Bringing Youth and a Customer-First Approach to Design-Build Construction

Robbins Construction Group
Written by William Young

Commercial construction firm Robbins Construction Group of Summerville, South Carolina is just over a year old, but its genesis had been in the works for some time. President and Chief Executive Officer Derek Robbins admits that operating his own business was always a dream, so he moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 2012 to begin his journey toward that goal.

Derek initially worked for a commercial construction company as its Director of Preconstruction for several years, then was promoted to Director. He acquired two partners for his business endeavors during that time, and January 21 of last year was the first day of what would become Robbins Construction. Although the business is still young, Derek reveals that it has already met every projected goal for its first year and is riding steady momentum into its second.

He developed an approach that would improve the construction process for customers, identify reoccurring issues within the industry, and create new methods to eliminate these issues. “We have a mindset of being different from our competition,” he outlines. “We provide value to our clients by being a true partner; we offer a… communicative approach and an open-book mindset.”

This means that the company does all it can to effectively communicate with clients by creating a clear and open dialogue that facilitates full commitment from both parties, with attention paid to regular updates via email and in-person communication. Clients are continuously updated with a project’s progress, and the practice has always generated positive feedback.

There is also transparency that comes with the “open-book mindset,” and the company frequently shares unfiltered information with its clientele. Realistic expectations are set, and integrity is of the utmost importance, as Derek feels that trust is built on consistency. The company’s priority is not centered on profit but on helping clients achieve investment goals. “We do not offer solutions; we offer results,” he says.

Robbins Construction is a proponent of the design-build process, in which a single point of contact hires the necessary construction and design workers to reduce schedule time and minimize risks. Early in the process, the company coordinates geotechnical exploration, including design development and permit submission, while adhering to a strict guaranteed budget and offering a client the flexibility to make changes.

Derek asserts that the team is not afraid to roll up its sleeves to explore different construction materials or methods and get creative in its solutions. The process of selecting subcontractors is similarly involved, with relationships established early between the company and potential partners. Robbins Construction teams engage in a robust screening process to gain an intimate understanding of a subcontractor’s business and ensure its appropriate fit for a project.

Derek cites the company’s strong relationships with a wide range of subcontractors and affirms that since subcontractors are essential to the business, it is important to establish and maintain a relationship with them. Much is expected from those who partner with Robbins Construction, but a typical project is planned meticulously to ensure that subcontractors are scheduled to work in sequence, and this effective and efficient management allows them to make more money on projects.

Derek is happy to note that, in addition to strong ties with its subcontractors, his company has established a culture of individual growth among its workers, providing opportunities for every team member to grow professionally and personally. He hires people who embrace their role as “champions of the organizational culture,” and notes that the culture is affected by everyone in the organization and that the company’s inherent values guide all important decisions.

Every employee is treated with respect and understanding. “We do not tolerate bullying, harassment, or intimidation within our organization,” Derek states firmly. Recognizing that every employee has something special to offer, care taken to uphold a fun and exciting atmosphere while keeping things professional at every turn. He jokes that one is not likely to find a ping-pong table or putting green on the job site because of this approach.

Robbins Construction has had some unique challenges in its fairly short time in the industry. During its first eighteen months, the business had to endure hurricanes, including the devastating Hurricane Dorian and up to seventeen other named storms. Additionally, the advent of COVID-19 caused delayed work for the company, with one client’s whole operation having to be shut down. This unexpected development caused the company to establish all-new procedures for job site safety and has doubled the resolve of its teams to continue delivering projects even during these unprecedented events.

Derek stresses that communication is both a necessity and a challenge within client relationships, and the company takes great care to listen to gain an understanding of any client’s needs, challenges, and goals. This hearkens back to ensuring that the company’s clients are informed at all points and have an environment where they feel free to ask questions, request input, or even challenge if necessary. “We treat our clients as partners because we see it as a truly collaborative partnership where we are both mutually invested.”

When it comes to what remains of 2020 and beyond, Robbins Construction will continue its track of steady and controlled growth while seeking new projects and acquiring new talent to join its team. Derek himself has endured many personal challenges on the way to beginning his construction company and has always sought out employees with similar characteristics, like the ability to lead and tenacity against the odds. He looks to provide the opportunity he never had to take careers to the next level while treating those in his company with respect, as part of a family.

The company has developed relationships with local, regional, and national developers including Benderson Development, Hobby Lobby, Hardy World, Libby & Associates, Marlboro Development, and many others. The company is licensed in twenty-four states and qualified in another eleven, enabling it to offer its services on a national level.

Personally, Derek aspires to have the company be the best general contractor in the American Southeast and exemplify the words of its founder: “We will always exceed our clients’ expectations.”



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