Building Relationships. Not Just Buildings

The Skillman Corporation

Family-owned Skillman Corporation was founded in 1972 and has two main offices in Indiana and Michigan from which it primarily serves the Midwest. The company is specialized in project administration and construction management and prides itself on, “building relationships, not just buildings.”
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The Skillman Corporation was started by Harold Skillman. “He always went by Hap,” says Bart York, Executive Vice President of The Skillman Corporation. “It began as a family firm, and it is still owned by the family today.”

The company was started as Construction Management in Indianapolis, Indiana, and that is where its corporate headquarters remain. “The company was unique in that, at that time, most of the construction managers came out of general contractor companies. But in this case, the company was started to first be a service to the client. In other words, we were not a contractor; we were a construction management service,” says York.

“Construction management as a delivery system came about around that same time, so it was a new delivery, and Hap realized that it was a service that might be useful, especially for owners that are not building a new building every day,” says York. “Most of our client base, of which our biggest market is K-12 public education, doesn’t build a school every day, and they can’t afford to have someone on their staff [who knows how to build]. We give those clients that service. In addition to an architect, they can have someone with construction knowledge on their professional team.”

One of the aspects that make The Skillman Corporation unique is how it has remained in pure construction management. “We don’t self-perform any work,” says York. “We don’t have any conflict of interest because we are not managing ourselves. We’re managing other contractors as we do business, and we are managing on behalf of the owner (client) that we work for.”

Of course, The Skillman Corporation has had its share of challenges. “Everyone in our industry is being challenged right now with not having a sufficient workforce,” says York. “So, as we grow, as we turn over our staff in succession planning, all companies (not just us) in the construction business are suffering from not having enough young people getting into the business. Our biggest challenge right now is being able to continue with the quality of people that we know we need in order to do a good job for our clients.”

As a solution to that problem, the company promotes from within whenever possible and has teamed up with other small businesses to create an incubator of sorts. “We also typically have two to three interns every year from universities that we hope continue to be interns with us while they’re in school and to then come back for employment with us when they graduate.”

Among the company’s many projects, a standout example is the Elkhart Centre, an exceptional project with multiple owners that really demonstrates The Skillman Corporation’s talent. The firm also worked on a new building for the YMCA and renovated and added onto the Indiana University Kelley School of Business campus, which was a six-year project because it had to be done in phases.

The Skillman Corporation is always looking to expand and improve. “Our biggest market is K-12 public education, but we’ve reached out and gotten into some new markets and some new deliveries, such as healthcare, developers, building developers and private work,” says York. “We’re also doing another process called construction management at risk,” he says.

“Harold (Hap) Skillman saw a need for the clients to have somebody at the table of early planning to help them from a construction standpoint,” says York. “Our emphasis remains on taking care of the clients. It always has been and always will be. I know every company can say that, but it’s more than just a saying for us; it’s the culture of the company, and it’s also realized when ninety percent of our clientele are repeats,” he shares.

“In our mission, the first thing is client care and serving the best interest of our clients,” says York. “In that sense, we’re different from many companies. A lot of companies get a job, do the project, and then they’re onto the next project. But that’s not the way we feel.”

The Skillman Corporation has a strong guiding force. “We believe that you have to know people; you have to trust people, and you have to work with people before they can make a judgment on whether or not they should hire you to do a job for them. It’s not just about the fee,” says York. “We put a lot of emphasis on being good neighbors, working and investing in the community and all those kinds of things that make us who we are. And we encourage our employees to volunteer, to work where they live and to help others that are not as fortunate. People know that we are more than just a construction manager,” he shares.

“Those are our guiding forces,” says York. “And they continue to give us a pretty good footing for what we do and how we do it every day.”

The Skillman Corporation has always made a point of planning for its future. “It may be unusual for a family-owned firm, but we’ve focused on succession planning and plotting out our future,” says York. “We’re pretty proud of the succession planning that we’ve done in the years past, especially now that some of it is coming to be. And we’ll be sure that we’re selecting, developing and mentoring future leaders of the company so that we can continue with the idea that we have, which is: when you leave, you leave the company better than you found it.”

The Skillman Corporation credits consistency with its success. “Something that we’re really proud of is the consistency of our company,” says York. “It is the consistency and tenure of our employees and the policies that we’ve developed, which have enabled us… to provide good quality service to our clients, and that makes us unique in the construction industry,” he says.

“We’re very proud that we have a long-standing tenure of employees. Our employees do not move around. Once they get with us, they stay with us,” says York. “Not only does the long tenure of our employees speak to the quality of the company, but more importantly, it allows us to provide consistent services to our clients. For six years now, we have been recognized as one of the best places to work in Indiana,” says York. “We’re pretty proud of that.”

He adds that, “We’ve been a very successful company throughout the years. In this industry, there are a lot of ups and downs. But we’ve consistently anticipated the downs, and so, we didn’t suffer like many of the other companies did. That is due to good planning and staying on course of what our mission is.”

As the company continues to grow and build relationships, it will still offer consistent, dedicated service to its clients. “We’re going to continue to serve the K-12 market because it’s a market that needs our services, and it’s a market that we know better than anyone else,” says York. “We’re also going to continue to diversify and work with private developers, possibly getting involved in partnerships and continuing to develop the workforce,” he says.

“Our largest growth, in the past fifteen years, is happening right now,” says York. There is no denying that the future is looking bright for The Skillman Corporation.

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 16, 2019, 1:54 PM EDT