Published in Metal Construction News
by Paul Deffenbaugh, Posted 07/31/2013
Over the last 25 years, CHG Building Systems, Renton, Wash., has grown to become one of the notable construction companies in the Seattle area. While the company does projects all over the Western United States and Alaska, its within the Seattle market that it gets most of its business, and it has become known as a company that can handle difficult projects and deliver quality construction on time and budget.
Charles H. Grouws, known as Chuck, founded the company in 1987 and erected commercial metal buildings and did repair services. His son, Steve, joined the company in 1990 and at that time the structural steel side of the business accelerated up. In 1999, the other son, Ryan, came on board on the metal building side. Dividing the company into separate divisions allowed the family to focus and grow each division independently, which benefited the whole of the company.
It's about people
But Ryan Grouws, speaking for the family, credits the employees with the success of the firm. "The growth has been through our people," he says. "A lot of our employees have been with us for 12 to 15 years plus." Grouws attributes those tenures to how the company treats its employees, the training it does, and because of their association with the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association (MBCEA) as well as the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), and the support and training they get from those organizations.
CHG offers competitive compensation packages but does so in a family environment of support. "Everyone participates," says Grouws. "And everyone is expected to perform to a certain level." The employees who work in the company, both field and office, take incredible pride in their work. "Our people take pride in what they do and have everyone's best interest on a daily basis as a representative of the company and of themselves."
A significant portion of any strong employee culture is one that does a lot of education. CHG is no different. Calling on the resources of the MBCEA, ABC and other partners, such as the company's equipment rental vendor, they provide lots of training that help employees to certify for a wide variety of tasks and skills. "We do a lot of metal building specific training for different roof systems and insulation systems," Grouws says. That training is in addition to welding, rigging, equipment operation and a host of others.
For a company that provides a wide variety of services, from very complicated and sophisticated projects to simple one-day welding jobs, managing and scheduling crews can be problematic. But the training pays off here as well. "Most of the crews do cross training," says Grouws. "More than one person on a crew can do metal working or sheet metal."
Leading to growth
Training does more than just provide a dynamic, well-prepared workforce. It also helps the company diversify its services. During the recent downturn, diversification was a key to survival. To keep crews busy and carry on, the CHG did high-end residential projects and were successful in landing a number of government projects on the two major military bases: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma, Wash., which serves the Army and Air Force, and the Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, Wash.
"Cross training is very important to the success of our building the company," says Grouws. Structural steel is driving the market now, but if it flip-flops, I can send a crew member to the pre-engineered metal building and the quality will still be there."
The growth of the company has primarily come from the number of projects it takes on and doesn't necessarily rely on increased size of projects, which is true with some companies. Still, CHG has differentiated itself in the marketplace by handling the most demanding and sophisticated jobs.
"We've got a real clear idea about what it takes to do the big projects," says Grouws. He notes that they come along few and far between. The ideal kind of work would be one that requires both the structural steel and metal building experience the company brings to the table and would be a challenge to erect. "We excel at those because we feel we're the leader in the marketplace. Other companies may have to partner to be able to take on the project."
A good example is the Amtrak Maintenance Facility in downtown Seattle. Besides the complexity of the construction itself, it was also tight against the main entrance of Safeco Field, home of the Mariners baseball team, and involved active railroad tracks.
"We really try to instill with our people that a quality project means we'll have another chance to work. We're all interested in long-term, steady work. We get quite a bit of local press and that's a sense of pride for everyone."
The future is bright
Among the tools CHG relies on to differentiate it from its quality competition is the VP Command software. CHG is an authorized builder for Varco Pruden, Memphis, Tenn., and the VP Command software provides the design and engineering data to deliver projects on time and on budget. In addition, the company is looking to do more work with Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems that it hopes will further solidify its leadership position.
The future provides opportunities for continued growth both by expanding its market and gaining market share in the areas it is already covering. With a steady workforce that is devoted to quality and education, the company is poised to take advantage of all the opportunities that will arise.
Year Founded: 1987
Location: Renton, Wash.
Services Offered: Furnish and erect structural steel and pre-engineered building systems. Install architectural sheet metal. Offer seismic retrofitting, roof retrofit and hoisting services.
Geographic Areas of Service: Western U.S. and Alaska
Number of Employees: 60
Metal Buildings Square Footage Installed:
Authorized Builder: Varco Pruden
Charles H. Grouws, Founder and President
Steve Grouws, Vice President of Operations
Ryan Grouws, Project Manager/Safety Director