between going back to work for someone else or going into business for myself. I decided on myself, and founded Crimson in June 2011.”
It didn’t take long for Eric’s new venture to get to work. A longtime friend of his, Randy Primrose, President and CEO of Magnolia Property Company, brought Crimson in help build Magnolia at Wycliff, a 32-unit boutique multifamily development in Dallas.
It was an auspicious beginning for Crimson, laying the foundation for what would be a dizzying rise over the next seven years. In its first year of operation, Crimson’s revenues totaled about $1 million. By 2017, that number had risen to $42 million. This year, Crimson is on track for $100 million and already has a backlog of $100 million in projects slated for 2019. Along the way, Crimson’s payroll has expanded to 42 employees and a roster of some 300 subcontractors the company uses regularly.
“We do about 20 to 22 projects per year,” Eric says. “We’ve been fortunate to have good relationships and partners. And, even though you wouldn’t think so, starting business in 2011 was a real benefit as well. It actually helped us; we were able to get land at a substantial discount. We struggled in the beginning like every business does. But we hit the ground running, had low overhead, starting bringing people in and were able to land some work right away.”
Working with Magnolia to build that first boutique multifamily development in Dallas was the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the two businesses that would see them partner on more than a dozen projects. Shortly after the first project, Crimson helped build two more multifamily developments in Dallas, one in the Bishop Arts District, another in Lower Greenville, as well as two other boutique multifamily developments in nearby Fort Worth. Soon, CHC Development partnered with Crimson to build medical office buildings in Fort Worth.
Expansion and Growth
Today, Crimson specializes in multifamily, commercial office, heavy civil and construction management.
“Originally, we planned to just do boutique multifamily developments,” Eric says. “But my background is mostly commercial construction, so we expanded. As more opportunities came up, we expanded our portfolio. Now we’re doing townhomes, condos, office buildings, schools and all sorts of stuff. Our biggest clients are Magnolia, Urban Genesis and Exxir Capital, which is probably our largest. At any given time, we have multiple projects going on with all of them.”
Crimson’s meteoric rise earned it a ranking of 706 on the 2017 Inc. magazine ranking of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States. Eric, a religious man, doesn’t take the credit for his company’s success himself.
“I attribute our success to God,” Eric says. “He’s opened a lot of doors and closed other doors.”
However, he does give credit to his team and to the founding philosophies of Crimson as well.
“Crimson was formed to be a different kind of contractor,” Eric says. “Our people have a wide range of experience in the construction industry, from subcontractor to general contractor to developer/owner. Through the years, we noticed many companies in the industry primarily focus on maximizing profits. We found this approach nearly always has a negative impact on projects. Crimson Building Company provides our clients value through sound material selection practices and a commitment to energy efficiency, waste reduction and durability, culminating with our emphasis on unique features.”
Serving Clients … And the Community
This approach is exemplified in the process Crimson calls “Total Project Communication,” using cloud-based communication and project management software to make the relationship between contractor and client streamlined and transparent.
“The cloud environment is perfect for this, and it’s something all of our clients really appreciate,” Eric says. “The total project management system uses technology to keep clients informed. It gives everyone real-time access to everything going in. Whether it’s requests for information (RFIs), copies of permits, meeting minutes, submittals or daily reports, it’s all there. No matter where the client is in the world, they can log on and look at it.”
Of course, in the construction industry, not even the latest in technology can make sure everything runs smoothly. Eric recalls working on the Magnolia Lofts on Vickery development in Fort Worth as a significant challenge for his young company.
“It was our most difficult project so far,” Eric says. “We were renovating an existing 100-year-old building that had been a shooting range and converting it into apartments. We converted half the first floor into a parking garage and added a third floor of wood construction to the top of the building. The project had 38 apartment units, each of them with a different floor plan. We also added a rooftop deck and an elevator to the building. There was no roadmap or past experience to show the way to do something like that, we just had to figure it out as we went. It turned into an 18-month project.”
Giving back to the community is a matter of great importance to Eric, and Crimson is heavily involved in local community outreach, in particular 6 Stones. The company’s primary involvement comes through 6 Stones’ Community Powered Revitalization program, which brings together local governments and businesses to make repairs to the homes of people who cannot afford the work themselves. Crimson renovates at least four houses every year.
“It’s all spelled out in our core values,” Eric says. “Building with integrity. Impacting with leadership. Growing with excellence. BIG for short. We all try to live by it. We offer a robust training program across the board, from personal finance to construction. I follow the values as well—inside and outside the organization. Our focus is on building things right. We believe the money will follow.”
Time seems to be proving him right.