We began our second day in St. Louis by visiting Arco National Construction Company in the morning. Upon arriving at the Arco office building, we met with Craig Bridell, President of Arco National Construction Group, and Chris Wilson, Director of Business Development. Craig showed us around the building and some of the office space expansions that are near completed.  The tour ended by visiting their very nice and casual break room. There was a strong “work hard, play hard” mentality present in the company culture. One unique example is their sabbatical program: An employee receives 30 continuous days off every 5 years of employment.  Similarly, ARCO offers a bonus program to reward project managers to take charge of their projects. If a project manager takes care of the project from start to finish, they will receive a 10% bonus of the project net operating income.

Craig went through a brief presentation of the company’s history and then followed with an open ended Q&A discussion in regards to career development, project bid selection, and how to be competitive without sacrificing their profit margins for the sake of just winning work. ARCO’s project selection strategy has led them to pursue projects that are not considered to be the “sexy” projects, compared to large residential and sports complex facilities, but have relatively larger margins.  This is a major reason why big box (Distribution or data centers) type of projects are ARCO’s bread and butter.  This strategy helped ARCO to actually take advantage of the slow down due to the recession, by making the most of the economy and pursuing more specialized type of work to recover from the lack work in what was at that time their core market sectors. In 2013, ARCO reported $500 million in project revenue and is expecting to generate $750 million.

Most of ARCO’s work is delivered through a design-build method and has developed many entities (Architecture, Concrete, Mechanical) under its umbrella to offer quality service to their clients.  This organizational structure has encouraged an entrepreneurial personality among ARCO’s employees.  By being less compartmentalized, ARCO can teach its employees to be fully integrated general contractors and be more dynamic when interacting with the other parties involved in the project.  Much of ARCO’s success through design-build has been because they are able to effectively identify the owners expectations for building performance and design to a program, however they sometimes do design to a number instead when the clients’ budget is too low. This allows for ARCO to advise the client who may not be familiar to the construction industry and deliver a product that allows the client to succeed in their respective business.  One of ARCO’s core values is to “create opportunities for individual, financial success based on merit.” Both Craig and Chris left the group with an existing quote, “One cannot make enough money for your time, you have to make it off of the risks that you take.”

Blog by Gilberto Chaidez