Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) president’s panel
Canadian Design and Construction Report staff writer
Four construction industry leaders, reflecting companies of different size and focus, offered some advice and shared lessons learned Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) biennial symposium’s presidents’ panel.
John Aquino, president of Bondfield Construction Ltd., said a key element of success is “servant leadership.”
“If you are in it for yourself, you are going to end up alone,” he said. “(By) serving your clients, contractors, employees, associations, and giving back to the industry, those are the things for you to grow as an person and a company.”
John Cutruzzola, president of much-smaller Inzola Construction Inc., answered a question about what advice he could give to someone just entering the construction industry.
“Be patient and recognize talent and try to develop passion,” he said. “What is important to recognize is the passion. If young, many can express passion and can overcome shortcomings. (We need) compassion, understanding, patience and the ability to recognize the talent.”
Mike Reinders from Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. said in the era of public-private partnerships (PPP) and BIM, massive $500 million to $2 billion and more projects are out of reach for smaller contractors. However “as a smaller company we’re delving into P3s, for example, a $30 million project in Alberta.”
“You need more financial resources, and you need letters of credit that ties up more of your working capital and inhibits your bonding capacity,” he said. “Unless you have deep pockets it is difficult to get into it.”
However, Reinders said his company and other medium-sized and smaller firms can get involved in the larger projects through joint ventures. “This speaks to relationships. You can’t go into into joint ventures for yourself, you have to go in with (the idea) that you are going to serve this project and client, and work for the benefit of everyone in the room – just like a marriage. You have to work together and can’t be in it for yourself, or it isn’t going to work.”
John Cutruzzola said PPP projects have resulted in a “negative impact” for his business. He said he believes the trend to large-scale activity is misguided and mis-applies contractors’ talents. “The talent of all of us in the room is to build – you are good at building and doing, and now you are being asked to be a banker, a financier, and take a huge risk at the beginning and after you have signed the contract.”
He said the restrictions of access to work to larger contractors is creating monopoly-like conditions, and “you are stifling growth and vigour and innovation and the young and new companies that have been presented this big mountain tho climb is not good for the long-term of the nation.”
He said P3 costs are buried in the long-term contracts. “So far I haven’t heard anyone make a documentable detailed long-term analysis that shows a positive return on the benefit to the public purse.
But Chris Gower, representing PCL Constructors Canada Inc., disagreed with Cutruzzola’s perspective.
He said PPP projects are resulting in a greater level of collaboration, communication and partnership among stakeholders. “More contractors are mindful of the full lifecycle costs of the project” — when low maintenance costs and design quality is important, “we’ve been challenged to collaborate like never before.”
This has resulted in PCL developing expertise in finance, life cycle costs, energy modelling and other issues. These talents are helping the contractor to grow into new areas. “We’ve started a whole division for offsite modular construction,” he said. “We’re building (mechanical) penthouses and sending them to the site and having them fully erected.” This results in reduced site labour costs and lower congestion. “You have to challenge and innovate what the customer is looking for.”
Bondfield’s John Aquino said relationships are vital – they are hard to develop and take time – and can be destroyed within minutes. “These days, most client pre-qualifications are based on client references,” he said. “The last five per cent (of the work) either maintains or breaks this client relationship.
PCL’s Chris Gower agreed. “Nothing moves faster than trust,” he said. “We often put in a bid in design-build or we have a couple of guaranteed prices from the trades” even though the drawings aren’t fully completed. “We have to trust each other, you are going to be able to finish the design and get to the end, and there is a leap of faith that comes in . . . over and over, that comes from trust, and past relationships.”
Mike Reinders was asked when he will retire, and why.
“My dad is 83 years old and he is in the office today,” Reinders said. “He doesn’t want to retire – he wants to keep going, or he will die.” However, Reinders doesn’t want to deny the opportunities for younger people to grow, so he believes he should “develop, hire and grow people that are better than me.”
He said it is important to keep life in perspective with balance between work, family, leisure, social, physical health and spirituality.