2 min read December 2021 — “KMI is the right people doing things the right way,” CEO Eric Quinn of KMI International shared in a conversation with Invest:. He explained how the demand for KMI’s services has shifted over the course of the pandemic and gave insight to the distinguishing characteristics of the company that have helped KMI to overcome the impact of COVID-19 on business.
How did KMI International continue to grow despite the challenges of last year?
We are a full-service project management and cost estimating consultancy for the construction industry. Our markets were heavily impacted by the pandemic, particularly those that related to travel like the hospitality industry which was heavily hit. This has accelerated our expansion into the Florida market, and particularly Central Florida. It is a growing market, so we see a tremendous opportunity to bring our skills home. As the market continues to grow in Central Florida, we’re able to strengthen and build relationships with clients. It makes the area a great environment for KMI. We had not been well known in the area until the past year, so establishing our name and market in Central Florida is important. I believe we have been quite effective by networking with our peers and partners to establish our name relatively quickly in Orlando.
What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Our people and our culture are what distinguish us from our competitors. We place a strong emphasis on our core values and having credentialed experts on our staff. It’s the yin and yang of who we are, so we hire and manage according to our core values. We use it as a way of screening our people as well as a retention tool. We work to ensure that our team has the proper credentials in the fields they are professionals in, and they continue to strive towards receiving new credentials and maintaining the latest industry knowledge.
How did the demand for your services change in the past year?
At our best, we are owner representatives, or “advocates.” We represent an owner from concept to the completion of the project. This can include management of the entire project such as the initial budget, feasibility studies, cost estimates, managing the design, engineering and contractor teams. We have also been called upon to rescue troubled projects and provide dispute resolution/expert witness services for failed projects. Many of our projects in different markets were stopped completely in March 2020. Some of our services like cost estimating are aligned closely with design which is the early phase and leading point of most construction projects. Usually, cost estimation begins in the early stages of the project while project management occurs in the later stages, moving simultaneously. While many projects halted during the pandemic, the reboot of projects increased the demand for leading services. There is a delay in the restart of project management services.
What strategies have been implemented to mitigate labor shortages, and how has the industry been impacted?
It has been difficult to answer this question on the macro level. We became smaller in our growth before we became bigger. We maintained many of our relationships with different people in the industry who had lost their jobs amidst the pandemic. As we’ve continued to regrow, we have predetermined the profile of our ideal employee in order to understand where we have gaps in our workforce at KMI. Additionally our company culture is strong and important to us, so we have had no problems in attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent. It’s a strong statement, but it is a direct reflection of our culture as we have employees who refer their friends to us. When people learn more about us through the recruitment process, our reputation as an employer, and what it’s like to work at KMI International, people are drawn to the positions that we have to offer. Those who work here often describe KMI as a family type of work environment. We recently became an ESOP meaning that we are employee owned. There is a financial benefit to employees who work here, but it also has a significant impact on the culture, strengthening it. Everyone owns the company, so it strengthens the culture as well as the productivity and output of the employees.
What additional opportunities have risen due to the pandemic in 2020?
After George Floyd was killed in the Summer of 2020, KMI created the “Enough is Enough” initiative to do our part to help end racism, not only in our community but in our industry, especially. As we have learned, the professional CM community is less than 3% Black and the design and commercial real estate industries are approximately 1% Black. This is an issue not only of equity, but also a serious concern in our industry as we as a profession do not have enough diversity in leadership roles to build the projects for an ever-evolving diverse population.
In July of 2020, KMI partnered with Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University’s (FAMU) School of Architecture & Engineering Technology through this initiative. FAMU is a public, historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Tallahassee, Florida, with the top-ranked Construction Management program among all HBCUs. We thought, “what an amazing opportunity to help move the needle towards promoting diversity in our profession.”
In September 2020, KMI assisted FAMU’s faculty and student leadership in creating a Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Student Chapter to help the students at FAMU gain access to training, mentoring, and opportunities not otherwise available to the students. KMI’s team acts as the chapter’s industry advisor and regularly serves as guest lecturers, conducts class visits, coaches case competition teams, hires students as interns, and mentors students. Additionally, we introduced the Construction Manager in Training (CMIT) certificate program, which has been established as part of the curriculum. KMI staff serve as instructors of the course required for completion of the certification, which is a requirement for the degree program.
The goal, here, is not to showcase KMI’s involvement, but to bring awareness to the issues and offer ways other A/E/C companies can participate aside from just monetary donations. We would love to see a robust recruitment initiative for HBCUs, eventually establish a scholarship program, and inspire our counterparts to partner with other HBCUs that may be just outside their front door.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our relationship with FAMU and the students, and look forward to a long partnership – together.
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