Building Dreams One Beam At a Time
Cofield Group General Contractors takes pride in constructing visions
Some time ago in what probably seems like a galaxy far, far away, two teenage students sat in a classroom fostering an appreciation—presumably—for Beowulf or The Great Gatsby or whatever appeared in those days on a reading list in an English class for high school upperclassmen in Texas.
Never in a million years did those two same students think that one day they would become Mister and Missus and together own a flourishing general contracting company in San Antonio.
But that is exactly who Chance and Jaime Cofield are, as the Co-Founders of Cofield Group General Contractors in the Alamo City. Jaime is the President handling company management details, and Chance is Vice President, overseeing all operations in the field.
“If we had sat around English class and said, ‘Hey, let’s start a family and have a business together,’ it would have sounded crazy,’’ Jaime says with a laugh. “But that’s the way it worked out.” The two met up after high school and sparks flew.
Built on a Mission
When the couple launched their company in 2006, they did so with a simple mission statement: “Do great work, be good to people and doors will open.”
That has been a foundation on which the Cofields have not only gained a foothold but also made an imprint.
In that first year, the company did about $500,000 in revenue, Chance says. The next year that number jumped to $1.4 million he says. The last six years, the company’s gross revenue has averaged over $10 million annually. Even more growth is in the forecast.
“Our philosophy for building this company is, in a nutshell, do what you say you’re going to do. We pay attention to details,” says Chance, whose career in construction, renovation and commercial and residential building projects spans more than 25 years. “It’s part of our process. In fact, we’re probably more demanding on each other than our clients are,” he says. “For us, attention to detail starts with the bid. We go deeper than most. Many times, we’re able to show clients how they can do something more efficiently and save money. Clients appreciate the depth to which we go because it spells everything out for them.”
There is no guessing, he says. There are few surprises because of the attention to detail and logistics, he adds.
Today, the company employs about 25 team members. It’s a size that gives them an advantage, Jaime says.
“We have a strong foundation,” she says. “So, we are able to compete with a lot of the major general contractors in the markets we work in. Our footing and reputation keeps us large enough to compete, but we’re also small enough to tailor ourselves to the project and form a team that works well for the customer. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. We don’t make the customer fit into our boxes. They won’t be passed off from one department to another. We are small enough where we can arrange our staff to fit the goals of the customer, to compete for projects large and small. I think that’s unique.”
Cofield Group has taken on all sorts of projects, including grocery stores, retail buildings, convenience stores and warehouses, just to name a few.
As they look to the future, the Cofields say they want to add to their credentials as a leading builder in turning developers’ visions of retail and office centers into real buildings in Texas’ expanding commercial landscape.
Feeding Business from the Start
Sometime in the 1920s, Florence Butt turned her grocery business, C.C. Butt Grocery Store in Kerrville, over to her son, Howard. Howard E. Butt expanded the operation with a new store in Del Rio and another in Laredo.
Today, the H-E-B supermarket brand is as popular in Texas—and in demand in local communities—as Blue Bell and Whataburger.
H-E-B was the platform from which Cofield Group jumped into the marketplace.
Chance worked for H-E-B during and after high school in the early 1990s. Over the years, his career with commercial and residential building companies kept him connected to H-E-B in one aspect or another.
“I had some long-lasting relationships with the construction department at H-E-B, both friends and professional associates,” he says. “In 2007, when we decided to move to construction for commercial customers, we reached out to those folks and were able to create a whole bunch of opportunities for us. That’s how things took off.”
It began with small repair projects and then grew to bigger and bigger remodeling and finish-out projects. “That’s what kicked off our company,” Chance says. “They’ve been our biggest customer ever since then.”
The number of projects for H-E-B is in the “hundreds,” he says, adding that his company has traveled all over Texas building and remodeling H-E-B stores, warehouses and administrative offices. Among them was a $4 million remodel of a store in Laredo, a fast-track, design-build collaboration with H-E-B.
Cofield teams also have traveled all over Texas on Circle K convenience store projects—Central Texas, East Texas and North Texas, just to name a few locales.
Cofield Group’s first ground-up gas station and convenience store was a CST Corner Store in the Alamo Ranch community on San Antonio’s northwest side, Chance recalls. (The CST brand was acquired by Circle K’s parent.)
“That project was rewarding in that it was our first big convenience store and gas station project,” Chance says. “They wanted it done in a certain duration. I believe the timeframe was 130 days, from permitting to turning the keys over. We did it in 129 days. It was a well-planned-out, beautiful project.”
