2 min read October 2021 — Jeff Hardin, founder and CEO of Straticon, spoke to Invest: and explained why he doesn’t see construction growth slowing down in Palm Beach County anytime soon. He also noted the rising prospects for legalized gambling in South Florida, a potentially huge cash cow. The pandemic has been hard, though, but Hardin said the company successfully managed it with the right choices in personnel retention.
How have you mitigated the challenges of the labor shortage?
Throughout the pandemic, we have had to make strategic decisions in order to position the company to have success post-pandemic. We felt the effect of labor shortages toward the end of last year, from subcontractors to our office staff. We had to work closely with subcontractors to maintain project schedules. The resurgence in the market in the 2nd and 3rd quarter this year has proven difficult, especially finding qualified employees. Thankfully, we made a decision as a company to keep most of our staff through the pandemic, even though we experienced many delays to project start dates. The industry, in general, is now navigating through the market demands and this has created a unique shortage of quality employees in construction, and just like every other company we face challenges of hiring. Our primary method of finding these qualified candidates is through our employees’ network. We find having our employees engage with their peers and colleagues is the best method as they know better than anyone else, on how Straticon functions. It would be challenging to grow a business if the only way to bring in new employees is through people you had never met, through all the internet platforms that are out there. It feels like that investment in our people is paying off right now. Everybody knows that employees in our industry are a company’s most valuable asset. They are to be respected and developed. I spend a lot of time now as the CEO of the company visiting projects, sitting in on meetings, I typically would not have been a part of in the past and really connecting to all of our employees.
How has technology transformed the industry?
Over the past decade, the construction industry has seen immense growth related to how technology is used on projects. Historically, technology had limited use by field staff on projects, however, the ability to have real-time data at your fingertips have left them with no choice. Technology has provided our employees with safer sites, efficient means of communication, and less time completing their paperwork. Mobile applications have been the most beneficial product that our teams are now utilizing, along with having document storage in the cloud allowing access from any place as long as there is an internet connection. This has been of particular importance to our clients, who can now track their project from virtually anywhere.
Technology has also advanced our process during estimating and preconstruction. Our team can now review plans with owners virtually and collaborate simultaneously. Where previously, this would be achieved by a manual, in-person plan flip. We are now allowing owners and their design team to review plans and our takeoffs at any point through the preconstruction phase. We have experience that this provides a clear understanding of the project cost basis and also initiates cost saving discussions. We find ourselves ahead of the curve since we acted proactively by educating and investing in technology. Our teams are currently immersing themselves in understanding machine learning and AI, as we see this as the next advantage for the construction industry.
What are the most in-demand areas right now in Palm Beach County?
Traditionally, we have been busy on Palm Beach Island with new residential construction and renovations. However, over the past twelve months, Downtown West Palm Beach has seen an explosion in project starts and proposed development. This is an area that we are investing heavily in and I believe will continue to thrive over the coming years. I believe this is important for Palm Beach County as it helps attract new populations to the area as well as encouraging people to remain here. We also recently completed a major project for the city of Boynton Beach, which has the potential to really grow and develop. Their recent development of a new Downtown-City Center, city hall, police station, and fire station, which we were a part of, has provided fantastic amenities for the area.
What legislation do you see on the horizon that might affect your operations?
Over the past 18 months there have been many interesting legislative bills passed that affected our operations. As recently as July this year, there was legislation passed governing payments due to contractors and the interest due for untimely payment. The reason I highlight this is due to the relationship between timely payments and maintaining project schedules. It is beneficial to owners and contractors. We are also expecting updates to Florida’s legislation surrounding gambling and sports betting. While this does not directly influence the construction industry, we are monitoring the changes closely as new construction and renovations may be imminent, if this industry increases in Florida.
What are your priorities for the rest of the year and 2022?
My priority for 2022 is to continue building the best product that we can deliver. That may sound cliché, but I started this company as a builder, participating in every project myself, and I would like to get back to that. We want to continue to develop a group of people who care so much about the product and the process. Ultimately, this helps complete projects at the highest quality for our clients and continue to grow our relationship with them in the future. There is so much work out there that you can spread yourself too thin. We have done this long enough to know that we are not willing to accept this. We want to take the work in a manageable fashion and build great projects.
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