Adapting to Changing Client Needs
Foremost Contracting and Building, LLC offers an agile partnership in an unpredictable world
Starting a business out of an immediate need versus a long-term plan? That is precisely what happened when Foremost Contracting and Building, LLC’s (Foremost) Founder, Anthony (Tony) Piscione, finished a foundation pour on a job site in 1997 as a subcontractor. The general contractor managing the job abruptly walked off the project. Left in a lurch, the client asked Anthony to take over. Always focusing on customer service, Anthony agreed, and the rest is history.
More than two decades later, Foremost offers preconstruction, general contracting and construction management services for a wide variety of projects, including multifamily, multi-use, office, education, religious and retail. The general contractor remains agile because the employees are a multifaceted group of professionals from varied backgrounds. From structural and mechanical engineering to facility management and finance, the team is adaptable to any project or site challenge. However, the team isn’t focused on executing a high volume of projects. Foremost selects only four to six projects a year to work on to ensure intimate oversight from beginning to end.
Drew Schelker, Project Executive at Foremost and Anthony’s son-in-law, joined the company in 2018. “We are a company that has a startup feel with a ton of autonomy. It’s not like any other company I’ve worked for.” Drew’s background is in facility management and operations, having managed projects for Google while with another firm. But when Anthony offered him a position at the company in the estimating department (to bring the family closer together), Drew jumped at the chance. “By using my prior knowledge of managing projects, I’ve applied that systematic approach to bid management, estimating and marketing here at Foremost.” Drew’s ability to quickly adapt proved to align with his father-in-law’s vision of what is needed to forge an accomplished company.
Adapting on the Fly
“We’re living in a crazy time right now,” says Drew. But he’s optimistic, as he cites Anthony’s foresight and ability to pivot when necessary as the company’s pillar for continuous success, despite economic downturns. “When the recession hit in 2008, Tony started working for the banks helping to finish construction on reclaimed properties where construction had stalled. He finished and completed those projects, which helped sustain us.”
This year, Drew has seen many contractors disappear from the market due to increased labor costs and increased costs in health and safety and insurance. “Developers are spooked. To safeguard against the market conditions, we’ve formed a joint venture to perform house lifting for New York State’s Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. We are primarily updating infrastructure on public housing on Long Island, including building new floodwall systems, updating roofs and upgrading HVAC systems.”
True to Foremost’s adaptable approach, this turn in the company’s focus means it can tap into U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding to tackle these storm recovery projects. The company has been awarded two of these projects so far, and Drew sees this pattern continuing. “This work has really been a lifeline for us as the city goes through an economic transition during the pandemic.”
At Foremost, the primary focus of business development is based upon having genuine and trustworthy staff. “It is obvious to our clients that we care about their business and work to protect their interests first. To me, it all boils down to customer service.” Drew is certain Anthony endorses this sentiment because it is what permeates the company culture. “We’re always willing to go that extra mile/inch to make the customer happy. Tony has told me that the key to success is finding the balance of what works for the client and what works for the company. In that middle ground is where we can really excel.
“My father-in-law has done more than 50 buildings throughout New York City and was shocked when I showed him our portfolio. Tony is humble and keeps his head down, focused on one project at a time. To see this complete portfolio really brought home the fact that he’s made a tremendous impact on the city’s built environment,” Drew says.
That impact is evidenced by the firm receiving many awards, including a NYC Best Builder Award in 2019 and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building Brooklyn Award. One of the company’s projects was even featured on network television. Bravo TV’s series, “Million Dollar Listing,” featured 949 Park Avenue as a highlight of one of New York City’s finest high-end, luxury residential buildings.
A Teamwork Mentality
Today, the company employs 25 people, many who have 10, 15 or even 20 years with the company. Drew says, “We’ve watched their kids grow up, including Tony’s children and grandchildren. People stay here because it speaks to who Tony is as a leader. He is flexible, generous and always strives to do what’s right for his employees.”
Drew says the company culture is one of helping each other and doing whatever is necessary to get the job done—a philosophy reinforced through action by its founder. “Tony is nearly 60 and has paid his dues. But you will still find he is often the first one here in the morning and last one to leave in the evening. I have even seen him sweeping the floors in the back. He is super committed and dedicated and I see that mentality reflected in our employees’ attitudes as well.”
Anthony also encourages giving back to the local community, and for 25 years the company has helped host the Danielle Antar Foundation Inc. charity event in Staten Island. The annual event helps raise money that directly benefits the families of sick children.
The Best Defense
According to Drew, many general contractors find themselves in over their head on complicated projects. “I’m still surprised when I see a client choose a contractor based on low price versus qualifications. It’s worth my time to educate those in the industry to understand that often, the GC team is the first line of defense before something goes very wrong.” Drew’s experience includes finding design flaws before construction and notifying the client something won’t work in the field. Or, he has seen essential items being value engineered out of a project and has interceded with price-sensitive alternatives.
For Drew and the rest of the Foremost team, it is all about trust. “I’m a transparent and genuine person. I keep my word, and clients respect that.” He elaborates, “The entire team puts their heart and soul into making sure our client’s investment is properly taken care of and the work promised is completed on time and on budget. It’s all about keeping our word and treating them as we’d like to be treated.”
And, after all, isn’t that the golden rule?