by Dan Rafter
Succeeding in the competitive construction business is no easy task. But Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Bear Construction Company has not only succeeded, it’s thrived. The company is now celebrating its 30th year in business. Today, Bear Construction has 205 full-time employees. The company earned $132 million in revenue in 2013, revenue that has grown by 140 percent since 2009. Midwest Real Estate News spoke with Scott Kurinsky, executive vice president in the Chicago office of Bear Construction, about his company’s success and the reasons behind it.
Midwest Real Estate News: This is the obvious question, but what is behind the long success of Bear Construction?
Scott Kurinsky: One of the things is that we started as a family owned company. We remain that today. We’re a $130 million-dollar family company, but we’re still a family company. The three original owners are still involved in everyday operations. They haven’t jetted off to Hawaii. They are still active in the company. And we have always stressed service over profit, getting the job done right at all expense. Today, 90 percent of our business is made up of repeat customers. These customers use us again and again.
MREN: How important is it that the owners are still active with the company?
Kurinsky: As we hire more people, the owners still maintain that closeness. Anyone can walk into any of their offices and talk to them any time of day. That is rare. There aren’t many companies where you can walk into the president of the company’s office and talk about any subject that you want to talk about. That’s what makes us different than a lot of companies out there. Many of the people who work for us have been here for a decade or more. The owners know their families and histories.
MREN: Bear has done a lot of work recently in downtown Chicago’s office space. What changes have you seen in the office market during your time at the company?
Kurinsky: The open-concept office is becoming a popular trend in the city. More companies want that open layout for their offices. Many are shying away from the traditional cubicle office environment. More are including fewer closed-in offices. It’s a great concept for many businesses. We are finding, though, that it is not a concept for all businesses. Some businesses still need privacy for security reasons, confidentiality reasons. The open concept works great for tech companies that rely on a lot of idea-sharing. Some, though, still need the traditional type of office. There is room for both types of office space in the market.
MREN: During your time in the construction business, you’ve also seen plenty of changes thanks to new technology. How has tech changed the way Bear Construction operates?
Kurinsky: The timing of jobs has been compacted by about 25 percent to 30 percent in the time I’ve been in the business, about 25 years. This has all been driven by new technology. It used to take days and weeks to produce drawings and documents. Now it takes hours and days instead. Everything moves much faster. Changes are made much faster to design drawings. A process that once took two to three weeks now generally takes a week. Build-out was traditionally done on a 12-week schedule, now it is often completed in eight to 10 weeks. Tech has compacted the time it takes us to complete projects.
MREN: Has that been a good thing for the business?
Kurinsky: It has been mostly good. There is more pressure on us. But we have adapted and we have grown. The other thing with technology, we are now able to do so much more electronically that we once had to do on paper. For instance, blueprints. We can now show clients the phases, the different work we are doing in different areas. Now our clients can see the work in a 3D rendering that we can produce on the computer. We can create this life-like rendering of what a project space will look like. Technology has tremendously changed the information that we can give to our clients and the quality of the information that we can provide.
MREN: This has certainly changed the way that you work, too, right?
Kurinsky: In construction, everything has become a real-time process. If you take a day off, you are expected to be connected to your e-mail. Everything comes in so quickly. There is never a day to waste. If you are out for the day, you have to be checking your e-mail, you have to be in contact with the team back in the office. That time cushion that was once there is no longer there. Work today is almost around the clock, seven days a week. It’s certainly not a 9-to-5 experience any longer.