A New Direction
B. Tait Builders
Building on his experience as an ironworker, Brian Tait Sr. launched a construction business, B. Tait Builders in 1980. The Pennsauken, New Jersey, company grew steadily from humble beginnings to earn its place in the industry, and is now able to work in forty-eight states. Christopher Tait, the founder’s son and current owner, joined the family company as soon as he was of age.
“I started working for my father right out of high school,” he remembers. “I worked my way through the business sweeping floors and then framing walls, hanging drywall and pouring concrete.”
For the first three decades, the business operated as a self-performing contractor but then Christopher identified a new opportunity for the business and proposed that he “take the company in a different direction.” Brian Tait, Sr. listened to his son and saw the potential in the plan. “He took my word for it after being in business all those years,” Christopher remembers, “and we’ve had really good success with it.”
B. Tait Builders adopted an entirely new business model based on his vision. “We transitioned to a construction management firm,” he explains. “We don’t touch tools; we have project managers and assistant project managers and site superintendents. We do our due diligence for our clients, and we make sure that we have proper coverage for each trade… We oversee the whole project to make sure it’s going well and staying on schedule, and on budget.”
This approach is by no means unique, but the company puts its own spin on it, particularly when it comes to customer service. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Christopher says. “There are thousands of contractors that do the same thing as we do. We just try to make ourselves available, and we really emphasize communication.”
This commitment requires substantial time and effort. “We try to make ourselves available 24/7,” he elaborates. “We just try to be there, try to be present, try to always make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
The company is small enough to make this possible. “We have the ability to keep it personable.” However, as a mid-sized company, B. Tait Builders is also large enough to get the job done. “We’re nimble enough to go after larger projects too.”
As a family-owned business, company culture is important to the team. “I always watched how he [Brian Tait Sr.] treated people, and in a couple downturns in the economy, I saw that he always treated everyone like they were part of his family, and he always took care of people,” Christopher says. “I’m trying to carry on that torch and treat people the same way; treat them fair.”
This includes pushing for work-life balance by giving employees enough flexibility to spend time with their families and enjoy life. “We just like to make sure that our employees have the freedom to take time off for their kids, personal interests, and vacations.”
B. Tait Builders takes on a variety of projects, from restaurants and warehouses to car washes, hair salons, and shopping centers. The company works closely with several big-name clients such as Crumble Cookies, IKEA, Airgas, LIDL, and Planet Fitness. “We’ve probably done forty Planet Fitness locations between New Jersey and Southern California,” Christopher says.
One recent, unique project was for a luxury car club in Ocean Township, New Jersey. The two-story, thirty-nine-thousand-square-foot, high-end build included a car elevator, bar, and lounge in addition to private garages.
Design-build has become a major component of the company, and the team creates its own projects approximately seventy percent of the time. “We hire our own civil engineers, architects, and [mechanical, electrical, plumbing] as well as structural engineers,” he says. “Clients will approach us from the time that they’re looking to buy a property and we can develop a [record of materials], [develop] a budget for them to determine the feasibility of it, and then, if they say this makes sense, they cut us loose, and we see the whole project through from site design all the way through construction to closeout.”
The majority of this business comes from repeat clients. “We’ve had excellent success with it,” Christopher says. “We’re good at managing the overall expectations, and getting things done efficiently.” He gives the recent example of the luxury car club in Ocean Township, New Jersey as an example. “That’s a design-build,” he says. The project went beyond the client’s “wheelhouse, so they brought us in to manage the whole building design, and we’re right on schedule. It’s just what we do.”
Christopher took over complete leadership from his father at the beginning of this year, so the company is now firmly planted on its new path. “My father and I were on a two-year plan originally, where I probably wouldn’t be taking over for another year and a half,” he says, “but he approached me about just speeding it up and doing it by the end of , and I’m thrilled to take it over. He’s still going to be involved day to day, troubleshooting complex issues as they arise at the project level, and working with our team in the field to resolve issues. I [am the] majority owner now, but I am thrilled to have my father by my side with his vast knowledge base and experience in all aspects of construction.”
The transition has been smooth overall, as was the shift from a self-performing construction business to construction management. “He trusts me, and it’s really great working with him,” Christopher says of the evolving business relationship with his father.
He plans to keep the company’s core values the same but “I’ll put my own little spin on the company,” he says. “We’ve implemented a lot of new policies here. Safety has become very prominent here with our growth. We’re in a lot of high-profile projects, and we want to put our staff and our subs in a safe position and make sure that that’s a priority here.” Technology will be another major focus moving forward. “Technology’s huge,” he says. “We try to track as much as we can through data, and aim to be as efficient as possible.”
Slow and steady wins the race and Christopher is in no hurry to rush any changes. “We didn’t want to just do it in one fell swoop. We’ve been doing it over the past couple of years, and it’s exciting to see it all come together.” As the new owner, he plans to “always try to keep my ear to the floor and see what’s coming into the industry and try to stay ahead of the curve.”
The company is already showing evidence of staying ahead of that curve. B. Tait Builders has begun taking on larger projects with more prominent clients.
Shifting to a new business model hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth the effort and risk. “It’s been a process,” Christopher says. “It was almost like we had a start-up again. My dad had this extremely successful business with a great reputation [for] thirty-five years and then, one day, we just flip the switch and were like, ‘Let’s change,’ and so, with that change, came some growing pains and learning some tough lessons but through that whole process, [we’re] getting stronger.”
In fact, the difficult part of the transition is in the past. “We’re in a good place right now. We’ve been very successful.” After establishing a lucrative new path—while building on a solid foundation—B. Tait Builders is all set for another thirty-five years of growth and industry leadership.