Happy Employees, Happy Clients
Patriot Construction, Inc. creates ‘a better place to work’
When you’re working on the 23rd floor of an occupied building, deft management of logistics is key to success. “When you’re doing a renovation in a high-rise with tenants above and below, you have to carefully manage logistics—for example, moving 2 tons of trash out the door and making sure subcontractors are scheduled at times where traffic disruptions and noise are minimized. We meticulously plan these details on every project,” says Greg Kunkle, CEO of Patriot Construction, Inc.
The company thrives on construction projects in owner- and tenant-occupied buildings. “Interior fit-out renovations like these have become a staple of our work. Our painstaking attention to detail and sound management practices keeps clients coming back,” Kunkle says.
Headquartered in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, the general contractor provides commercial interior renovations, design-build and preconstruction services such as estimating and value engineering to clients throughout the tri-state area of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, as well as some areas of Maryland. Clients include owners and developers of commercial offices, educational institutions and community clinics like urgent care centers.
Patriot Construction is known for its flexibility, serving union, prevailing wage and open-shop markets. “In union markets like Philadelphia, we provide construction management services, hiring 100% union subcontractors to perform the work. With an open-shop project—as can be found in the suburbs—we may self-perform some of the carpentry work, in addition to serving as general contractor. We are flexible in what our clients’ needs are regarding the labor force desired for each project,” Kunkle says. For the federal government, the company serves the prevailing wage market. “In 2014, we secured a five-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with the U.S. General Services Administration.” These service contracts help streamline the contract process and speed delivery of services for government projects. With these contracts, the government determines the prevailing wage rates for each project, Kunkle explains.
Each Voice Matters
Kunkle says that whatever market the company serves, customers can expect the same quality service. And that starts with making sure that employees and subcontractors love where they work. “When people are happy, they do great work. We always receive positive feedback and comments on our workforce.”
Patriot Construction was founded in 2001 by Rick Kron. Though he once worked for a large contractor, Kron set out on his own when the company’s vision changed from renovations to big-box projects. “Rick enjoyed doing renovation projects. When he started Patriot Construction, he was able to continue serving customers he’d worked with for years,” Kunkle says.
In 2011, Kunkle joined Patriot Construction when Kron was in need of a project manager. The two met while working for Kron’s previous employer and found that they enjoyed working together. When Kron began to set his sights on retirement, Kunkle was a natural successor.
“I never thought I’d own a construction company, but here I am,” Kunkle relates. He took the reins in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. “I feel a great responsibility for the lives and welfare of the people who work for this company. I want this job to be more than just a paycheck. I want them to feel a part of the team and to feel like each voice matters,” he says.
The company empowers employees to speak up and stop the job when they spot an unsafe condition or when things just don’t feel right. “We listen to employees on how we can do better,” Kunkle says. The company holds an annual session where employees can voice concerns and accepts individual feedback on an ongoing basis. “Together, we make this a better place to work.”
The company’s new employee training program features continuing education on topics, including schedule building, subcontractor communications and interpreting blueprints. “We are always trying to advance our knowledge and stay on top of changes in the industry,” Kunkle says.
To attract a younger pool of talent, Patriot Construction has made modifications to its office environment. “Employees can opt for a sit-stand desk, and we offer flexible work schedules,” he says. “If an employee needs to leave because of a family commitment and wants to come in on a Saturday to make up that work, that’s OK. We’re trying to create a balance between work life and family life. The work ethic and dedication employees have here is stellar. Giving employees latitude to set their own schedules is important,” Kunkle says.
The company recently took an employee suggestion to heart and made a big change for the entire office. “We’re located near the airport, and some of our employees have very long commutes. One of our employees remarked that if he could just leave the office a little earlier, he could beat afternoon traffic,” he says. As a result, the company changed its work hours to 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., and in the summer, employees work an extra hour Monday through Thursday so they can have a half day off on Fridays.
“Happy employees don’t leave where they’re working,” Kunkle says. And happy employees attract new talent, too. “We just hired the nephew of one of our carpenters,” he adds.
Word-of-mouth is not just key to attracting talent, but it’s also important in drawing in new business. “Repeat customers account for about 50% of our business, and most of our new clients come to us through referrals,” Kunkle says.
One of the company’s repeat clients is Regus, a multinational provider of flexible workspace solutions. “We’ll renovate seven floors of an existing building to create a business center that includes one hundred 10-by-10-foot offices, as well as conference rooms, cafes and a reception area,” he says. These offices and meeting rooms are available for rent to individuals, small businesses and even multibillion-dollar corporations, according to Kunkle. “Over the last five years, we’ve completed about 20 of these projects throughout the tri-state area.”
The fast-paced projects are completed over a 16-week time frame. “We have fine-tuned our system, work closely with the client’s team of architects and engineers and have never missed a completion date,” he says.
Another happy client is Salus University in Elkins Park. In 2018 Patriot Construction renovated a 10,000-square-foot classroom auditorium. The company created a three-tiered space with partitions that can be easily moved to accommodate varied class sizes up to 300 students. The phased project was accomplished around ongoing classes. “We’d work on one side of the auditorium, scheduling our employees and subcontractors to accomplish work around each day’s class schedule,” Kunkle says. The company closely managed installation of a state-of-the-art visual display and sound system.
For Germantown Friends School, an independent Quaker school in Philadelphia, Patriot Construction had to work around space limitations caused by low ceilings. “The height of the classrooms was just 7 feet, 6 inches,” Kunkle says. While new mechanical work, sprinklers and piping might normally necessitate lowering a ceiling, Patriot Construction made adjustments to accommodate the existing space. The company created three classrooms, including an arts and sciences room, as well as an open movement studio that features monkey bars, a climbing wall, tunnels and a slide. “The client was so happy with our work that they invited us back two years later to create a fourth classroom,” he adds.
Investing in Relationships
Patriot Construction fosters a culture of caring for employees, clients, subcontractors and community. In the community, Patriot Construction donates to a host of nonprofits, including the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, the Child Guidance Resource Centers, Public Health Management Corporation and Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc.
With subcontractors, the company works hard to build solid relationships and strives to be flexible and accommodating. “Cash flow is king in our industry. We have the financial flexibility that if a subcontractor needs an advance on payment or needs to be paid more quickly than most, we can help them out,” he says.
Kunkle often grabs dinner with subcontractors and even hosts an annual subcontractor appreciation dinner. “Our business is built on relationships. When you need someone to work on a Saturday, they’re there for you. We care for our people, and they care for us and for this business,” he says.