Ed Taylor Construction is another survivor of the construction industry slaughter that followed the retail collapse and recession.
But the Tampa company that focuses on interior build-outs, commercial renovations and tilt-wall construction did not do what many others did, such as shift to government work, or broaden their geographic scope. Instead, the company focused on its strengths and began ratcheting up efficiencies and service. It became a more holistic construction manager for clients than it had been in the go-go days.
“We considered governmental contracting, diversifying in other areas, maybe hire people with expertise in other areas,” says James Walters, controller. “Ultimately, it all came back to what we’d always done well with — what we were doing — and decided to keep doing that.”
But while it is doing the same work, it is doing that work far differently.
First, the company keeps driving itself to find more ways to save money and do things more efficiently, relentlessly looking for ways to save.
“We kept meeting with employees to find anything we could to save money. Anything,” says Mark Weaver, vice president. “As a result, we became a more efficient company. The key for us is to maintain that as we get busier so we don’t lose an advantage.”
Walters says the result is the company does more with less: “We could go back and do the kinds of volumes we were doing in ’07 and ’08, three times last year’s, with a substantially reduced staffing level.”
As part of the cost savings, the company required 20% pay cuts from every employee, from the top down. “No one was happy about it, but everyone stayed,” Weaver says.
Ed Taylor Construction began in Tampa in 1991 as Ed Taylor Construction South, spun off from Ed Taylor Construction in Atlanta. But it has always been a standalone company. The Ed Taylor Construction in Atlanta is strictly a residential and unrelated firm, prompting the Florida firm to drop “South” from its name.
A major change the company made in its core project management — which added to efficiency — is to bring its subcontractors together before it bids a project. This allows the company to go over the site and check out everything — including crawling through ceilings and pulling things apart, looking in walls and at foundations — to make sure it can make a bid that will not encounter the dreaded change order.
And the firm is now a part of projects at a much earlier stage than before the crash. The company is involved early to catch things architects used to catch on site, because architects are not being paid to do on-site visits now.
“We’re asked and expected to catch things up front so they don’t become surprises later,” Weaver says. “We don’t like surprises, our clients don’t like surprises. That usually equates to change orders and that is a dirty word in our business.”
Now, with tight margins for everyone, including the clients who want to get their project listed and leased, any change order can ruin their profit margin. Unhappy clients are not return clients.
Those margins also make it all the more important to get the projects done on time. “Our clients want to get people in and start collecting rent dollars,” Weaver says.
Things are picking up. Although Ed Taylor Construction has stayed focused on the Tampa Bay-Sarasota-Fort Myers market, it is venturing out because of increasing work for the discount grocer chain Save-A-Lot. The grocer has been buying old Eckard stores around Florida and renovating them for their needs.
Ed Taylor did a couple of the jobs in the Tampa Bay area. The chain was so satisfied, it chose the firm for all of its Florida renovations.
Ed Taylor Construction peaked at 120 employees in 2007, fell to a low of 34 at the trough and is now back up to about 50. It made a profit each year through the downturn and has come out without any debt, Walters says, giving executives tempered optimism.