Diving Deep to Achieve High Performance
Haggerty Construction, Inc. Focuses on Individuals’ Strengths to Build a Cohesive Team
One of the unique aspects of Haggerty Construction, Inc. is that its team dives deep into the history of each client to preserve and enhance their stories. The California-based general contractor’s ultimate mission: to provide unsurpassed service and quality.
“It’s incredibly important to understand a client’s vision,” says company owner and President Ryan Haggerty. “A lot of times we’re working with small business owners, or those who are building their own space for the first time. On ’Day One’ we sit down with the client and take notes about his or her vision for the project. Then, to have clients see their vision turned into reality when you hand them the keys—it’s great to put that vision into place.”
Director of Operations Gary Perata adds, “Clients understand their workflow processes better than anybody. Some are more capable of articulating or illustrating their visions than others, so sometimes it takes more work on our part to help them communicate their vision. That’s why our construction processes are so communication driven—to ensure that we build upon and preserve their stories.”
Deciphering the inner workings of someone else’s vision isn’t always easy. But it’s a challenge that fuels the creative and innovative minds of the Haggerty Construction team.
“When it comes to our insurance claim clients, for example, we don’t know what their space looked like before the fire, flood, etc. So, we spend a lot of time engaging with them to understand how the home or business looked originally,” Gary explains. “We also create comprehensive client profiles to understand who they are, where they’ve been and where they want to be.”
This intuitive approach to client engagement has buoyed the company’s reputation as a respected industry leader. The story behind how the team climbed to this apex of insight, however, is quite intriguing.
Born and raised in Southern California, Ryan comes from a family immersed in construction. He learned the ropes of the building industry from working alongside his father, who was a custom framing contractor for many years, and other family members who worked in the trades. Ryan also spent two years at San Joaquin Delta College studying soils and plant sciences. He later put all these experiences to good use while working for general contractors in the Stockton and San Francisco Bay areas. Eventually, his tenacious work ethic enabled him to move up to become a superintendent for a highly respected, midsized general contracting firm.
But after spending several years in a career he enjoyed, Ryan became unsettled. In his heart, he recognized he had lost focus on what mattered most to him. “I realized I was building someone else’s dreams and communities. And I was commuting five to six hours each day, losing touch with my family, peers, friends and community members in the process. The situation really bothered me,” Ryan shares.
So, in March 2010, he and his wife—who was pregnant at the time—decided to “step out on faith” and form their own company—Haggerty Construction. The couple started out bidding projects and calling client prospects from a tiny workspace in the master bedroom of their home.
“I’d start work at 4 a.m., then would be in the field from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. After dinner I would continue working until midnight,” Ryan recalls. Today, Ryan leads a staff of around 50 from an 18,000-square-foot facility in Stockton.
Gary joined the team in April 2013 to lead commercial operations. “I’ve been in construction for 35 years, mainly doing commercial framing. I reached the point where I was ready to do something different, something new,” he says. “I crossed paths with Ryan many times while he worked for a general contractor in Stockton. Then one day I got a call from him, asking me to come on board his team. I met with him and knew immediately that this was where I wanted to be.”
The firm serves commercial, industrial and residential clients throughout California, and specializes in design-build services, new construction, site improvements, tenant improvements, property cleanup, restoration work, additions and remodels. Its offerings are broken down into two divisions: new commercial services and insurance restoration services. A large percentage of work is focused on commercial projects, followed by industrial, then residential. “We’re program-direct, so we work directly for insurance carriers on cases for residential and commercial clients,” adds Gary.
The company’s first substantial project involved tenant improvements on a facility owned by Mid Valley Agricultural Services, a chemical and fertilizer retailer based in Central Valley. “We expanded about 2,000 square feet of space into a chemical storage warehouse,” Ryan says. “The contract value was about $85,000. It was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, we can competitively land a six-figure job and make it work.’ It was a really inspiring experience.”
The Haggerty project portfolio is brimming with jobs varying in diversity and complexity, including the new construction of a K-12 charter school in Modesto (currently underway) and an FBI headquarters location in Ripon. Some of the team’s favorite design-build projects are the Stanislaus Veterans Center in Modesto; cleanrooms for Cepheid, a leading molecular diagnostics company; a charter school for Stockton Collegiate International Schools; a Sky Zone trampoline park in Stockton; and expansion of a 100,000-square-foot facility in Napa for Multi-Color Corp., a global producer of print packaging solutions.
Building a High-Performing Team
Team members understand that building relationships with property owners, architects, designers, engineers, facility managers and other professionals is just as important as building the communities they serve. In fact, company leaders feel that one of the most effective ways to work with outside partners is to enrich the internal dynamics between employees.
“We always talk about the word ‘team’ here. We’re interested in building up people psychologically and sociologically, so we take the time to learn about each other—which is sometimes challenging the more the company grows,” Ryan notes. “We learn about and focus on individual strengths versus fixating on people’s weaknesses. When employees’ duties and responsibilities align with their strengths, they’re more productive, they perform better—and they enjoy more.”
Ryan delves further into the benefits of maintaining a high-performing, cohesive team. He points to Patrick Lencioni’s leadership book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” which outlines the root causes of workplace politics and dysfunction on teams, and provides actionable steps to overcome these hurdles.
“We spend at least one-third of life at work, so it’s worthwhile to make it a healthy, positive environment,” Ryan asserts.
In 2016, the company purchased copies of Lencioni’s book and distributed them to commercial team members. Then, company leaders met with them weekly to discuss assigned readings and to lead team-building exercises.
“We recognized a need to create a framework in a working environment that fosters security, safety and a sense of openness in terms of trust,” Ryan says. “In the lessons learned from “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” you must establish a firm foundation of trust if you want to unify your team, and there can be no fear of conflict.” He goes on to explain how these group sessions impacted his team. “The meetings were sometimes uncomfortable, abrasive and awkward, but ultimately the experience worked to break down barriers and gave our employees the confidence to share authentic, constructive dialogue with no fear of conflict. This, in turn, gave us a healthy approach to recognizing common goals of success and voicing different perspectives in a safe environment,” Ryan says.
Gary concurs. “We encourage open dialogue and are willing to listen and make changes that will benefit the whole. You can learn something new every day because every job is different—which is exciting!” he says. “Also, we try not to limit people’s potential by placing them in ‘boxes.’ We each have different experiences and talents, which is why we promote cross-training as well.”
With the building and construction trades still struggling to attract young, skilled workers, Ryan is proud to share that most of his employees are under 40 years old. “We’ve found a young group that’s motivated yet has a lot to learn. Guys like Gary have been great mentors,” Ryan says. “We also have a lot of women. Twelve members of our office staff are women, which I think is really cool. There’s an incredible paradigm shift in our industry where more women are embracing careers in architecture, engineering and construction because these are fast-paced, alluring fields. Perhaps the skilled workforce shortage can be resolved by adding more women to the trades.”
He adds, “We also have two military veterans working for us. They’re awesome people who bring a great sense of leadership and team-focused experience.”
At Haggerty Construction, leadership and teamwork are everything. It is a place where the collective is strengthened by affirming the individual strengths of its diverse, talented members.