Building People First

Straub Construction
Written by Claire Suttles

General contractor Straub Construction primarily focuses on construction projects for local, state, and federal governments, including all branches of the United States military. The company also specializes in public school projects. Straub got its start in Alaska forty years ago, before moving to San Diego, where the headquarters are today. Most of Straub’s projects are located in California and the Southwestern United States, where it specializes in full installations from the ground up, design-build, design-bid-build, “and just about everything in between,” says Vice President Patrick Nolan.

The company has built strong relationships with subcontractors over the years and makes a point to partner with local builders. “We work with a lot of local small businesses in Southern California as well as small businesses that are local to the projects that we’re working on,” Nolan says. This effort goes beyond the standard federal requirements. “Straub has a strong Small Business partnering program, and we put a concerted effort toward using those small local businesses on our projects.”

It is particularly committed to supporting Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). Recently the company formed a “Mentor-Protégé” relationship with an SDVOSB to bid, win, and perform federal construction projects together. “Straub provides financial stability, bonding capacity, and proven systems and structures to help manage the projects and run the company operations. With help from the executive team, we work with our SDVOSB Protégé to properly staff and support the projects,” Nolan says.

“We will assist and support them in bidding new projects. We will teach them how to streamline the project management functions, teach them how to create effective financial projections and how to perform all the essential steps needed to successfully bid, construct, and close out construction projects.” The SDVOSB provides “most of the major project management and on-site staffing for the contract. Our role is basically to support them and help them be the star on the project.”

The mentoring program lasts for several years to ensure the SDVOBs are fully prepared to stand on their own. “We want to give that company as many of the main leading roles as possible while standing behind them as a mentor to help them successfully perform each task and successfully manage the project. This way they can learn how to do it themselves,” Nolan explains.

“The end goal is for them to be able to find, bid, and construct these projects effectively, and also have some of the financial stability and bonding ability on the other side of that. So basically [this mentoring program] helps them get a kick-start to scaling their business.”

Straub’s goal is to provide strong support to its own people, as well as to outside businesses. “One of the things that we really try to focus on is our strong internal team,” Nolan says. “So we put a lot of resources toward training our own team members and equipping them to run the projects in a way that reflects Straub’s values and Straub’s core competencies.”

Through a program the company has dubbed Straub University, employees have access to training and development in an exhaustive list of subjects covering everything from project management, accounting, and financial management to estimating, contract writing, team building, time management, and goal setting.

Held at the corporate office as “a live interactive training,” Straub University classes “teach a full range of project management skills and both technical tasks and nontechnical,” Nolan summarizes. So far the program has produced twenty four classes ranging from under ten minutes to over an hour, depending on the subject matter. “We basically give a deep dive of each subject,” Nolan says. “We include real life examples and step-by-step walk through the how-to of construction, and we include any kind of reference documents or actual tools to use to accomplish those different tasks.” For each training session, Patrick creates a course outline to cover the most important and relevant topics that Straub’s team is faced with, whether they be on the construction site, in the corporate office, or within various teams. While Patrick writes and presents content for these sessions, he also includes many of the Straub leadership team and project level team members to present and train the rest of the team on various topics. “We have star players on our team, and the more we can reproduce their strengths by having them share their knowledge and experience, the better we all become at what we do,” he says.

Straub’s education program is just one way the company demonstrates its commitment to its people. “We do have a passion for our people and the work we do,” Nolan says. This has never been more crucial than in today’s complicated times. “In the last couple of years especially, the market’s been a little tumultuous, a little crazy. So there’s a little bit more stress than we normally see in the industry.”

The overall lack of certainty during the pandemic has been particularly challenging. “There’re just so many things that people are uncertain about—uncertain about the future, uncertain about what requirements are going to come into play,” Nolan says. “It’s really made it even more important for us to focus on our people and train them properly.”

This focus goes beyond training to “support them and help them and be there to communicate with them through all of this,” Nolan says. “We really try to focus on that.” Keeping people connected while having to quarantine and social distance has been critical. “Personally, I’ve tried to focus on meeting our people and our customers where they’re at to connect with them—especially our own employees, trying to help them feel connected and valued and cared for. That’s been especially important this past year… just communicating well and communicating openly.”

While the pandemic has presented industry-wide challenges, Straub is eager to move forward and continue its successful track record. “We’ve built some pretty incredible projects over the years,” Nolan points out. “Our office walls are full of these incredible projects on plaques and pictures—schools, universities and military bases around the country.”

One current project to watch is the construction of the Brown Field Border Patrol Station in Dulzura, California. Located twenty-five miles southeast of the city of San Diego and about ten miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border on the east side of the San Ysidro Mountains, the station lies in the Jamul/Dulzura subregion, which covers approximately 168 square miles.

The work will include several large operational and support structures to serve the U.S. Border Patrol, including two water wells with water treatment systems and storage tanks, pre-engineered metal buildings, along with drainage and utility infrastructure for the site. The $43 million project has an estimated completion date of mid-2022.

As Straub continues to win significant projects like the Brown Field Border Patrol Station, Nolan says the team will keep focusing on its people to provide the best possible work. “I see Straub going deeper and focusing more on developing its core team and its people… Having a team that knows how to execute, that can really be dependable—ultimately, that means successful projects. It means a happier customer, and it means more profits for our clients and for Straub, and that is a win-win,” he shares.

“That’s where I see us going. I see us doubling down on developing our own team, finding and developing team members that are going to reciprocate that and [who] really want to dive in and invest themselves into the company.” It is a future that employees and customers alike can look forward to.

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