A Straight-Talk Company
Hodess Cleanroom Construction
Hodess Cleanroom Construction, with its head office in Massachusetts, is a leader in cleanroom construction, management and design and is not afraid to ask the tough questions in its search for better solutions.
Hodess Cleanroom Construction is a design build company that specializes in the design of cleanrooms. “We do cleanrooms for practically every industry out there that has a cleanroom,” says Blake Hodess, president for Hodess Cleanroom Construction. “Whether it’s pharmaceutical, defense, automotive, micro-electronics, food—we do every industry that does it. We specialize in designing cleanrooms from the cleanest classification of ISO 3 Class 10 to ISO 8 Class 100,000. We design and build them; we do the mechanical, electrical, architectural, and structural. We do everything.
“We come from a general contracting background, so we do more than just the walls or ceilings,” says Hodess. “We have the ability to modify buildings and do all sorts of things to get the customers a cleanroom where they want it. That’s what we are, and that’s what we do. As a company, we have been doing cleanrooms for twenty-six years, and as an individual, I have been doing them for thirty-six years.
“A lot of our competitors just do cleanroom walls and ceilings. Or they might do cleanroom walls, ceilings, and the mechanical system. But they don’t want to do everything else that might go along with it: the concrete, steel, perimeter spaces. So, they’re not cleanrooms,” says Hodess.
Another of Hodess Cleanroom Construction’s advantages is how it subcontracts its designs. It does not design in-house. Companies with in-house design need to keep designers on payroll, even when they are not busy, which can bring design costs up. “We work with many different industries and firms that we’ve worked with many times, who are very efficient,” says Hodess. “So, we can keep our design costs under control.”
Hodess Cleanroom Construction has a very good relationship with both engineers and designers. “We have a dozen or so firms that we do business with all the time,” says Hodess. “We’ve got design firms that will take our work, over any of their other customers, any day of the week, as they are very proactive. And we give good feedback. In a recent meeting, our mechanical engineer said that it was great going through the drawing with us because most customers don’t give any feedback.
“We get a set of drawings on a design, that we look at and compare to our own estimate as well as what the owner asked for, and we get a lot of feedback so the architect and the engineer can, as they are designing, make corrections and clarifications,” says Hodess. “So, when we are ready to use the documents, we don’t have a lot of change orders, and we don’t have to go out and bid a few too many times. We are very proactive. I would say that the engineering and architectural firms that work with us really enjoy working with us, because we also try to solve problems in the field. We go back to them for information but they are dealing with professionals; they don’t have to worry about such things as: ‘Do I turn a screw to the right or to the left? Or, was that really 6 inches or 6 1/2 inches? Do I need an extra elbow?’
“We’re very creative,” says Hodess. “We look at jobs and try to come up with the best system for each one, depending on the job.” When a company has its own wall or air system, it has to use that same system on every one of its jobs. No one else is going to sell that system to that company. So, that company cannot necessarily say that it has come up with the best combined system on every job when it is using its own systems. “Where we don’t use our own systems, this gives us a competitive advantage.”
Hodess Cleanroom Construction has been rated in the top six hundred specialty contractors by Engineering News Record. “This means that our volume is such that we are considered a relatively reputable large player in the specialty construction market, which includes many other parts besides cleaning rooms,” says Hodess. “We were considered the largest company they reported to ENR.”
The company has a very high amount of repeat business. “Probably about eighty-five of our work comes from repeat customers,” says Hodess. When doing a job, Hodess Cleanroom Construction often gets called on to do a second job on the same project. “We get an opportunity to do that work, and that’s an accomplishment. We can do (multiple) jobs—from the smallest of $50,000 to as big as $23 million—in a single project. This gives us a big diversity so we can work for many customers. We are doing five to twenty jobs in a year. Some of which are smaller jobs that go fast, because we can do both the big and little jobs.”
Hodess Cleanroom Construction believes in straight answers, solid thinking, and strong commitment. “We are very big on understanding a customer’s needs; telling (the customer) how we are going to meet the need, and then delivering on time and on budget—safely,” says Hodess. “We are a straight-talk company. We try to think of the best solution for our customers and then implement that solution.
“We interviewed one hundred different customers on the phone, and we asked a lot of questions, which led to me writing a book about contracting, and it differentiated us from our competitors. Whole straight answers and solid strong commitments, is what our customers said made us different from a lot of other construction and cleanroom companies who blew smoke and promised things that they didn’t deliver,” says Hodess.
The book is called Straight Answers to 20 Questions Building Contractors Hope You’ll Never Ask. “I was tired of listening to people making comments about contractors not being honest and forthright. In some cases, contractors have a bad reputation,” says Hodess. “I wanted to write a book for the customers from the customer’s viewpoint. We felt that we should get the customer’s point of view about contracting and what’s important to the customer, not the contractor saying ‘we think you should think this is important’. So, we interviewed customers, engineers, and people like that—none of our subcontractors, but people that we knew in the industry that were building and owning buildings, et cetera.
“We tried to put together a program that would allow the customer to sit down and interview a contractor and get straight answers,” says Hodess. “Answers that would tell customers whether the contractor was really an honest, safe, quality contractor—whether the contractor was going to do the job properly. And the book has been a pretty big success with people who have read it and used it. We have had people come to our shows one year after getting our book and reading it and telling us how they had used the book to go out and evaluate contractors and select somebody to do their building and wound up with a very successful job because they had all the criteria.”
Hodess Cleanroom Construction prides itself on being a family company. “Even though we are a large company, we have a family aspect to us in terms of not only the employees, who are family, but in how most of our employees have been with us for fifteen to thirty-seven years,” says Hodess. “We have a very tight-knit and well-coordinated group of people that work for us. They know what needs to be done and what they need to do in order to get it done.
“If it needs to be done, we will do it,” says Hodess. “That is very important. It’s not about just being a number; it’s treating our people well. It’s treating our subcontractors well; it’s paying on time, having good relationships with existing clients, and getting plenty of repeat work. All of those things are a very important part of our (work) culture and company.
“The fact that we are in every industry that does cleanrooms differentiates us from some of our competitors,” says Hodess. “We can do small jobs, big jobs, and general construction. Our work is the biggest differentiating factor. We get a lot of work where a customer comes to us with a proposal from a competitor who doesn’t do the concrete and/or steel, and they won’t put this or that on the roof. The customer is wondering how they’re supposed to figure it out. And when we say that we’ve got it all, that’s what makes up the difference between our competitor and us.”
Hodess Cleanroom Construction aims to one day be recognized as the best cleanroom company in the country. “We would like to be the people that people think of first, when they think of cleanroom or when they need a cleanroom,” says Hodess. “When customers do their web search or any kind of homework, we want Hodess Cleanroom Construction to be the first company that people go to.”