Florida Company Offers Finishes with a Flourish

United Wall Systems

United Wall Systems, Inc. performs steel framing and installation of commercial drywall and commercial stucco for the retail, healthcare, hospitality, attractions, municipal, and institutional sectors. The installation of steel framing in commercial buildings is the core of our business,” says Chief Executive Officer and Company Founder Curtis Yoder, while installing drywall in commercial spaces is another major business segment. The company also offers design-build assistance, such as examining architectural drawings with an eye to saving clients time and money.
~
Curtis Yoder calls his Winter Garden, Florida-based firm “a little company that has a large ability.” While it is true that the award-winning exterior and interior finishes specialty contractor does not have a huge staff, it does offer a wide range of services and is intensely driven. From its launch a decade ago at the start of an economic downturn, it has achieved an enviable reputation for growth and good work.

Drywall installation is done according to stringent building codes and construction standards. Likewise, commercial stucco – a popular wall and ceiling finish in warm Central Florida – is installed to exact manufacturers’ specifications. “We don’t short-cut anything,” says Yoder.

United Wall Systems typically partners with general contractors. “Good contractors don’t try to get away without permitting in Florida. We align ourselves with quality ethical general contractors. That’s who we want to provide our services to,” says Yoder. The company self-performs some tasks and subcontracts out other duties. Given the company’s location, most jobs are done in the Central Florida region.

Last year, United Wall Systems celebrated its tenth anniversary – in itself quite a remarkable achievement. Yoder founded the company with a friend in early 2008, just as a major economic recession came crashing down. While Yoder had many contacts from past business relationships, “there was just no work [at first]. Competition was fierce. People were taking work for zero margins,” he recalls.

Bit by bit, conditions improved, and new employees were hired. Today, United Wall Systems is flourishing; the firm was ranked number eleven on the Orlando Business Journal Fast 50 list, published in 2018 and was included in the Inc. 5000 list from that same year.

“Frankly, the recognition isn’t mine. It’s the teams’. My [Chief Operating Officer] Johnnie Crow is as driven as I am. Together, we want to create the best customer service in our industry. We’ve been able to hire a staff that has that same vision and drive. We’re growing because we’re all aligned and moving in the same direction,” he explains.

When he is not occupied with United Wall Systems, Yoder also somehow finds the time to run a small firm called Standard Construction Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company, founded by his father Cliff Yoder, Senior, offers construction services and drywall installation but is a fraction of the size of United Wall Systems. Yoder’s main focus remains United Wall Systems.

“One thing we’re known for a high level of quality,” says Yoder of United Wall Systems. “We’re also known for tackling the most difficult jobs and pulling them off. I love difficult jobs with tight schedules that everyone says you can’t pull off. Anyone can build a wall and finish it and paint it, but not everyone can do it in a shortened timeline. Give me constraints, and it kind of excites me.”

United Wall Systems takes an organized approach to projects, whether simple or complicated. One of the first steps involves a boardroom meeting at which staff members “sit down and formulate a plan. We identify obstacles, and we put a plan on paper, and then we execute that plan,” states Yoder.

The team regularly checks the strategy and makes adjustments when necessary. Having an official work plan is great, but it is always vital to stay flexible in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Once the project has been completed, “We celebrate our wins with our teammates. We make sure we’re recognizing the people doing the work,” concludes Yoder.

Quality is maintained through ongoing field training and having loyal, long-serving employees who can perform tasks to consistently high standards. “I started the company in February ’08, and my finishing supervisor for the entire company has been with me since March ’08. I’m very happy to have him. The longevity of your leadership team is what makes a difference,” notes Yoder.

This attention to quality has been recognized, and the company has taken home some prestigious industry honors. Last year, United Wall Systems won two Excellence in Construction (EIC) awards, as handed out by the Central Florida Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. The company also won a 2018 EIC ‘Eagle Award’ for interior finishes at the Springhill Suites/Residence Inn in Orlando.

United Wall Systems also earned a 2018 EIC award of merit for work on the ballroom at DoubleTree SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. United Wall Systems’ duties included custom ceiling details, level-five wall finishes – the highest quality in drywall finishing – and decorative acoustic ceiling tiles. United Wall Systems did light gauge metal framing, custom acoustic ceiling tile installation, drywall, and drywall finishes for this job.

Those awards “belong to the team. I own the company, but the team is the one that put those jobs together. They estimated them, sold them, value-engineered them, then went out and executed them. I give my accolades to our estimators and our project managers and our production people,” he says.

At present, it employs roughly seventy-eight people. Add in subcontractors, and that figure presently stands at “between 300 and 350 total people in our field operation,” says Yoder.

Prospective hires at United Wall Systems are expected to be enthusiastic, hard-working, ambitious, and eager to learn and improve themselves. The company takes inspiration from the business book, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. He advises firms to pick a goal or revenue target, multiply it by ten then set that figure as the real goal. To achieve this, a company has to exert maximum effort.

As an example of the kind of effort United Wall Systems puts in, Yoder points to a project involving Windermere Preparatory School, “a high-end, arts and theatre multi-use facility … That job really turned out beautiful. The craftsmanship was excellent inside and out from the HardiePlank siding outside to the interior finishes which were mostly level-five finishes which is basically a perfect finish. Our team really had to step up because the schedule was tight.”

“For nearly 10 years, I have been involved in some capacity with PCEA – Professional Construction Estimators Association. From Membership Director to President, it has been a joy to serve this organization. We really enjoy [working with] these trade organizations because we get to mingle with not only our clients but our vendors and the tradespeople in our industry, whether they be electricians, plumbers, engineers, painters, whatever. We get to see them there in a relaxed atmosphere,” says Yoder.

Yoder wants to maintain the core services that have built the company’s success. One niche into which he is looking to expand is the theming space.

“That side of the business we have not pursued a lot of, but with the high level of expertise on our staff, we feel like it’s a natural evolution for us to go ahead and tackle some of that,” says Yoder.

Ironically, the company’s success and a thriving economy have created challenges of their own. “The industry has gotten so busy; it is stressing every part of every construction company. I don’t think we have the qualified employees available to our industries,” he says.

Part of the problem is the shortage of young people entering the skilled trades sector which is a demographic issue facing companies across North America. This is due in part to an emphasis in recent decades on pushing young people into college over lucrative industrial jobs.

For all that, he envisions a bright future for United Wall Systems. “I think the company, in five years, will be much the same as it is now. We will continue to be the highest-quality contractor in Florida in our sector. I think we’ll probably double or triple our revenue by then. We don’t want to blow up with the economy and then come way back down because we have soft relationships. We want to build a solid $50 million backlog with quality contractors, so no matter what the economy is doing, we’re still going to [have] work consistently,” states Yoder.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 12, 2019, 8:42 PM EST