Adapt and Thrive
Elias Garcia reflects on building Commercial and Industrial Construction Services, LLC
Elias Garcia claims not to be a superhero, but he does have a superpower: adaptability. Each step of Garcia’s career path has required him to adapt and learn something new, starting right after college when the civil engineering graduate found himself working a construction job. He was fascinated by the work, which began his journey into construction.
Today, Garcia is the Owner of Commercial and Industrial Construction Services, LLC, a general contracting business based in Sugar Land, Texas, which he started in 2017. He has been building relationships with his clients and subcontractors since that time, and he credits that relationship building with much of his success, which has kept him busy throughout 2020—despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“In early February, we had work for the rest of the year. I felt great,” Garcia says. “And then COVID-19 happened.”
When the landscape suddenly shifted due to the pandemic, Garcia found himself without the next big job that was set to carry his company for several months.
That job, the remodel of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Houston Downtown, was put on hold for the foreseeable future. As Garcia explains, leaders for the hotel chain analyzed the situation and decided they would not be following through with any major remodels or expansions for the next two years because they expect occupancy rates to stay low.
Garcia understood this decision, but it still left him with a big hole in the schedule to fill. So, he got to work. He began to procure smaller jobs, one after the other, which have kept him and his team busy since then.
“We haven’t had a day without work,” Garcia says.
Garcia’s Origin Story
Just as Garcia has been able to put together a string of small projects, he has built his career in similar increments. He started out in his home country of Mexico where, as a new civil engineering graduate, he got a job as assistant superintendent on a job with a U.S.-based general contractor working with a Mexican developer to build Dillard’s department stores.
The Dillard’s projects soon dried up as the Mexican economy went through a recession, but by the next year Garcia began working for general contractor R C Hope, Inc. in the United States. His boss back then, Owner Richard Hope, now Owner of R C Hope Group, Inc., saw something special in the young Garcia.
“He’s got a great, gregarious personality, and he was smart,” Hope says. “We connected because we both have a civil engineering background.”
The two have remained good friends professionally and personally over the years, and Garcia quips that he is “the one thing from Mexico [Richard] can’t forget.”
While working for Hope, Garcia says he recognized he still had a lot to learn. “As a civil engineer, I realized I knew very little about general construction,” he says. “I felt like I needed to work for a subcontractor to learn how things really worked.” So, he got a job working for a structural concrete company and dived into learning all there was to know.
“I became an expert in concrete,” he says. “I did that for a good 18-20 years, and I loved it.”
During his time in structural concrete, Garcia went to work for Brown & Root Industrial Services, LLC, at the Shell Technology Center Houston, eventually finding himself in charge of the Projects Department for one of the company’s development centers, which included offices, laboratories and small chemical plants. Here, he says he did a little bit of just about everything.
“We installed carpet and tile, framed walls and did painting—pretty much everything but plumbing and electrical,” he recalls. “It opened me up to everything I was scared of doing. Little by little, I got pushed into doing more things, and I enjoyed it. I was learning the processes and that kept me interested.”
Without realizing it, he was slowly working his way back into general contracting. After a few years, people started asking Garcia to help them on projects, and eventually this side business became his full-time venture.
Garcia says each project teaches him something new about general contracting. Working with, and asking questions of, his subcontractors he learns more about the systems at play—such as how electrical and HVAC systems work with communications technology—to develop an understanding of the bigger picture.
“I wish I knew everything about general contracting the way I do about concrete, but I’m learning very quickly,” Garcia says.
Partnering with Clients
By the time the slowdown in work took place last spring, Garcia already had a steady clientele, including warehouse and office clients, a group of pediatric clinic owners and some fast food franchisees. Garcia attributes much of his steady success to partnering with his clients and understanding their needs.
“One thing our clients know for sure is that if we come, we are going to take care of their needs—and more,” he says. One such client is BlueSprig Pediatrics, a clinic group devoted to treating children with autism. Because the clinic is busy seeing children all day, remodel and repair work takes place after hours and on weekends. This works, says Garcia, because he has gained the confidence of the clinic managers.
“We have been able to gain their trust, where they’re not worried about us going in there on the weekends or at night where there’s nobody there,” he says. “We’ve become their preferred contractor in the Houston area.” With BlueSprig Pediatrics having 17 clinics in this geographic region, there’s plenty of opportunity for ongoing work.
Looking out for Clients’ Best Interests
Garcia and his team bring a fresh set of eyes to their jobs. If they see a problem—or a potential problem—Garcia will alert the building owner or manager to let him know what they have spotted. If it’s a small issue, Garcia’s team may just repair it on the spot, no questions asked.
“We have our scope of work, but we will fix the little things,” he says.
The same is true with his fast food clients, which include Burger King and SONIC Drive-In franchisees. Garcia says he knows what tight margins fast food restaurants operate on, and that their owners need to be cost-conscious.
“Every repair is coming out of their bottom line,” he says. “Just think about how many hamburgers they have to sell to make a $3,000 repair.”
The Power of Kindness
Garcia and his team continue to work on bigger, new construction jobs as well, such as the Hampton Inn & Suites Austin - Airport where work included structural steel, commercial roofing and electrical. They also do small jobs at clients’ homes and for other community members—what Garcia has dubbed his “unofficial community service program.”
In fact, if Garcia has a second superpower, it is kindness. If he learns of an elderly or low-income person in need, and he has a spare day in the schedule, he makes it a point to go help these people at little to no cost. Garcia says, it seems to him, these kindnesses generate positive referrals that often bring new business.
“Those little things work toward me getting bigger jobs,” he says. “Not because they will give me another job directly, but karma or something helps me.”
A Conscientious Core Team
Garcia says he is thankful to have found a good core group of workers for his jobs. He looks for people who are detail-oriented and willing to clean up after themselves—without needing to be told to do either of those things.
He’s been pleased to have kept the same core group of workers for the last several months and grateful he’s had work to keep them busy. He expects to remain busy throughout the end of the year.
“I’ve been so blessed that I haven’t had to look for new clients,” he says. That gratitude extends to all the people along his career path who have shown him the ropes and helped him to become a general contractor— after he set out to do that very thing so many years ago. His strength and adaptability have served him well and these attributes haven’t gone unnoticed.
Reflects his friend Hope: “I think reinventing himself has been part of the deal.” For all the reinvention, at his core Garcia “hasn’t changed. He values hard work, integrity and helping others.”
“I’ve been able to adjust and adapt to maintain my current customers,” Garcia says. “Being adaptable has given me a broader perspective not just on how systems work but also understanding what the client looks for.”