Building a National Face for Foundation Services
Groundworks Companies owns and operates ten companies that provide foundation services, eight of which are consumer-facing service providers and two of which serve the company in a more internal fashion.
The eight public faces include Complete Basement Systems (founded in 1999, located in Denver, Colorado), Florida Foundation Authority (founded in 2017, located in Orlando, Florida), Foundation Recovery Systems (founded in 1992, with three locations in Missouri), Indiana Foundation Services (founded in 1993, serving Greater Indianapolis), JES Foundation Repair (founded in 1993, with five locations in Virginia), Mount Valley Foundation Services (founded in 1986, with two locations serving South Carolina and Georgia), Ohio Basement Authority (founded in 2010, located in Columbus, Ohio), and Tar Heel Basement Systems (founded in 2003, with three branches and one warehouse facility in North Carolina).
The two interior businesses are Bizwiz, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform which produces industry leading software that runs all Groundworks companies and is also used by many other foundation services companies, and Independence Materials Group (IMG), a manufacturer, wholesaler, and distributor that is vertically integrated into the companies’ supply chain, creating a competitive advantage.
All these companies operate under the same corporate umbrella but serve different areas of the United States. Groundworks itself was named as the parent company of the brands in the beginning of 2018, taking its name from a longstanding employee newsletter produced by JES called The Groundwork. Chief Marketing Officer Cary McGuckin shared that JES Foundation Repair was the first company acquired by Succession Capital under the supervision of Managing Partner Matt Malone in 2016, who subsequently assumed the role of CEO of JES Companies, with the others following.
McGuckin says that the businesses under Groundworks range between ten and 30-plus years old, with many having started from humble beginnings before growing to sizable enterprises. The companies all provide foundation services, including foundation repair, crawlspace repair and encapsulation, basement waterproofing, and concrete lifting. While other companies may only specialize in one of these services, Groundworks can provide all of them under what it looks at holistically as “water management around the home.” Currently it offers its services across 14 states, through the various brands it manages.
He defines the company’s approach to the industry model as atypical because it sees itself as a disruptor for how it chooses to do business. The industry standard is a typical dealer/distributor model in which product suppliers control a market and assign territories to dealers. Groundworks instead aims to build a national corporation, providing a consistent level of quality and service across various locations. McGuckin remarks that there is no national player in the market today, so the company is looking to fill that gap itself and elevate work and solutions in the industry in doing so.
Having this scale builds a platform of support, as the company can centralize elements like accounting, payroll, marketing and human resources into one location, so the focus of each of the brands remains on delivering the best service. This scale also attracts superior talent to the company, allowing each team to be at an elite level and provide expertise that no single business in the industry can.
What is more, Groundworks owns its own software through Bizwiz, which gives greater control of how the company looks and performs. And, in owning IMG, it can buy directly from manufacturers and build its own products in-house, with all products and patents made and assembled in America through its research and development department and at a 50,000-square -foot manufacturing facility in South Carolina.
Groundworks operates under a core set of values that are a part of regular discussion and decision making. “No one person is better than anyone else, we all have a role and responsibility, and we must treat everyone with equal respect,” he states. Recognition within the company is based on what employees deliver and the quality of work they put forth. “We are a true meritocracy.”
McGuckin says that Groundworks is creating paths of future career development that never existed when the businesses were individually owned. If someone proves their worth through applying their skills, they have the real potential to move up within the company, especially since employees are not limited to one location thanks to its various divisions.
The company has seen rapid growth recently, with 35 percent year-over-year growth reported in 2018. McGuckin admits that with this comes further challenges, such as with the ability to scale and manage this growth while maintaining the quality of service expected of the Groundworks name.
To ensure the highest quality, the company also offers training like no other in the industry through ‘Groundworks University,’ an off-site advanced training program that, combined with online support modules, is offered to all employees for continuous skill improvement. It also partners with Echelon Front, a consulting company made up of former Navy SEALs who apply military leadership lessons to business. McGuckin finds the partnership to be particularly helpful in improving employee morale and effectiveness. He believes that a company must scale and manage growth by building more talent, and points to the company’s “great bench strength of future leaders,” who will step up to new opportunities as they are created along the way.
McGuckin believes that the workplace culture stands out as everyone in the company, at every level, operates under the philosophy of winning together. This naturally involves much teamwork and so means that the company is very selective in its hiring process, choosing people based on both ability and their fit into the company culture. Employees must be dedicated to doing a job right and treating the customer’s home like their own.
Groundworks now sports over one thousand employees across its many locations. McGuckin calls them a world-class team and notes that when it comes to a single person doing a job versus a dedicated team of experts, there is simply no contest.
The company holds fast to its goal of becoming the first national foundation service company. “A home is a person’s biggest asset. [Groundworks] wants to be able to provide customers the quality of service they deserve, from a company they can trust, no matter where that customer may be,” McGuckin says. He feels that the company is well on its way, revealing that it will be on track for over $250 million in revenue for 2019.
Generally, Groundworks looks to continue organic expansion with consistent growth, while it acquires market leading businesses that give it a presence in new markets. Its nationwide service goal may be challenging at times, but Groundworks has already more than laid the foundation toward making that idea a reality.