True to its Name
Noble Modern Builders brings best practices to the construction industry
When Richard Harris, President of Noble Modern Builders LLC, created a name for his firm, he did so with the goal that the name would communicate the company’s values. Those values include integrity, high quality, transparency and dependability (“noble”) and a commitment to world-class best practices in the construction industry (“modern”). That’s how the name Noble Modern Builders was born.
A Quarter-Century of Corporate Leadership Experience
Harris launched Noble Modern Builders in 2012 out of a love for leading companies that make great products. Coming from senior leadership positions in global companies in the automotive and manufacturing industries, his corporate background brings a wealth of knowledge for the tight execution processes and financial requirements involved in the construction industry. He was previously CFO and CEO of United Plastics Group, Inc. (now UPG), a global contract manufacturing company in the electronics, medical devices and automotive sectors; VP of Global Sales for Guilford Performance Textiles, an automotive supplier; and served as Director of Finance, Program Management and Cost Estimating for the North American Original Equipment division of Tenneco Automotive, also an automotive supplier.
In addition to experience, Harris has accumulated an extensive peer network, including CEOs in the construction industry, that helps keep him abreast of current trends and best practices. In short, he says, this background allows him to offer a better experience for customers, as Noble Modern Builders is able to apply a thorough understanding of corporate business concepts to the construction process.
Although Noble Modern Builders is headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, about an hour west of downtown Chicago, a significant portion of its projects are located in the Windy City.
Harris says, “I live in the city and love working in the city. We do great projects in the burbs, but we are good at downtown and working those logistics.” The company is adept at the licensing, permitting, logistics and other complexities involved in building within a large city setting. This includes having strong relationships with major material suppliers that routinely deliver to the city and are capable of placing materials in tricky spaces when necessary.
Driven by Process & Priorities
Noble Modern Builders’ projects include retail, restaurants, gyms, schools, offices and multifamily housing. Harris cites Romeoville Toyota, Panda Express, Trader Joe’s and the Ethan Allen store in Chicago as some of the projects he is most proud of.
The work his team performs often involves commercial renovation and retail build-outs, spanning from rough carpentry to fine finishes. Noble Modern Builders has the capability to do an entire build-out from scratch, including interior, exterior and design work. “We are multifaceted and do complex projects,” Harris says. “We do the external framing, internal framing, facade and fixtures.”
Harris describes his company as process-driven, a three-legged stool joining his team’s skills in corporate knowledge, estimating and project execution.
“Our leadership team is strong,” Harris says. Noble Modern Builders combines Harris’ nearly 30 years of experience in business strategy and finance; his chief estimating manager’s wealth of knowledge from 30 years of construction experience; and his construction manager’s 30 years of experience in project execution.
Harris attributes the firm’s success to its strength in these three areas: a sophisticated understanding of the complex finances involved in construction; a wealth of experience in estimating, which, Harris notes, is how bids are won and lost; and finally the execution—the timely implementation of a quality product. While many construction firms may focus on one or two of these, he says it’s risky to have your primary focus in any one area. The equal weight of these three priorities is important to a company’s success.
‘A Company Is Its People’
Noble Modern Builders’ three-prong approach to the construction process—emphasizing financial strategy, estimation and execution—certainly sets the company apart from its competitors. But Harris cites human resources as another key element, one that is crucially important in the construction industry, where turnover is high and skilled workers are in great demand. Harris says, “HR is so important in the construction industry. It’s important in any business because a company is its people. And having highly talented people who are happy and work hard is a big deal.”
Noble Modern Builders prioritizes employment policies that can create a safe, dedicated and stable workforce. Harris leans on his extensive corporate background to implement the best of modern human resources practices already in use by larger corporations: strategic recruiting, clear job roles, measurement and accountability, and feedback and training. Those priorities, combined with a competitive benefits package, have resulted in very low employee turnover since the inception of the firm.
Growing in a Growth Industry
Harris’ decades in corporate leadership, where he implemented the best practices of both Fortune 100 companies and private equity firms, have helped make Noble Modern Builders what it is today. And he plans to keep building. The company began with five employees and today has 10 on staff while continuing to grow.
In the future, Harris would like to see the company, a certified installer of pre-fab buildings, increase its opportunities in metal building system construction. Harris also plans to expand on the company’s experience with ground-up structures, such as with the Panda Express project he notes as one of his proudest ventures. In any event, Harris will continue leading the company the “Noble Modern” way—with transparency, integrity, high quality and modern best practices.