What keeps a commercial contractor successful for over forty years? R.W. Allen’s commitment to excellence program ensures the delivery of high-quality projects on schedule and within budget. From head offices in Georgia, R.W. Allen serves six states throughout the Southeastern United States. We spoke with Scott Clark, President and CEO of R.W. Allen, about the secrets of success.
R.W. Allen, established in 1976 by Rick Allen, shifted its leadership model in 2008. There are now eight partners forming a long-range succession plan. To retain talent, R.W. Allen reviewed its business plan and opportunities and changed the ownership model to sustain age diversity.
“When people go into the construction industry, they are coming out of school; they are educated and, at some point, want to own their own firms. We’ve lost a lot of talented people over the course of forty years because they didn’t have ownership and investment opportunities. So we changed that,” said Scott.
Scott joined R.W. Allen after graduating from Auburn University in 1985. Scott and Rick developed an employee retention plan to ensure that leadership models are in place to help the organization flourish long into the future.
A commitment to excellence program was established by R.W. Allen in the 1980s. It was based on company values and the energy brought to job sites. “We created an awards system which is not based on financial incentives but with internal drivers. We have evolved into a bigger platform over the past two years. We call it the Leadership ACTS of Excellence,” explains Scott.
ACTS is an acronym for Accountability, Collaboration, Trust, and Service. The system is used to ensure that everyone is working toward common goals and adhering to the company’s leadership and quality standards. The subcontractors, materials suppliers, architects, engineers, and owners are all conscious of the leadership model.
Employer of choice
R.W. Allen is regarded as an employer of choice in Georgia by its competition, subcontractors, the community, and new hires.
The company is very open with its employees and shares its financial information across the organization. This transparency generates trust. Due to culture within R.W. Allen, retention rates for field superintendents are high, with some having over 30 years within the organization.
With trust comes protection. The company is extremely proactive when it comes to safety for the employees and the thousands of people who work on R.W. Allen projects, from subcontractors and material suppliers to rental companies. “We have to make sure that we are creating a safe environment for everyone associated with our projects. We have a safety committee that is made up of superintendents, staff, project managers, and other key executives,” says Scott. An independent safety company audits every project twice a month. The results of the audits are then assessed and even minor notations are examined and changes are made if necessary. As a result, R.W. Allen’s safety modification rates have decreased each year.
Workforce development is a priority for R.W. Allen and the construction industry as a whole. A qualified workforce is in high demand, representing one of the largest employment shortages in the nation. Construction contractors at large are finding it difficult to fill trade positions. With the leadership of the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and other organizations, the aim is to fix the trade gap for the industry and the State of Georgia.
“We have been a member of the AGC since 1980. Five years ago, AGC started the dialogue about the need for a workforce development program. I took the lead in our region of east Georgia. It took us about two years to get it off the ground. We have created an alliance with every high school in the region with construction programs,” says Scott.
The alliance created the Skills Challenge, a competition of quality and ability in the following trades: carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing, and welding. Nine high schools participate in the competition. This large event, which includes a tradeshow, creates a training platform for these students to compete and train for state competitions. It also serves to engage and motivate students. In 2016, 78 students participated and more than 180 students observed.
“We want to expose and create interest in our industry. In total, 500 people will attend the Skills Challenge, including government officials, educators, and contractors, all of whom are integral in the development of the workforce in this community. We are striving to model this program across the state through the AGC,” says Scott.
Technology in the field
Technological advancements equate to safety, efficiency, and cost management to any construction outfit. Scott is on the AGC Board of Georgia and is surrounded by representatives of both smaller and larger organizations. Through continued research and working with other contractors, R.W. Allen leads the region in the technology arena for construction purposes.
“Combining our in-house building information modeling (BIM) department, state of the art software and applications, and the use of iPads by all project managers and superintendents, we are able to coordinate efforts from the job site to our offices along with communication with architects and engineers without being burdened with cumbersome drawings and specs. We have created the ability to work from anywhere. The capability to bring up models on job sites and to communicate in real time is invaluable,” states Scott.
The internal technology committee continually looks at possibilities of integrating new systems for the benefit of the employee, but more importantly, for the service of Owners.
The service and performance of R.W. Allen is excellent, but Scott stresses that does not mean that the company rests on its laurels. “There is not a perfect contractor, architect, designer, or engineer. We will continue to make changes for the benefit of our employees and clients. We separate ourselves from our competitors through customer service throughout the project and then by making sure to service our customers well after the warranty period expires. Our livelihood is built around a repeat customer base. There is not a higher compliment than a return client,” says Scott
R.W. Allen flourishes through judicious and planned growth. Expansion is happening for the organization due in part to the selective nature of the business plan and the projects it seeks. “I’m proud of R.W. Allen, the quality of projects we produce, the distinguished Owners we partner with, and the caliber of employees and vendors that are the foundation of our organization.” R.W. Allen’s plan is to continue its incremental growth and increase involvement in workforce development initiatives for the benefit of the industry.