A One-Stop Shop for All Concrete Needs
Southwest Construction Services
Twenty-five years is a milestone anniversary for Dallas-based Southwest Construction Services, whose work spans the entire concrete field. While the company’s roots run deep in Texas, the team goes where their clients take them, expanding into new service areas and working in more than 20 states.
Southwest Construction Services was formed in 1993 by President Charlie Stewart and CEO Tim Underwood with the intent of providing horizontal joint sealants for parking lots. They’d met when Stewart worked for Underwood’s father as a sales rep for a steel fabrication company, but when he passed away, “the company was sold to another entity and wasn’t managed the way I wanted to work.”
“So,” continues Underwood, taking up the story, “the idea of our own company was sprung and I said, ‘Heck, we can do this!’, so we started Southwest Sealers in October, 1993. We really started small; I like to say we were two men and a truck and then we hired our first employee. Today we have approximately 600 employees, more in summer and fewer in winter, and a lot more trucks.”
In addition to a lot more trucks, the company utilizes some highly specialized equipment including the Soft-Cut® excavating robot. If you’re wondering why a company that seals horizontal joints in parking lots requires such sophisticated equipment, read on, because Southwest Sealers has grown to become ever so much more.
Over time, the company morphed into Southwest Construction Services (SCS) which brings together under one roof divisions that focus on waterproofing and sealing, sawing, demolition, restoration, preservation and landscaping services. In essence, if it involves concrete, consultants at SCS can figure out the best way to do the job and then do it.
As Underwood says, “It was our customer base, who really are our friends, who decided what service they would like us to add.”
According to Stewart, “Instead of adding more customers, we added more services to the same customer, so we were able to make it easier for those guys to build jobs when they can work with one contractor for multiple services and that gives us the one-stop shop mentality. And that’s been working for us. When we see something that makes sense we add it to our business model and we take the same model and skills that have been working for us and we use them in our new business, including Southwest Landscaping Services, added this year. And we hire experts in the field, so these guys are specialists. They are waterproofing guys (specializing in waterproofing building envelopes) and restoration and repair specialists and all these divisions work separately but come together.”
Even though the scope of the business has evolved over 25 years, other things haven’t, including the company’s vision of “doing things a little bit different and a whole lot better.”
That’s reflected in the fact that, “we have expertise in each division, but above all we care about safety and quality on the job and we’ve got three in-house safety directors, because safety is an integral part of our business and we have a quality control specialist who goes out and makes sure the work we perform is the quality we expect,” says Underwood.
Stewart continues, “I think our biggest accomplishment is that we build people. We build employees with integrity and honor and we educate these guys in terms of customer service and being quality people and doing the right thing.”
The Charlie A. Stewart Jr. Memorial Training Center plays a pivotal role in this education, which gives newly hired employees the training they need to be successful in daily operations, from general day-to-day safety to U.S.-approved Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training because the company believes it’s a duty to send workers out with the knowledge to save lives. In addition to extensive training, the facility hosts companywide events to recognize sales leaders, and team-building events, with team leaders meeting for weekly Toolbox and production meetings with their respective teams.
“They surprised me and put the training center in my dad’s name,” says Stewart, “and I’m very proud. My dad worked for me when I started and stayed for 19 years until he passed away. He’d retired at age 60, but he said, ‘your mother is driving me crazy, I have to do something,’ so he came to work for me. He never left, and he was instrumental in helping me develop the vision early on.”
Underwood agrees. “His dad was a good man and it’s interesting how our fathers were involved in our lives and I think the quality of the people we are came from the influence of our dads.”
Stewart affirms, “I worked for Tim’s dad and I knew the quality of man he was, and Tim knew the quality of my dad and I think that’s why our partnership survived. Many small businesses don’t make it to 25 years, but I think we learned a lot from our dads who put hard work and integrity into our veins and made us who we are.
“When we hire we look for quality people; I think our goal is to find someone who is grounded, has good morals and is family-oriented and of course, whatever their trade, we want to pick a top guy or woman. We strive every day to be leaders for our people and for our industry. We want to be respected and have our people respected and we want our people to be proud to work here. I’m proud and Tim is as well.”
When we asked them if they’d like to speak specifically about some of their more challenging projects, Underwood mentions Kyle Field, the Texas A & M University stadium completed in 2014.
“We did the concrete and it was challenging just because it was a massive project and there was a deadline for a scheduled game, so it had to be done. Our trade was the last one in and we had to do double time just to get to the finish line, but we got there, and everyone was happy. Singling out others is difficult because we’ve done so many and right now we have over 350 projects underway.”
The kinds of projects SCS takes on run the gamut from highway and bridge repair along with epoxy injection and sandblasting, to name just a few services under the Southwest Restoration & Remedial Services (SRS) branch. The team does large-scale building demolition through Southwest Demolition Services (SDS); landscaping through Southwest Landscape Services (SLS); and preserves and beautifies concrete.
Through Decorative Concrete Services, worn-out, drab concrete in corporate offices, retail, restaurant and event spaces are upgraded or restored. Micro-topping and thin-set overlays in a variety of colors give the space a clean look without modifying the structure, while stamped concrete (textured or imprinted concrete) provides the look of high quality stone, wood or brick at a fraction of the cost of using other materials. This branch also offers concrete polishing, staining and grinding options including custom designs and logos.
SCS has taken its initial expertise in sealing horizontal joints to an entirely new level through waterproofing and damp-proofing, essential for building envelopes which must protect the contents of the building as well as the structural integrity. Among the company’s offerings are fluid and sheet waterproofing systems applied below grade, on mezzanines, balconies and roofs; installation of expansion joint assemblies; and air barrier systems.
Within SCS there is another branch that specializes in sawing, as the company is a leading provider of soff-cut (early entry) sawing to reduce shrinking cracks and control slurry. Employees who’ve gone through the program at the training center are able to operate a variety of concrete saws and power tools used for cutting concrete, masonry, brick, asphalt, tile and other solid materials. They range from small hand-held cut-off saws to walk-behind saws, powered by gasoline, hydraulic or pneumatic pressure or electric motors.
The diversified offerings of SCS “keeps us at the top of the Rolodex,” says Underwood, “as each of our divisions complement each other. Someone may call us for concrete repair, but the repair may involve our structural division and then our polishing division where we can do some aesthetics to it, so not only can we repair, we can make it look pretty. And we can solve problems.”
“We’re consultants and people will call us when they have a new construction job and they will call us when they have a problem,” Stewart says. “They can call us for anything because we’re like the Shawshank Redemption guy who can find anything you need. [In the 1994 film, Morgan Freeman’s character] says, ‘I can get you anything,’ so we pride ourselves on being problem solvers for the concrete industry and the gurus for cracks and repairs. We work with a lot of companies as consultants. We do the actual work ourselves, but we can also help our fellow concrete guys with their repairs.”
In October SCS is set to celebrate 25 years. “We have a couple of events planned,” says Stewart, “one here at the office, and we’ll have a lot of music and food trucks for our employees and then we have another at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys practice and that’s for all our customers, general contractors, the architects and engineers, building owners, suppliers and all the people who’ve been part of our success story. We’ve been blessed with a great partnership, a good economy, employees we call family and customers we call friends.”