Building Business by Building Relationships

Harmon Construction

harmonconstruction

Over the last three decades, Harmon Construction has grown from a small startup to one of Kansas City’s premier commercial contractors. The company’s specific specializations include industrial, health care, senior living and faith based construction.
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Tim Harmon and his wife, Janet, moved to Kansas City from Seattle in 1986 to build the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant. “After settling here, he saw an opportunity to start a company where integrity, respect and professionalism would set it apart in the construction arena,” says Christina Beaird, Vice President of Marketing. The entrepreneur took full advantage of the situation, launching Harmon Construction the following year. “Under Tim’s leadership, Harmon has achieved that goal while setting a steady pace for controlled growth. Starting out with two employees, Tim has grown his company to 30 employees in 2016.”

How did the team manage to expand so successfully? “We build relationships before buildings and deliver on our promises,” Christina explains. “It’s a time-tested traditional approach to business that has served our clients, associates and shareholders well for over 29 years. Over 90 percent of Harmon clients are either repeat business or referral… Our mission is to build long-term customer relationships and drive value for clients’ processes, products, and market share by delivering design and construction solutions that consistently exceed their expectations.”

The team makes sure to properly manage the accounting side of things as well. “Harmon is a well-capitalized company with a strong balance sheet, zero long term debt and a substantial Line of Credit. Providing a collaborative team approach and innovative solutions to each project has positioned Harmon to build a sustainable business that will prosper for many generations.”

Company culture
“At Harmon, we take a collaborative team approach where every associate’s voice is heard and opinion is respected,” Christina says. “Our culture is one of personal business ownership. Feedback fuels innovation and creativity; it is solicited daily, at mid-year and year-end Strategic Planning Retreats, at staff meetings, safety meetings and quarterly Advisory Board meetings. Post-project completion analysis and client surveys are solicited so that we can serve our clients better. A no-micromanagement environment, each person is held accountable for the long-term success of the business and for his or her responsibilities. All employees are given the tools, training and coaching to contribute effectively and succeed in their positions.”

Employees rise to the challenge and thrive within this company culture. For example, “At a recent site visit, one our superintendents shared how he was able to create a better way to keep the work sites cleaner for clients. He wasn’t asked to do this; he took initiative because he cares.”

The entire team is committed to giving back to the community in addition to going the extra mile on the job. “Giving to and serving others is part of the Harmon DNA. Encouraging associates to give back to their local communities and seeking opportunities to serve are a top priority.” The company provides paid time off for community service and employees have partnered with many charities in the community including KidsTLC, Rotary Youth Camp, Kansas City Homeless Shelters, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters and more. The involvement benefits the volunteers as well as the people they are serving. “Harmon’s Community Service and Outreach Program has empowered employees to get involved and continue growing and learning in leadership roles, ultimately gaining Harmon Construction a more engaged team and network for growth.”

Methods and projects
Harmon Construction is an expert in the design-build project delivery method. “We have extensive experience in design-build. In fact, it is our method of choice. Approximately 85 percent or more of our work uses a design-build/negotiated approach.” The advantages are clear. “Choosing design-build means saving money, saving time and [delivering] the overall best value.” Design build projects cost approximately 12 percent less than the traditional design-bid-build approach, Christina reports. Preconstruction estimates are “highly accurate,” a guaranteed maximum price can be established early, and communication is “greatly enhanced” by bringing all essential team members to the table early.

As well, Harmon Construction relies on Lean principles to deliver the most value to its customers. “Lean practices are becoming industry standard,” the company website points out. “As the skilled labor pool shrinks and market grows, we have to be out in front of our competition to make sure we are producing projects as innovative and efficient as possible. Pull-planning, Just-in-time delivery, and Prefabrication are a few of the many ways we are an industry leader, executing Lean principals at a high level to give owners the most value.”

The team also incorporates LEED concepts into many of its projects. “Inevitably over the past decade we have seen a rise in demand by owners and developers for projects that incorporate LEED building ideals, as well as the incorporation of recycled, re-purposed and natural building products,” the company website states. “Harmon has a history of optimizing owner and design teams’ creativity to utilize LEED traits in unique and useful ways.”

Whatever the project, Harmon puts safety first—and enjoys a low experience mod of 0.74 as a result. The company maintains a strong safety program and utilizes practices such as lockout/tagout, stretch and flex, daily huddle meetings, weekly site meetings, and strict PPE standards to keep jobsites as safe as possible. Maintaining communication is also important, both to safety efforts and to maintaining efficient operations. From daily on-site foreman’s meetings to weekly subcontractor management meetings, the team stays abreast of the situation and catches potential problems before they happen.

Moving forward
The state of the construction industry in the Kansas City metro area is looking up. “The construction industry is really coming back from the hard hit it took with the recession in the late 2010s,” Christina shares. “In fact, business is so good, the biggest industry hurdle now is labor shortage.” A significant number of employees left the construction industry during the recession—and never returned. As a result, companies throughout the region are struggling to find and hire skilled workers to keep up with the increased demand. “Now that the economy is on a comeback, the number of skilled workers has not kept up with the pace. Most experts predict this issue will continue throughout 2017 and beyond. They also believe it will take multiple years for this talent deficit to catch back up.”

This labor shortage can lengthen the time it takes to complete a job and push the cost of the job higher. Christina says that Harmon Construction has not had an issue with hiring or retaining skilled carpenters so far, allowing the company to maintain their schedules and budgets. In fact, the firm has employed several fulltime skilled carpenters for at least five years. “We believe our company culture and competitive wages are an added incentive allowing us to retain and hire additional skilled labor,” Christina adds.

2017 will be Harmon Construction’s 30th year in business and the team is planning to celebrate that accomplishment with a rebranding effort. “This will allow us to streamline our look and become a more recognizable icon in our area. We are also planning a renovation of our headquarters in Olathe, KS. We pride ourselves on a culture of open communication and feel that a renovation will help us to do this better.”

The company plans to continue expanding and has launched a growth strategy to double in size by 2025. “We look to evolve as the market grows and to evolve into new opportunities,” Christina reports. “We will establish partnerships and hire new personnel to manage that growth.”

Harmon Construction will rely on its dedicated team to maintain this growth plan. “I see big things happening in Harmon’s near future. We have a team of go-getters professionally and in their personal lives; this is really an asset to us as our team constantly asks the question, ‘How can we make Harmon better?’ We’re taking big strides in bringing on new technologies, and evaluating which programs and features will add the most value for our clients is an ongoing process.” And, course, the team will continue to focus on building relationships—the driving force behind Harmon’s 30 years of success.

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 18, 2019, 7:49 AM EDT