Lunacon Construction Group is a Hispanic-owned and woman-owned construction company based in Miami. It was founded in 2007 by its current CEO, Patricia Bonilla, who holds a Bachelors in Civil Engineering, and Masters in Construction Management. Patricia has since grown Lunacon to a multimillion dollar company.
Patricia is a prime example of the power-women leading a movement that is showing the world women can thrive in the boardroom just as well as men. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, women-owned businesses increased by forty-five percent from 2007 to 2016. Moreover, reports have shown there are over 11 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. as of 2016, and these generate over $1.5 trillion in revenue.
The report, which also indicates the ten fastest-growing states for women-owned businesses, shows Florida leading the rest with 67 percent growth. This is good news for the state and speaks well of the spirit of optimism of women entrepreneurs who are increasingly deciding to design and construct their own futures.
Patricia Bonilla’s faith has been her rock since she established her business from the garage of her Florida home. Today, Lunacon Construction Group employs over 50 people performing a range of general contracting, design-build and construction management services.
Lunacon offers specialized services including cost estimating and control, quality control management, risk analysis, scheduling, design for sustainability/LEED, value engineering and warranty management. It operates in the commercial, education, government, healthcare, military and transportation markets. Each project is assured success through the diverse skill sets of qualified staff including architects, engineers, estimators, subcontractors, quality control managers and others, all of whom are actively engaged at the onset of the project.
Lunacon maintains a broad footprint, with additional offices found in Washington, Virginia, Seattle, Missouri and Puerto Rico. There are plans for expansion into other states, but Lunacon’s current priority is elevating and fostering their human enterprise. They understand this is the foundation for any business to thrive and scale, and that without the proper human capital it is very difficult to compete against larger construction firms.
“We’re testing some of these markets,” Patricia says regarding expansion plans. She explains that the Puerto Rico market is one which the company is pursuing aggressively. “We do have a project in Puerto Rico, but we’re looking for more.”
Lunacon Construction holds several certifications including Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certifications, along with other federal and state certifications. “We have opened some doors,” Patricia states when asked if the WBE certification, specifically, has enabled contractual opportunities for Lunacon Construction. “In some areas, some clients are definitely having a focus on diversity and inclusion.” These clients are, “trying to improve how many women contractors they have on their vendors’ lists.”
She says this will vary between counties and that Miami-Dade County, for example, “doesn’t give any privilege to gender. For them, it’s only revenue. I try to have a diverse company, because otherwise we’d miss out, especially in an economy where human capital is an issue. There are some entities that definitely don’t cater to women,” she notes. “But that’s kind of a standard in the industry. But it’s changing little by little. It’s [in] our interest as business owners to make changes in candidates so that we can facilitate.”
Patricia clarifies that numerous companies have certifications which can serve as definite assets but, “I haven’t been handed anything just because I have certifications. We don’t sell ourselves as a minority company… We want to sell a company that can perform, that’s cutting edge [and] that services the client – basically abide by the contract.” She acknowledges that a certification can limit the competition, and that, “In that sense it’s very valuable.”
There are a number of markets in which Lunacon Construction is actively engaged with a fairly even number of projects within each market, although Patricia would like to see more growth for her company in the healthcare and educational sector. “We’re trying to open a portfolio of projects,” she says, explaining that, during the recession, the company was accepting construction opportunities as they presented themselves to expand its portfolio.
“As we grow, we find a need to be more specific and focus on what kind of clients we want [and] where do we find ourselves most suited for success.” The company believes in delivering the best quality and performance by working with clients through each stage of a project and asking, “How can we service them best?” says Patricia.
Patricia’s attention is on more than securing more growth for her company; she wants Lunacon Construction Group to be viewed as a desirable place to work in a sea of competition. She explains that attracting and, more importantly, retaining the right employees, is an issue that needs to be addressed. “Human capital to me is key.”
She has identified areas of opportunity for improvement in the hiring process, and a company has been hired to, “revamp the way we think,” and assist with other issues related to human capital. “We’re trying to communicate better. We’re trying to make sure that all the goals and objectives of the company are defined.” She would like to see a better quality of life for employees so that, “the health/work index is improved.”
Patricia says that the company may want to, “partner with other small businesses,” if a joint venture is in Lunacon’s best interest and makes sense. Expansion requires substantial resources and, “We think the best way is joint venturing with other companies. Right now, we’re working with about five joint ventures.” Such ventures are ideal as long as those involved with such partnerships, “can pull their own weight.” The construction industry is one in which forethought and due diligence to project management is essential. Errors in planning at any stage of the construction process can prove detrimental in terms of such things as resources, quality, timelines and budgets. Careful monitoring and implemented strategies during a project’s lifecycle are essential to success and a happy client.
Certainty, Lunacon Construction understands the value of an efficient project management team and recently purchased the Viewpoint software solution that enables effective and reliable job site collaboration. This system, “allows us to monitor progress better [and] integrate project management with accounting,” says Patricia. The software is also used to, “try to make ourselves more efficient in order to prepare ourselves for growth.”
She explains that it is, “also about the managers and the people we have in place.” The company monitors managers on projects so that, “information gets to us consistently,” which subsequently ensures that defined goals and objectives are being met through the best resources possible.
Patricia iterates that Lunacon Construction Group’s biggest challenge currently is in finding qualified new people to fit into the company culture. “As you add people, it’s integration. You grow, but now the team is not the same.” She wants to make her company more sustainable even through such a challenge. “It’s construction. It’s very deadline driven. It’s a lot of risk because of the money that is involved… the accountability is high.”
Lunacon Construction Group’s social mission, considering the current skilled worker shortage, is to try to give disadvantaged youth who have fallen out of the system given more opportunities perhaps through their own scholarship program. “We want to be able to give them an avenue in the construction industry,” says Patricia.
As for the company’s vision, Patricia concludes that she would like to see Lunacon Construction Group, “reach $100 million and be the best place to work in the construction industry.”