Built From Within
BAMCO Inc.’s people-focused principles provide solid foundation for enduring success
At first glance, BAMCO Inc. might seem like just another New York-based metal panel supplier. In fact, they are an industry leader in the design and fabrication of metal panel and rainscreen systems with customers in 48 states and an annual production capacity in the millions of square feet.
But beyond quality and capacity, BAMCO’s evolution since its founding in 1986 has been one of investment into its people. That investment culminated in the company’s implementation of a 100% employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in 2018.
Here’s how this group of individuals turned a small business specializing in manufacturing and installing board panels into a national name in the metal panel space—one employee at a time.
Back in the 1980s, Allan Pasternak and Michael Biviano worked together for a construction products representative. Pasternak says, “We were regularly asked by our customers about installation services. So we talked to the firm about starting a construction company (BAMCO) as a subsidiary. They agreed.”
The name BAMCO, which stands for Bob (Lipschultz), Allan (Pasternak) and Michael (Biviano), the three principals who initially founded the company, focused on installing aggregate and cement board panels. About a year later, the construction products company was having financial issues, so Pasternak and Biviano bought the construction operation while Lipschultz retired from the business.
“We borrowed money on credit cards to finance operations. With help from a few employees, we grew the aggregate and cement board side of the business,” Pasternak recalls. “Then we started doing some metal panel work like corrugated siding and metal roofing. We particularly liked metal paneling.”
By 1991, BAMCO began designing and fabricating its own line of composite metal panel systems. In time, Pasternak and Biviano developed a relationship with the premier manufacturer of composite aluminum paneling, Alucobond.
Pasternak says, “Everything kind of evolved from there. We bought a table saw and started building up our fabrication and engineering capabilities.”
Today, Biviano serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Pasternak is Secretary Treasurer of the company, which has added several other key members over the years to round out its leadership team.
While business was good through the 1990s, Pasternak and Biviano believed there was a disconnect between services and the corporate culture. They brought in American Management Services, Inc. to provide a third-party perspective about operations from processes and productivity to sales, recruiting and retention.
Pasternak says, “This changed the way we dealt with employees and how we went about our business.”
Another major adjustment to the business was the hiring of Robert Friedman in 2002. With comprehensive knowledge of construction project accounting, Friedman joined as the Chief Financial Officer and instituted comprehensive financial systems and controls.
Pasternak recalls, “Essentially, he brought financial discipline to our operation—and our business took off.”
The next major milestone was the adoption of Kaizen principles in 2003. Pasternak explains, “Along with our original consultants who provided the closed-loop theory of management and a belief that everyone is responsible for everyone else, Kaizen methods brought the concept of continuous improvement.”
Kaizen involves constant measurements, feedback and adjustments regarding everything from tools used in mechanical operations to overall process workflow.
“One of the things that differentiates us from our competitors is that we measure everything,” Pasternak says. “We measure engineering efficiency and turnaround times, every hour we spend on jobsites and our productivity in our factory. We measure everything because we know if we can measure, we can improve.”
That mindset has helped the company increase quality, safety and productivity, shorten turnaround times, and deliver a less-stressful customer experience.
Biviano confirms, “We’ve done very well at assembling a team that thrives on achievement. One of the biggest keys to our success is that we are a goal- and target-oriented company. We are big on sharing information on every front from job/task specific budgets to our annual companywide finance review. By doing this, we get everybody rowing in the same direction.”
Today, BAMCO is one of the premier fabricators of metal panels in the country, producing over 1.5 million square feet of panels a year—and much of that work is custom. The company provides design, engineering, estimating, fabrication, testing and installation services with a comprehensive and highly skilled staff of engineers, project managers, field and shop superintendents, and other construction professionals.
Pasternak says that many times architects have a concept of what they’re trying to achieve, but leave it to the trades or the manufacturer to figure out how to price and do it. Turning ideas into reality could well be BAMCO’s superpower. Pasternak says, “About 50% of our work comes from aiding our customers and solving their problems prior to construction, largely in a design-build delivery style. That’s one reason why our business model is engineering-intensive. Most companies like ours might have three to four employees in their engineering department; we have 25.”
Jon Black, Director of Engineering, oversees BAMCO’s engineering department, which consists of full-time detailers and CNC programmers.
For instance, for the 1040 Dean Street project in Brooklyn, New York, the architect wanted to recreate a look reminiscent of the Art Nouveau architectural styles of the early 20th century. Initially, recreating these shapes seemed economically unfeasible. BAMCO developed, formed, finished and mounted a complex series of dies and shapes onto a flat metal panel face to create intricate shapes and the architectural look.
