Full-service general contractor EJH Construction specializes in commercial renovation, disaster mitigation, and disaster restoration. Hospitality renovations make up a significant portion of its commercial renovation business with hotel work ranging from full renovations of guest rooms, common spaces, lobbies, and ballrooms to smaller improvements such as replacing all the windows and interior and exterior doors. EJH provides its disaster mitigation and disaster restoration services to organizations of all sizes. It has experience with fast recovery from every type of disaster and the knowledge to prevent further damage from occurring.
When a hotel or other business has a flood, EJH Construction’s goal is to mitigate the water damage and dry the area quickly to allow the business to stay open. “We pride ourselves that the business can stay open. We can stealthily drop off a canister and remove one full of damaged material within hours or put up temporary walls to shield the damage or repairs being made. Our goal is to minimize the impact on the business, the employees, and whomever their customer base is,” says Lisa Lepkowski, business development manager at EJH Construction.
The family-owned business was established in 1972 by John Hale Sr. in Northville, Michigan, and it is still operated by the family today; his wife is the chief financial officer of the company, and his son is the executive vice president. It began with one truck and a vision to provide dependable carpentry and repair services for commercial and residential property maintenance and emergencies, ranging from broken windows to flooded basements.
By 1980, it had expanded into disaster mitigation, disaster restoration, and commercial renovation, and by developing a reputation for reliability, the company eventually grew to provide its services nationwide. “Today, we’re a very diverse construction company providing a multitude of services including emergency disaster response to residential and commercial properties,” says Lisa.
Fifty-four people are headquartered in Farmington Hills in an open concept workplace environment. The relaxed and collaborative atmosphere makes it easier for the employees to work as a team within their departments.
In the last twenty years, the company has grown significantly both in terms of revenue and the number of employees. The commercial renovation division, in particular, has developed quickly, and the company has developed close relationships with many of its clients in the hospitality industry.
Many of the demographics and trends are leading renovations within hotels and resorts all over the United States and removing hot tubs and pools is one of the trends. EJH has the unique skill set to remove spas and pool areas and renovate them for other purposes, like expansive fitness centers. Another trend leading the hospitality industry is removing the tubs inside hotel guest rooms and converting them into oversized shower spaces instead. The company can adapt to these changes in trends quickly, and this has provided the company with a significant amount of business.
EJH does not hire subcontractors for its disaster mitigation work because the water technicians must be extensively trained in mold and water remediation. EJH Construction wants to have full control over the quality of work and the level of service on a project. “Our employees are full-time employees, and we self-perform ninety percent of all of our work, which allows us to control the product, the outcome, and the consistency,” says Lisa. It looks for reliable people who will commit to a client and the project. Its employees are well trained, and they are provided a quality benefits package to ensure there is no need for them to look elsewhere.
Predictably, the biggest challenge for the company is finding highly-qualified, skilled trades workers. “As a company, we are trying to partner with community colleges and different trade schools to offer apprenticeships. We are looking into that, but that pool is so small,” says Lisa.
Another challenge at EJH can be the work-life balance since some of the crew need to travel across the country to work on huge projects in other states. Depending on what commitments there may be back home, it can be difficult to travel often for work. The company is sensitive to the needs of their employees and the demands of a family.
“We really try to schedule creatively so that if someone’s away, when they can come back, they’ve earned so many paid days off, or we try to schedule them locally so that they can have the balance of being home again before they have to go back on the road,” says Lisa. After an employee has been travelling for months, they greatly appreciate the company’s efforts to place them on a local project.
Transparency is an important principle at EJH. From the planning stages to the final billing, it communicates with its clients to keep them fully informed about the project. The company also strives to be ethical, dependable, and sustainable on all projects and complete the work promptly while ensuring a minimal impact on the client’s normal business operations.
EJH often works with insurance companies and adjusters when there is a disaster or a loss at a residential or commercial property. When working on disaster mitigation projects with the insurance agents or adjusters and the homeowner or commercial business, the company aims to remain neutral with both parties and simply provide the correct facts.
“We try to mediate and work together with all parties involved in a really fair and informative kind of way, which, in this business, is not the case a lot of the time,” says Lisa. The company relies on its good reputation and word-of-mouth for success; it does not spend much money on marketing.
“We take pride in the fact we are a highly-skilled, highly-qualified company. I’m in business development, and I’m surprised how well our reputation and word-of-mouth really does work for us. We don’t spend a lot of money on the other stuff, and we get so many referrals from staying in the community for so long,” says Lisa.
EJH receives a great deal of repeat business, as there is peace of mind when working with a general contracting company that has proved it will deliver consistent quality results. A hotel chain regularly works with the company, and out of its 1,200 projects across the United States last year, EJH completed 350.
It specializes in quickly restoring massive commercial buildings with its vast inventory of equipment. It owns a large amount of temporary wall to screen the work, making sure that the construction area is unseen until ready to be revealed. It can also set up temporary tent workstations in the parking lot, ensuring that cutting and other noise happens outdoors to reduce the impact on the business.
The company always makes an effort to save materials and put careful thought into the insurance claim. It tears up the least amount of material possible after water damage using infrared lasers and other diagnostic testing equipment that shows exactly where the moisture stops. Having to take out thirty feet of a wall instead of fifty feet is a massive difference for the insurance claim and the business’s operations. Many materials, including hardwood floors, can be saved when properly dried and cleaned them, and EJH actively invests in sustainability.
The company is involved in the local community and a variety of charitable organizations. EJH supports the local high schools, fire and police, and programs and events in Farmington Hills. It has taken part in local Touch-A-Truck events and recently participated in a Walk For Wishes event at the Detroit Zoo for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The company donates to Vista Maria, a center that cares for and supports vulnerable youth and has renovated its facility. EJH also donates its excess material to the HARP Mission Team that renovates low-income homes. Many types of materials such as insulation and caulk should not be sitting in storage for long, and donating the extra supply not only helps a worthy cause, but it is also a great way to reduce waste.
It often finds itself working on projects that other companies avoid because it enjoys the challenge of a complicated job. For example, the James Scott Memorial Fountain at Belle Isle in Detroit did not work for many years until 2012, when EJH took on the task. The challenges were the elaborate underground tunnels, the missing and broken pieces, and the old plumbing system that draws water from the Detroit River and has to be purified. The work was a success, and every spring, before the Grand Prix on Belle Isle, the company gets the fountain running once again.
“We are not afraid to come out of our wheelhouse. We’re willing to figure it out, and we are always open to the possibility of something new and challenging,” says Lisa.