Growth through Diversity
LMC Industrial Contractors
For a company that enters the industrial contracting industry, there are usually two paths from which to choose: specialize in one area and be the best around or build a wide knowledge base and offer your customer something broader. LMC Industrial Contractors sits comfortably somewhere between these two pathways.
This is a company that has diversified its service portfolio to cover almost every area of a potential project while simultaneously up-skilling its staff to offer the highest quality to clients. It was founded by Lawrence Mehlenbacher, almost forty years ago. He is the chief executive officer and explains how the company grew inch by inch since then.
“It would be quite difficult to tell you what we do because we do a number of things. At this juncture, the company has been in business since July 1st, 1982. Myself and two other gentlemen formed the company, so this July, we will be going into our thirty-eighth year. It has grown substantially. We had an opportunity to do some business with a local manufacturer, and from that, it led to more opportunities. Our business continued to grow, and by last year, we were in the range of 650 to 675 employees.”
At the time, LMC focused on the skills its small workforce could offer. Lawrence suggests that the aims of the company had to be scaled down in favor of the more limited number of services it was able to supply then.
“When the company was first set up, we, the founding members, were essentially tradespeople. Myself and one of the partners were pipe-fitter welders, and the other gentleman was a licensed plumber.”
These skills proved worthwhile, however. It struck a deal to work with an established firm, and things moved swiftly from there. “1982 wasn’t exactly a banner year, economy wise, but we were able to work with a company on a grassroots project. That company was General Foods, which has now been rolled into Kraft Foods. We did some work in one of their food processing plants doing some refrigeration work, and from there, we branched into the energy sector work, power plants, and work in those areas.”
These sectors were not new territory for those at LMC as Lawrence’s own background was in welding and rigging nuclear power plants. This pathway led to a sustained period of significant growth. “We were then able to secure some contracts with some of the coal-fired power generation facilities in the area. Obviously, that market has changed significantly now. The coal plants in the United States have pretty much shut down, but we now work with a number of different industries.”
The company saw potential in continuing its expansion and diversification. This meant that it needed to hire skilled staff in multiple sectors. Soon, it was offering clients a wide range of services. “We expanded the business into general construction, where we can offer concrete work, site excavation, pipe fitting, welding work. Really, the only area we subcontract out would be the electrical installation work within our jobs. Everything else we handle internally.”
Lawrence is unequivocal when asked how this growth model proved to be a success: the staff. “Through some of the customers we worked with, other opportunities came up, and also, as the company grew and we brought in new, talented people from other sectors, they brought skill-sets with them that made it advantageous for us to make the most of those opportunities. The company has grown primarily because of the people that have come on board and worked with us. It is entirely driven by good, talented people who have the right attitude.”
While LMC enjoyed the expansion and growth, this meant that in-house policies and procedures also needed to improve and develop. The company was learning on the job, and as each new project came down the line, so too did more professional requirements.
“There have been changes. As the company has grown and we have dealt with larger corporations on larger projects, we have had to put processes in place for documenting our quality control and our safety programs, things of that nature. The largest segment of the companies we work for require more documentation and processes that have to be followed to meet their standard operating procedures, so we have had to grow and adapt internally. At the end of the day, it has made us a better company.”
One aspect of the business that Lawrence identifies as an ongoing challenge is maintaining its position at the forefront of the industry. LMC has knowledge and in-house skill well-developed; however, offering these services at a cost-effective level to potential clients is necessary to stay at the top.
“It has been a learning curve. We had to figure out what changes we needed to make in order to stay competitive. We are working with multi-billion dollar companies, particularly in the energy sector. We work with all of the major oil and gas companies. In order to work for those people in those sectors, you just have to have certain standards. I think we have our standards and processes in place now, but obviously, there is always outside competition who are trying to secure the same work as we do. It is a challenge to make sure that you put competitive numbers together as far as your bids are concerned and also to have the correct equipment and personnel to do the job properly and in a cost-effective way. That is probably one of our biggest challenges – securing more jobs and being competitive.”
The company is now in a position where its reputation precedes it, and it is continuously invited to bid on projects, something that Lawrence identifies as evidence of LMC’s standing within the industry. In addition to this, he believes that the multi-faceted aspect of its services truly sets it apart from its competitors.
“We have a reputation for providing good quality service; we have good equipment; we have a good safety record. We also have extremely talented personnel. We can offer so much more than just one particular segment of the industry. We can handle a project on a turnkey basis, from start to finish. It takes a lot, from a customer’s standpoint, to coordinate multiple subcontractors, and one of the things that we can offer is just that, from plan to actualization.”
This diverse range of services may have gotten the company to where it now stands; however, LMC has no intention of easing off in that regard. “We are also expanding into other areas. We now have our bridge certification to do infrastructure work, such as fabricating bridges, and this is on top of our existing areas. We are often invited to bid on airport work. Over the years, we have done a lot of baggage conveyor installations for the major airports on the east coast. That is something of a cyclical market, but it is one that we are seeing coming back. I think there is going to be a fair amount of modernization in that area over the next ten years or so.”
The company is leading the way in a fast-paced industry, offering clients personal services from a knowledgeable workforce with almost four decades of experience. However, Lawrence feels it is vital that one overlooked aspect should be given its due when it comes to identifying the secret of LMC’s ongoing success.
“We empower our staff to make decisions. We want them to look at the day-to-day operations and the issues that present themselves on projects and to make skilled, informed choices. When they make those decisions or choices, we stand right there behind them.”