CPM | Tenant Improvement Solutions succeeds by investing in people
Most design-build companies will say they are in the construction business. CPM | Tenant Improvement Solutions (CPM) sees things differently. They’re in the people business.
“People are central to our business,” says Ryan Tapert, Director of Pre-Construction Services as well as Marketing and Business Development Director for CPM. “We build, modify and remodel buildings for people because we love being a part of their success stories. We love seeing people and businesses create memories and make an impact in their communities through the asset we help them build. If we can do a project that impacts people in a positive way, we have done our job.”
CPM started business in Washington State in 1989 as a facilities maintenance company, providing property maintenance for commercial and multifamily facilities in the greater Snohomish County area. Until 2013, its role remained unchanged until Ryan’s father, Shane Tapert, came on board as president.
Shane has more than 30 years of experience in commercial construction. Starting at the age of 18, Shane worked his way through the ranks, holding every position from laborer to union carpenter to project manager. He eventually became a partner for over a decade at a midsized local commercial general contractor. In 2011, he sold his portion of this firm so he could take a step back from the grind and redirect his path.
He started a new business, based out of his home and garage, restoring and preserving foreclosed homes. The business grew quickly and caught the attention of CPM’s owners, whom Shane has known since high school.
After kicking the tires for a while, they decided to merge the two businesses and broaden the service offerings of what was —at that time—still solely a facilities maintenance company. The merger combined Shane’s current residential portfolio, his previous background in commercial construction and the existing maintenance contracts. This marked the start of a new chapter for CPM, and a change in direction, as it began to develop and brand itself as a true general contractor.
“We don’t need to fight the big general contractors down south in Seattle,” Ryan says. “We like to work in our community, so we stick to the area around our home county. Our central focus is commercial general contracting, specializing in tenant improvements. We aim to be the main source of tenant improvement solutions for anyone in Snohomish County. A tenant can be in a commercial, residential or multifamily space.”
In the Network
From the beginning, relationships have been key to CPM’s success. Shane’s years of experience have earned him an extensive network of contacts.
“Our contacts and relationships are what set us apart and make us stand out from the rest of our competition,” Ryan says. “One of our company’s marketing techniques is to develop relationships with commercial brokers. They do leases on commercial buildings and always need construction services before a lease can be signed. When we can help them sign a lease by providing construction and pre-construction services, they return the favor by continuing to bring us more leads.”
“The thing we say often is we’re in the people business,” adds Ryan. “Construction is the avenue we chose to invest in people, through employees, customers and our subcontractor network. We invest in people first and consider that the biggest secret of our success. We have very little turnover. That’s the value that sets us apart. We invest in people through training, culture and quality of life outside CPM. We try to have it be a family culture here in our office.”
A Winning Combination
CPM’s focus on relationships and the ongoing construction boom in the Seattle suburbs have proven to be a winning combination as CPM continues to receive larger and larger contracts.
“An ongoing joke in accounting is defining the line between a small project and a huge project and how it keeps changing,” Ryan says. “Two years ago, a huge project was five figures. Most of our work was in the $25,000 to $75,000 range. Now, anything under $150,000 is small to us. Just last year we did about $3.5 million in revenue. This year we’re on track for $6 million. As we grow, we’re trying to decrease the number of small projects we do, so we can focus our time and attention on the larger projects. Quality over quantity. A lot of the same processes go into every job no matter the size. Focusing on the larger jobs lets us grow.”
Despite the company’s growth, CPM remains fiercely local, dedicated to its community; the people and businesses who make Snohomish County their home.
“We like to be and want to continue being the go-to contractor for local businesses,” Ryan says. “We don’t do a lot of national chains. We would rather partner with local businesses who have a story to tell. That’s more impactful.”
Among the prominent local businesses that have called on CPM for construction or renovation needs are: Narrative Coffee, a local multiroaster coffee house ; Paula’s Choice, a Seattle-based skin care company; Brighton Jones, a wealth management company; and Tuft & Needle, a boutique mattress store.
CPM also counts several local churches among its clients and has developed a solid reputation for the work they’ve completed, which hasn’t always been easy.
“We just finished a remodel for a local church called Clearview Foursquare,” Ryan says. “It was one of our most unique projects to date—and one of the most satisfying to complete. There was no plan; no as-builts. The pastor had a dream and a vision, and he came to us because of our existing relationships and reputation in town. It gave us a real chance to be creative with design-build work to bring his vision to reality. It was a $150,000 remodel of the sanctuary that had to be done in a very short time frame—eight or nine weeks. The unique challenge with this project was the fact that it was an occupied remodel.
“The church staff worked in the building and held events throughout the week while we were working, and they still held services every weekend. We had to clean up and demobilize every Friday, so the church could set up on Saturday for services held on Sunday…[we] remobilized every Monday for that week’s work. It created a ton of challenges, but they were accommodating, and we were able to bring it in on time and under budget. We’ve gotten lots of referrals from other churches in the area because of what we were able to do for them.”
Ryan’s pride in CPM’s accomplishments, such as the renovation of the church, is based on the organization itself and the people who comprise it. Involvement in the community is commonplace at CPM, with most of the employees active in the congregations of many local churches. As a company, CPM has done work with Volunteers of America and Everett Gospel Mission.
While CPM in its incarnation as a design-build firm is new, the organization itself has been around for almost 30 years.
“We have a good mix of veterans and greenhorns,” Ryan says. “General contractors, as a whole, are getting older and the customer base is getting younger. We have employees who have been in this industry a long time and they are in the twilight of their careers. We need new people to be trained to eventually take their spots. We are continuing to recruit quality people so that we can continue to accommodate our customers’ needs in a timely and efficient manner.
Right now, we are doing that by pairing up a veteran with a newbie. The veteran is working hard to impart knowledge to the next generation. It’s the same story in the field—partnering the young with the old to train them up. We invest in our people, because when we do, they invest back into the company. Experience can be gained. But integrity, determination, creativity and genuineness are rare traits in this trade these days. We hire based on character, work ethic and the quality of a person.”