It’s not often a construction company can boast that it doubled its revenue in five years, especially not following the recession that pummeled the industry.
But Holland Construction Services, based at 4495 N. Illinois St. in Swansea, is poised to do it, projecting $180 million or more in revenue for 2016 after earning less than half that —$80 million— just five years ago.
Company president Michael Marchal said an improving economy helped drive that success, but he said the company’s focus on recruiting and empowering its staff has done the most good for weathering the economic storm that now seems to be passing. Marchal said the company remained profitable through the recession, only needing to lay off four workers. Those four positions have been hired back, he said. And then some.
Holland celebrated 30 years in business last month and was named in February a best place to work in its category by the St. Louis Business Journal.
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Q: What’s the history of Holland Construction Services?
A: “In 1986, Bruce Holland started the company. The idea was to create a company that was really relationship-oriented, not a low-bid contractor. He’s accomplished that. In May of this year we celebrated 30 years. We brought together a lot of old friends, clients, subcontractors, architects, friends in the industry to celebrate that. With Bruce and his integrity, that’s the basis of this whole special sauce here. It’s treating people right, being market focused, being client focused and creating opportunities for our people. That’s been the special sauce here.”
Q: What did the company focus on building in the early days and how has that evolved over the years?
A: “In the early years it was really retail-dominant in this area. We were doing 10, 20, 30 million dollars a year and over time we were able to attract and retain some of the best talent out there that led us into different markets. That led us into hospitals, multi-family housing, schools, light industrial, offices, just a little bit of everything.”
Q: What notable projects are ongoing in the metro-east could folks drive by and see?
A: “As you drive down I-64, you’ll see St. Elizabeth’s Hospital that’s going up. That’s a $140 million project. It’s our largest project ever and it’s a joint venture with Alberici. And then further down I-64 you’ll see Memorial Hospital (in Shiloh), which we just finished, which also was a joint venture. And you’ll see multi-family housing all over the place.”
Q: The company’s revenue over the last five years has increased big time. What are the numbers?
A: “This year we could push $180 million, maybe even a little bit north of that for 2016. That’s sizeable, and I would say still though it’s controlled. It really comes down to the individual people we have here. We’ve given a lot of thought to the type of person that fits here, that fits our culture. We’ve been able to attract and retain the best of the best out there that enhance our culture and they live our vision. They live our philosophy here.”
Q: Aren’t there also some outside forces that have aided Holland’s recent success?
A: “Certainly the economy has helped and I think being mindful of where will the market go and where do we need to be. As we got away from retail, recognizing that K-12 (schools) was a hot market. That was 50 percent of our business a few years ago. And then realizing that as that started to dry up a little bit, we needed to be into healthcare and multi-family housing, which includes assisted living, senior living, student housing and luxury apartments.”
Q: Seems like construction companies need to be able to predict the future if they’re going to be successful. Is that true?
A: “Having experts in each one of those industries that they know the leaders in those industries. They’re able to stay in touch and know what’s happening. It might not be a new hospital, but maybe it’s an addition or a remodel. With schools, maybe it’s not a whole brand new school but there’s always a need. So I think we’ve built the expertise within each market to where those clients feel comfortable just coming to us as their go-to person for construction.”
Q: What did the recession look like at Holland?
A: “We had never had to lay off due to lack of work until 2009, and at that point we did have to lay off four people. We remained profitable from 2008 through 2012. Those were some rougher years. We went down a little bit on our volume. But we stayed strong, remained true to our integrity and continued to treat people right, take care of ourselves, clients and employees and that loyalty paid off. As the economy improved, we were sitting in a really strong position.”
Q: You said you laid off four people in 2009. Have you been able to come back up from that?
A: “Yes, and some.”
Q: And it seems like you’re exceeding your pre-recession volume and revenue. True?
A: “Yes. Pre-recession, our best year was 2007. We did $90 million. And then we surpassed that last year at $127 million. And we’re on track to do $180 million-plus this year, with a strong backlog going into 2017.”
Q: Since you have a backlog and since you said your growth has been controlled, is it possible you may do even better next year?
A: “Ideally, yes. $150 million to $200 million is a sweet spot for us. We have 70 to 80 employees. That gives people an opportunity to grow. Larger projects are part of the growth. An average job might have been $4 million or $5 million but now might be $12 million.”
Q: What are you most proud of right now?
A: “The highlight would be our people. I think I’m most proud of the growth of our people, people that we’ve brought on maybe 10 years ago as an intern now are leading a division in the company. That to me gives me a lot of satisfaction and that’s what’s taken the company to the next level. And then, the people that we’re bringing on see that there’s a path to retirement here at Holland. That’s exciting for them as well.”
Job: President, Holland Construction Services
Key to success: By taking care of employees and clients in tough times, the business is in a good position when things turn around.