A Blueprint For Success
Graves Construction builds on its leadership’s wealth of experience
When Anthony Graves set out to build his own business, he did what he does on every building project: He went in with a plan.
Graves knew that he wanted a commercial construction company that was focused on meeting the needs of his clients and his employees and that could deliver high-quality results for both the private and public sectors.
With that in mind, Graves looked to form a leadership team rich with experience that brought diversity and range to Graves Construction. That plan proved invaluable in making the Southern California firm successful.
Forming a leadership core with a variety of specialties didn’t happen by chance—it was always part of Graves’ plan. When he started his company in 2015, he called on the best-of-the-best from the contacts he had made during his previous decade of engineering project management.
Mike Melgoza joined after spending more than 10 years on the owner-agency side of managing a large construction portfolio. Maribel Janecek came aboard with 15 years of experience with two of the nation’s largest general contracting firms. And Jasmine Graves, Anthony Graves’ wife, was a critical component because her resume was loaded with human resources experience, and she had a proven record of successfully managing people.
“Our executive team’s wealth of experience has been crucial,” Graves says. “We all have complementary backgrounds that provide a value- add in all aspects—for our clients and our team.”
He credits his team with fueling the company’s growth over the last five years, from doing $1 million in business to $20 million in business in a matter of years.
“Using everyone’s expertise to develop industry-leading procedures and best practices has really allowed us to gain market share and position ourselves for growth in the future,” Graves says.
New Type of Culture
While growth is a priority for Graves, the culture and employee experience of Graves Construction come first. The company, which is headquartered in the Foothill Ranch area of Orange County, California, employs 15 people in the office—including project managers, engineers and administrative support—and about 50 who work in the field.
The principal philosophy to all team members: No matter the job you have at the company, all the roles are of equal value. Losing sight of your importance is similar to not recognizing the value a spoke plays in relationship to a wheel, Graves Construction leaders say.
“Our goal is to build a team that provides exceptional service,” Graves says. “And we want every single employee to feel like they’re an owner in the business.”
Transparency from the top helps the team to stay invested and engaged, and the executive panel adheres to a truly transparent model—sharing both successes and failures.
“If you treat people like owners rather than employees, you’ll maximize efficiency and have better, happier employees,” Graves says.
Employee satisfaction is top of mind at Graves Construction, which is committed to helping commercial construction shed the old-fashioned image that many perceive it to have.
Graves, himself 36, says that most of the people on his team are younger than 40, which helps foster a progressive and forward-thinking mindset.
“We’re driving a culture of diversity, inclusion and making sure that everyone is excited about coming to work,” Graves says. “The most exciting aspect of my job is getting the opportunity to meet and work with people from all backgrounds, learn from each other’s journeys and find opportunities to enrich our lives.”
Regardless of position, nobody at Graves Construction includes their title in email signature lines, vacation days and paid time off are not tracked, every employee is salaried and teamwork is stressed at every corner.
When the company moved to a new site, Graves made sure to make that culture of inclusion and cooperation was part of the blueprint.
“We designated 30% of the workspace as a lounge to truly foster collaboration and culture that puts customer satisfaction first,” Graves says. “We wanted to make sure our environment is anything but rigid.”
Commitment to Clients
But one thing Graves Construction is inflexible about is serving customers and making sure they’re satisfied.
“Our team of talented managers, engineers and technical staff help ensure every aspect of design, construction and end-user utilization exceed the expectations of all stakeholders,” Graves says.
The company specializes in two primary business disciplines: public works contracting, which includes school districts, municipalities and federal projects; and commercial construction for private clients, including many big-box stores, retail and consumer-facing projects.
With the mix of business, Graves Construction is able to complete about 1,000 projects a year, many of which are high-volume initiatives for national clients.
“We’ve been servicing and marketing to national clients since Day One,” Graves says. “That allowed us to expand almost immediately.”
High-volume programs include nationwide refresh, rebrand and remodeling initiatives for clients like The Home Depot, Target and Starbucks. During any given week, Graves may have as many as 15 teams deployed from California to New York.
Graves Construction’s business also participated in Walgreens’ recovery effort in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria displaced and damaged more than 60 of the stores on the island. Graves deployed five teams that worked continuously for three months to restore service for the chain.
Safeguarding for the Future
Currently, the company’s work is split evenly between that type of commercial project and public works contracts, but that hasn’t always been the case. Two years ago, public works contracting made up only 20% of Graves Construction’s business, but prioritizing that work has given that division a boost.
“Public works contracting is one discipline that won’t go by the wayside in a recession,” Graves says. “Sustainability has always been a major focus. Keeping our people employed by having a diverse portfolio will allow us to weather any downturns.”
The focus on sustainability has pushed Graves Construction to chase more public works projects, so much so that the president expects that in the near future that type of work will make up the majority of the firm’s work. Being flexible and ready to pivot has kept Graves looking forward and for ways to rise above the competition.
“Anyone can build something. Building something sustainable with a story worth telling, that’s my goal and the vision of Graves Construction.”