As well, BAMCO is part of the design-build team working on the $65 million, 80,000-square-foot Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey, which is scheduled for completion later this year. The company supplied over 30,000 square feet of panels for the project’s exterior.
With regard to products, the company continues to innovate. For instance, it’s added other products that incorporate rainscreen technology, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) design principles and environmentally responsible methods of exterior wall construction.
Pasternak says, “We’ve become a significant player in the solid plate and metal fabrication market. We recently spent over $1 million on equipment to further that endeavor. Also, we are also fabricating some phenolic panels and cementitious products in partnership with overseas manufacturers.”
Promoting from Within
Currently, BAMCO employs about 160 people as well as another 50 to 60 union skilled tradespeople in the field.
Pasternak and Biviano are most proud of the fact that the average tenure of a BAMCO employee is over 10 years. Pasternak adds, “We’ve got 15 people here that have been with us over 20 years.”
They believe employee longevity is a direct reflection on company culture. “We’re big carrot people,” Pasternak says. “We find good, talented people and nurture them, then put them in a position to succeed and promote from within. We believe most people will thrive under those conditions.”
That philosophy has helped the company establish the next generation of leadership. Pasternak points to Rick Marcovecchio, current Vice President of Fabrication, who joined BAMCO as the Shop Floor Manager in 1988. Marcovecchio has overseen the growth of BAMCO’s fabrication initiatives and was promoted to Vice President in 2004. He has recently overseen the institution of lean manufacturing principles on the BAMCO’s factory floors and is a strong advocate of the company’s continued improvement practices.
Similarly, Ron Palazzo, current Vice President of Field Operations, was hired to work in the company’s fabrication facility in 1990. He has risen through the ranks with stops as a field mechanic, journeyman carpenter, project foreman and project superintendent. Today, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of BAMCO’s field services including scheduling, manpower allotment and equipment and material allocations. He is also involved in all pre-construction and budgeting procedures, and reports directly to the company’s CEO.
Palazzo is proud of the company’s growth over the last 30 years, but is particularly pleased with the leadership’s ability to hold on to its family business attitude. “I have seen tremendous changes and growth in everything from our product lines, to investments in and use of technology, to internal accounting systems, to our safety program. But through it all, management has always maintained that if we do a good job for our customers and we are fair to our employees, the profits will be there. That business principle is the heart of our success,” he says.
Bob Balaam, Vice President of Sales, began his career at BAMCO as one of its original detailers and even headed the engineering department for a while. Balaam was instrumental in the design and development of the first generation of extrusion systems used for BAMCO’s composite panel systems. He took over sales in 2005 and now oversees the company’s national sales initiative and manages all day-to-day sales activity. Balaam says, “BAMCO’s philosophy is to promote from within. If you make the effort, you will succeed at BAMCO.”
Finally, the newest member of the BAMCO leadership team is Judson Filkins, who took over as Director of Safety in 2014. He started with BAMCO as a construction foreman in 2007. Filkins is a certified Construction Health and Safety Technician and an authorized OSHA instructor with over 17 years of commercial construction experience. He brings 10 years of field experience as a journeyman carpenter and carpenter foreman on many of BAMCO’s largest and most challenging projects and plays a key role in developing BAMCO’s culture of vigilance and discipline, ensuring the safest workplace environment for all BAMCO employees.
When asked why he chose to make a career at BAMCO, Filkins points to opportunities. He says, “There are so many people in upper management who started from the bottom. There’s no ceiling. I believe that’s because the leadership has established a culture of listening. They listen to their people—whether a project manager or an apprentice—and are willing to try new things. They reward good performance and promotions are based on ability, not popularity.”
Filkins has fully embraced that culture in his role as Director of Safety. “I see every employee at BAMCO as my customer, so I’m continually listening and looking for ways to improve their health and safety,” he says.
That mission has resulted in a strong focus on job hazard training so employees may work confidently and safely, even in the most challenging construction environments.
A Stock Option
Constant feedback, constant improvement, engaged teams and a quality leadership team have led BAMCO to the ultimate employee empowerment—the establishment of a 100% ESOP in 2018.
Pasternak says, “We’re proud of what we’ve created over the last 34 years and believe we have the people and processes in place to succeed for many more years. The ESOP is the perfect transition plan. With the ESOP, nobody wants to go anywhere. It’s a game changer for our employees.”
Biviano agrees and concludes, “Whether individually, departmentally or companywide, we try to make the objectives clear, which allows everyone to zero in [on their tasks]. This approach has been one of the fundamental tenets of our culture and our success.”