Business Perspective Adds Value
SBS Construction thrives on 25 years of long-term insight
Boerne, Texas-based SBS Construction (SBS) is marking a milestone—25 years in business.
The design-build, development and project management company reached its quarter-century mark not only by forming long-term client relationships throughout the South, Southwest and Midwest, its leaders say, but also by nurturing and leveraging those relationships. Such bonds are powerful things, and at SBS, they aren’t taken lightly says David Morgan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
“We’ll build something for a client, and hopefully we build the next two, four or six of their projects, as well. Other projects are successful because we act on that feedback they give us,” he says.
It’s a practice that SBS has found to benefit clients, as well as SBS itself.
Self-Styled, Self-Storage Success
The company’s customer base includes public, private and military markets. The team builds hospitals, commercial developments, schools and restaurants. SBS has really made a name for itself, however, by providing people with places to put their stuff.
President and Chairman Stephen Schiffman estimates that about 75% of the company’s business is in climate-controlled self-storage facilities that are owned or managed by large national and regional developers.
“Self storage is a real estate investment with one of the highest returns around,” he says, and attracts a consistent number of developers.
No matter the category of work that the firm takes on, Schiffman and Morgan consider SBS to first be a group of business people looking to help others, then a general contracting firm.
“We approach construction projects with a business perspective,” Morgan says. “Our objective is to learn clients’ businesses—how they operate and how they are successful. This way, the project comes back with what they need.”
For example, SBS may suggest a more efficiently designed HVAC system that wasn’t in the original plans but could save a client money over the long term. This kind of suggestion, based on a breadth of industry knowledge collected over time, helps SBS serve its clients with added value.
The process works this way: The SBS team meets with a client to discuss project objectives, says Schiffman. Architects’ plans are forwarded for discussion. SBS experts then review the plans, looking for opportunity within the project space. “Every square foot could be revenue-producing in a storage unit, as long as it’s not a hallway,” Schiffman says.
SBS works with clients to reach overall profit feasibility on projects using a customized system.
“We have a 35-page pro forma into which we can insert specific project costs. Then we can tell a client if the project’s worth building,” Schiffman says. This practice factors in details such as overhead costs, area income per unit and local rent levels. “Or we can redesign it or take a different approach—there are a lot of different solutions.”
The SBS team works hard to save the client as much money as possible. “We’ve learned over the years that they’ve turned that money into other projects,” Morgan says. “So we try to get them as many dollars in savings as we can.”
The company was founded by Schiffman and Morgan in 1995. It has operations in multiple states and has been making a name for itself over the years.
For instance, SBS has won multiple awards for its achievements in the Largest General Contractor and Top Commercial Building Contractor categories in the San Antonio Business Journal, most recently last year in both categories. Mini-Storage Messenger, a trade publication for the self-storage industry, voted SBS projects as Facility of the Year winners for two years in a row.
The SBS leadership takes pride in the company’s successes and is looking to keep the cycle of good going—including participation in initiatives that give back to the community.
A few of the charities that SBS supports include Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, which specializes in the treatment of burns; Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that works to feed hungry children in Boerne and across all of America; and the San Antonio Humane Society, for animal welfare.
A core cause for the company is supporting members of the armed forces. Every SBS work site includes an American flag and a “We Support Our Troops” banner.
The team also actively engages in charitable projects, such as Stockings For Soldiers, often.
“We get all the employees together in the conference room, form an assembly line and pack up Christmas stockings to be shipped to troops overseas,” Morgan says. The company also chooses a military family each holiday season and collects and delivers gifts to the household. Another initiative involved a sock drive for patients staying at a veterans hospital.
“An initial goal of 300 pairs of socks turned into 1,300 pairs of socks collected,” says Morgan, with not only employees, but SBS subcontractors and suppliers pitching in as well.
Many SBS employees are former military members. Morgan and Schiffman also served their country, in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, respectively. Both have World War II veterans in their family lineages, as well.
“When you get, you give,” Morgan says. It’s a philosophy that shapes the company’s charitable culture.
“Employees need to know we work hard for a living and we earn a few bucks, but we love to give back, also,” Schiffman adds.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the company’s leadership is most proud of two veterans cemeteries built in Louisiana. Both Morgan and Schiffman call it an honor to have participated.
Led by its regional office in Prairieville, Louisiana, SBS managed the conversion of 75 acres in St. Tammany Parish into the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery. The project, completed in 2014, included work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Louisiana National Guard. It involved the creation of an administration and public information center, gardens, sitting areas, traditional gravesites, gravesites for cremated remains, landscaping, a memorial walkway and more.
The area’s low water table presented civil engineering and construction challenges for more than 2,500 underground, double-depth crypts, says Schiffman. Pumps and generators were added. But the challenges did not outweigh the importance of the project.
A local soldier who had been killed in Afghanistan was buried at the cemetery the day after it opened, Morgan says, with SBS representatives there on-site and paying their respects.
The next year, SBS built the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Rayville, Louisiana, which includes a 15-acre lake. The dirt from excavation for the lake was used to build roads around the cemetery.
Both projects came with a distinguished sense of purpose for SBS crews, who were creating the cemeteries for American heroes and their loved ones.
As Schiffman and Morgan continue to invest in the company, they say that better project management software is providing improved efficiency across the firm. Their goal is to make processes easier on the employees who are there now—and those who will be working when they’re gone.
“We’ve got the next generation of SBS Construction ready to take over. In all departments—our executive group, construction, accounting, sales and marketing—people are being groomed to run their prospective areas. They are ready to go,” Schiffman says.
A company’s success, after all, shouldn’t be based on individual people, but its foundations.
“Of course, it will take six of them to replace Steve and I,” Morgan jokes. “But we have been planning this transition for a long time.”