Devoted to the Long Haul
By Paul Deffenbaugh, Editorial Director
View on the Metal Construction News Website
Starting a construction company often seems like an act of faith, especially in a down economy. But in 1982, when Joe LaFave felt he was led by his faith to find a direction for his life and that direction was to start a construction company, he sought the wisdom of his pastor. As LaFave relates, “He said, ‘Young man, you need to make sure this is the Lord’s leading because there are many construction companies going out of business in this downturned economy.'”
LaFave pressed on, and 30 years later, LaFave’s Construction, Landis, N.C., is surviving the current downturn just as he survived the tough times in 1982. Back then, it was LaFave by himself with tools and truck and support from a part-time secretary. Today, LaFave’s Construction is a sophisticated operation that employs 40 people, generates $8 million in revenue annually and is licensed in four states-North Carolina, Photo Credits – Living Water, Ryan Hoshor. Anco Eaglin, Joe LaFave. All others, Mark Bouldin South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. The company provides design-build and construction management services, as well as maintenance and repair work and retrofit. The company prides itself on having expertise in every facet of commercial construction.
However, a significant reason for LaFave’s Construction being able to weather the downturn is its increase in metal retrofit work. That is one of the few segments of the metal construction industry and commercial construction that has not been decimated. LaFave’s Construction moved into the niche with a bang in 2004 when it earned low-bidder position on a metal retrofit roof project. The company turned to Metal Roof Consultants, Cary, N.C., founded by Chuck Howard, P.E. Howard brought his years of experience in retrofit metal roofing and continues to assist on projects with LaFave’s Construction. Says LaFave, “We have maintained that independent consulting relationship with MRC throughout the years and it has been mutually beneficial for us as well as them.”
For the last eight years, LaFave’s Construction has seen strong growth from its retrofit metal roofing push so that now it accounts for about 50 percent of the company revenues. The company self-performs all the work and has invested in its own fully automated metal shop that produces all trim and roof curbs. “This has enabled us to maintain higher quality projects as well as being able to respond to job needs in a more efficient and timely manner,” LaFave says.
LaFave’s Construction also offers services in metal building projects and has constructed a lot of churches and industrial projects. “Both of these clients have specific needs that present design opportunities,” says LaFave. “I consider it a challenge to determine the best application of layout, design, materials and subcontractors to meet the customers’ needs in the most efficient manner.”
As every contractor knows, the business can be brutal and cyclical, but LaFave’s Construction is devoted to the long haul. That means success is built on relationships. “Relationships mean a lot to us,” says LaFave. “Companies providing high-quality product at competitive prices along with service after the project is completed means everything to us. We realize our name is only as good as those who partner with us on any given project.”
The success of that relationship building shows in the high percentage of work that comes from repeat customers. That ability to nurture long-term bonds comes from a management philosophy and company culture that puts the customer first. “Quality ethics and principles are what this company was founded on and by God’s grace, we will continue to strive for these things,” says LaFave. He credits the success of the company to the “best employees in the industry” who understand and share the management philosophy. “I am very thankful for our employees and their commitment and contributions to the company,” he says.
And the future? “I believe having been able to survive and actually see growth over the past few years during the downturn says a lot about the potential of the company moving forward. We want to continue to grow and provide services to our customer base.”
Retrofit Roof Superintendent
Year Founded: 1982
Location: Landis, N.C.
Markets Served: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee
2011 Total Revenue: $8 million
Number of Employees: 40
Services Offered: Commercial construction, retrofit metal roofing,industrial maintenance
Metal Roofing Square Footage Installed
2009: 166,500 square feet
2010: 137,600 square feet
2011: 544,800 square feet
Roofing Manufacturer Affiliation:
MBCI, Houston; McElroy Metal, Bossier City, La.;
Construction Metal Products Inc., Statesville, N.C.
Metal Building Systems Square Footage Installed
2009: 68,000 square feet
2010: 159,600 square feet
2011: 2,400 square feet
(LaFave’s Construction also does wood frame construction.)
Building Manufacturer Affiliation:
Metallic Building Co., Houston;
Varco Pruden Buildings, Memphis, Tenn