Doing It All
McRight-Smith Construction does it all. “We are a construction manager, design builder and general contractor,” says CEO Andrew Smith. “If you ask us to bid a project, we will bid the project. If you don’t have an architect, we will source and manage the design process for you. If you have your own architect and want us to help manage the process, we will do that. We can take something from raw dirt, design it, and build it all the way up until we hand over the keys.”
This full service capability sets the Plano, Texas based company apart. “That is one of our great strengths because we know what things should cost and how to design it to get what the customer is looking for. We understand the process all the way through from concept to completion.” Specific services include construction management, design/build, general contracting, new ground-up construction, renovation/expansion, interior finish out, and master plan development.
The construction company was founded in 1984, and focused almost exclusively on the aviation sector until McRight-Smith, the current owners, acquired the company ten years ago. The team still works in aviation, but they steadily expanded the company’s areas of expertise to cover a much broader swath of industries. “We bought the company and started to branch into different areas,” Mr. Smith remembers. “We went from a company that we could run with four or five people to a company that has north of 40 employees now. We work all over Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.” Today, in addition to aviation, the team specializes in automotive, general commercial, educational, childcare, medical, hospitality, industrial/warehouse, retail, and office space.
Working across multiple sectors can be complicated. “The challenge is that the different sectors are so diverse.” Regulations vary dramatically, as do building materials—and McRight-Smith has to be proficient in all of it. “It helps us because we have seen just about everything,” Mr. Smith explains, “and have experience in just about every type of commercial construction that there is.”
This wide range of knowledge and experience helps the team keep projects on track. “It enables us to illustrate to the client the advantages and disadvantages for every design, so we can help them make a more informed decision based on what is best for their pocketbook and on what their objective outcome is for the project. ”
In one recent example, the McRight-Smith team figured out how to keep a tricky retail project in budget. “It was a small retail project, but it is an example of how things can go off track and how we work with the customer to make sure that things go back in the right direction.” The original construction plans for an Advanced Auto Parts store “called for something that was pushing them over the budget that they set. Our operations team was able to take the project and make some plan suggestions that got them back to the number they needed to hit. We were able to make changes that kept them in budget and, even with the historic amount of rain that we have had this spring here in Texas, we completed the project ahead of schedule.”
Currently, the team is working on the Kelly Grimsley Kia dealership in San Angelo, Texas. “That one has been challenging because that was a project that was not ours to begin with, but the contractor they were working with backed out.” The team swooped in and managed to put a problematic project back on the right path. “When they brought us the project it was substantially over the budget,” Mr. Smith recalls. The problem involved the dealership’s need to stock and showcase its wares. “With car dealerships, their inventory is cars—you can’t stack them on shelves. If you take space away from their lot, then they have less inventory that they can carry.” The previous team had designed a system to deal with the issue, but it was going to cost far more than the owners could spend. “So we worked with them for several weeks and designed a new system that cut $900,000 out of the cost of construction while maintaining their lot space [We] were able to get their project moving forward ahead of schedule and much closer to the original budget that they had in mind.”
In addition to knowledge and experience, McRight-Smith focuses on maintaining good relationships. “Primarily it is through relationship management; connections we have made with different people,” Mr. Smith says of the company’s major strategy for success. He explains that the day-to-day goal has to be on building long-term partnerships, not closing a deal. “We are not looking to sell a project; I can’t make somebody go build a $2 million daycare. What we are looking to do is make friends with people and provide services they need. And sometimes making friends with people means you don’t have a project [with them] for two years.” Sometimes it can be even longer. “I think [McRight-Smith President Richard French] has worked with some clients for three years or more before we actually went into construction.”
Once the team has developed a relationship with a client or subcontractor, they make it a priority to maintain open and honest communication. “Tell them upfront if there is going to be a delay. Let them know about. The faster you tell somebody the problem the faster it is to overcome it. Don’t let it sit there for a long time. Nobody likes surprises.”
McRight-Smith’s strong relationships with subcontractors and clients have helped the company earn new business through word of mouth. “We get a lot of referrals for business,” Mr. French reports. Referrals are particularly important in the automotive industry because “they get together and they share resources. We have been blessed to be included in those resources when dealers are looking for somebody to either renovate a store or build a new store.”
A preferred contactor for Group 1 Automotive, McRight-Smith works with “both the independent dealers, that have one two stores, as well as the national groups like Group 1 and Berkshire Hathaway that have a multitude of stores throughout the country. We get in with a good customer and leave a good impression and that parlays into additional business.” As a result, McRight-Smith has built over 60 dealerships in the last five years alone.
Looking ahead, the team plans to focus on sectors that are likely to experience building booms. “We are pursuing business that is driven by population growth,” Mr. Smith explains. Medical offices, daycares, storage units, and retail are all good bets and the team plans to expand their presence in all of these areas. At the moment, “we are looking to move into additional retail space such as grocery stores and we have a couple of projects that will be coming soon for some big box retail.” In addition, McRight-Smith is moving into the industrial sector with some warehouse projects.
Overall, the team plans to remain nimble and diverse, ready to take advantage of Texas’ busy construction market. “Cities like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin—the I-35 corridor in Texas in particular—are just booming,” says Mr. Smith. “We are excited about the future.” After a decade of diversification and expansion, the team is more than ready to take advantage of the current building boom—and whatever might come next.