Cofield Group has since built a substantial reputation. The company’s extensive plans review process generally results in a cost savings in both time and materials. Chance says that’s why H-E-B continues to call.
“I heard it years ago, just do what you say you’re going to do,” he says. “There is no bigger aggravation than telling someone you’re going to do, something by a certain time and in a certain way and not doing it. If you do what you say you’re going to do and treat people the way you want to be treated and do quality work, what reason would someone have to not hire you for the next job, other than price? We try to charge a fair margin and try to keep our customers happy, doing everything they ask us to do, being kind and professional. And it seems to work. It just seems to work.”
Home is Where the Commercial Projects Are
When Chance and Jaime launched their company, the plan was to be a residential building firm. Building custom homes, after all, was Chance’s favored professional experience at that time. They started by handling excavation work for multiple track homebuilders. To that end, the company’s first purchase was land for a spec home.
By 2008, however, the housing bubble had crashed with the economy. New residential home sales were part of the avalanche.
A side excavation company essentially kept them afloat.
Like life, change is inevitable in business. Adapting to it is essential to evolving and surviving. To that end, Cofield Group moved its center of business to commercial construction. “We decided to move our focus to commercial general contracting and keep the dirt work going for cash flow,” Chance says.
As H-E-B offered opportunities, so did the public sector. One notable job was the locker room renovation at the resurgent University of Texas at San Antonio, which brought football to campus with a brand-new program. It was a smaller job—in the $700,000 range, Chance says—but required a 10- to 12-week turnaround.
As the market came out of the Great Recession, there was a focus on those kinds of public projects, but Cofield Group’s business model was grounded in private projects.
“For our size, we have to go after those [private] projects. Our niche is private,” Chance says. “We can control our costs and our overhead better that way.”
A Team Environment
The linchpin to Cofield Group’s growth and promise is in its people, make no mistake about it, says Jaime.
“We work hard, and we play hard. We’ve had a number of people with us since Day One,” Jaime says. “I think that shows how well they treat us, and we treat them. We value our culture and what our teammates are telling us. We listen to what is going on in the field and we collaborate.”
“We continued to grow and build a stronger team,” she continues. “Everybody has a spirit of helping. Their synergy is contagious. You can see it ripple through the company. As a result, we have had little turnover throughout the years. We continue to grow and add new members who bring the same values and work ethic, which add new energy and improved ways to our strong foundation. Our internal collaboration and our ability to adjust to the industry and our customers’ ever-changing needs is what sets us apart from other companies.”
A Mutual Respect
The other facet of the team concept is the blending of strengths.
While Chance oversees all operations, with what he calls a healthy obsession on the details, Jaime oversees administration, finance, purchasing and marketing. She and Chance agree that process reengineering and quality improvement are her strong suits.
“Jaime is very analytical and good with numbers and specifics,” Chance says.
She is, both say, constantly upgrading operations with the acquisition and implementation of new systems and software designed to improve the process, from quality control to the essential elements of communication.
“We learned very early on what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we work really well together as a unit,” Jaime says of her working relationship with her husband. “We determine what we want the big picture to be, then divide and conquer to make it happen. We’ve learned how to show respect to each other and how to speak to each other. That is particularly important. We had to learn to compartmentalize and not take stuff from home to work or from work to home. It’s important to keep them separated. There’s a mutual respect there.”
The couple have three children. A daughter, Grayson, is a junior at Texas A&M. Another daughter, Presley, is a junior at Smithson Valley High School, and son, Cannon, is 8.
Whether this next generation follows in the family business is anybody’s guess, mom and dad both say. The kids’ hopes and dreams come first.
“They’re welcome to do what they want,” Jaime says. “If they’re interested, that’s great. I couldn’t have predicted that this is what we would be doing 30 years ago, so I have no idea what the future holds for them.”
Whatever the case, when the children reach the age of knowing what they want to do, their parents’ general contracting company will in all probability be even stronger than it is today.
Cofield Group, both Chance and Jaime say, is geared for growth. That will entail scaling, marketing and a focus on private development.
While Cofield Group builds things, it also builds dreams.
“We take great pride in building visions,” Jaime says. “Taking visions which start on paper, we construct buildings that enable businesses to thrive and provide jobs, services and resources to communities for years and years to come. We get such a sense of pride driving by completed projects, knowing we gathered materials, like concrete, metal and lumber; then we added talented people plus hard work to the project and now a striking, resilient building stands.”