As Metal Construction News’ Top Metal Builder for the sixth consecutive year, Span Construction & Engineering has reaffirmed itself as the leader among the largest metal builders in the U.S., based on steel purchases of 15,189 tons in 1995. As a contractor, SPAN continues to place emphasis on quality, safety and performance, rather than focusing on increasing its steel tonnage year to year. That focus has taken the Madera, CA based firm on a long journey to the top, where success is not found through high steel tonnage but through strong relationships. Whether it’s building a faithful relationship with every employee or with metal building manufacturer affiliate, Varco-Pruden Buildings, Firoz “King” Husein, is committed to both.
King founded SPAN in 1980, after he began his career in preengineered buildings several years before. His education accomplishments include a Masters Degree from Brigham Young University and a Bachelors Degree from the University of Bombay, in his native country of India.
SPAN’s accomplishments in the metal construction industry have been presented in past editions of Metal Construction News (August 1991, August 1992, May 1993, May 1994 and May 1995). In previous articles, King noted that he is most concerned with perfecting small details on every project, as well as ensuring that larger items also are addressed. In 1994, SPAN’s focus was to raise the already high level of quality and performance to a new standard, in addition to the implementation of a new safety program.
With SPAN’s successful track record in new and repeat construction, where is there a need for change? According to King, keeping current with technology changes and advancements within the industry is an obvious necessity, but what’s not as evident is the importance of Span’s relationship with Varco-Pruden.
SPAN’s business potential is encouraged partly through King’s relationship with Dave Gilchrist, president of Varco-Pruden, and Bill Crabtree, business development manager of Varco-Pruden. Some insight on King’s close relationship with both men is described throughout the following paragraphs.
MCN: How long have you known and worked with King Husein? What qualities in your relationship with SPAN allow for a successful relationship?
Dave Gilchrist, president, Varco-Pruden: I first met King on January 15 of this year, shortly after my appointment as president of Varco-Pruden Buildings. While I have not had the pleasure of working with King over the long term, I am fully aware of the long history of mutual success that has resulted from the partnership between our two companies. Since joining VP, I have had the opportunity of meeting with King and his staff several times and have valued his opinions and insights. Not only because he is our largest builder, but because Varco-Pruden Buildings has always tried to listen to our builder partners. Listening to our builders is the only way we can continue to improve our products and services. Thus far in our relationship, I have valued King’s willingness to work towards our mutual success. His honesty and his dedication to Varco-Pruden Buildings are without peer.
I believe that SPAN’s and VP’s successful relationship is based upon shared values and beliefs that we must work together to ensure a profitable future. We also believe that we must deliver to our customers quality produced buildings that are defect free and completed on time.
MCN: According to King, it is a great benefit to work with VarcoPruden because the company is willing to listen to its builders and make the necessary changes to improve quality and performance. In what ways does working with Span benefit Varco-Pruden?
Gilchrist: Varco-Pruden obviously benefits from our partnership with SPAN through increased sales and opportunities. However, VP and other VP authorized builders also benefit in a wide variety of other ways. SPAN’s feedback has certainly helped us improve our product quality and service to our builders over the years. We have also been able to pass successful strategies and methods learned at Span to our other authorized builders to help them become more successful and vice-versa.
MCN: Since you have worked closely with King for the past 16 years, you must know him fairly well. What do you think are SPAN’s reasons for such immense success?
Bill Crabtree, business development manager, VarcoPruden: First of all, King is a man of integrity, and every business aspect of Span Construction is managed accordingly. SPAN receives a great deal of repeat business because customers are pleased with Span’s integrity and track record. T
he next reason for SPAN’s success is the company’s intimate knowledge of VP’s capabilities. SPAN is on the cutting edge of steel building technology and the company’s attention to detail on a 20,000 sq. ft. to a 1 million sq. ft. building is recognized throughout the steel building industry. A good example of Span’s attention to detail is in the installation of the Varco-Pruden Standing Seam Roof. It is the best installed roof system in the industry … Period.
The principal reason for SPAN’s continuing success with each passing year is the company’s attitude in dealing with a problem or weakness. SPAN turns each area of weakness into an area of strength, as shown in the following examples:
- A. SPAN had a weakness because it could not find a roof curb with consistently high quality and call backs are expensive. Span, since 1993, designs and manufactures its own roof curbs. The 5,000-plus (per year) roof curbs manufactured and installed by SPAN are among the best in the industry … Period.
- B. SPAN had a weakness because its insurance mod rate was too high and this was threatening to make them non-competitive in the marketplace. SPAN initiated a Safety Program which abides by the letter of the law, but more importantly, it abides by the spirit of the law. The SPAN Safety Program is setting a new national standard of excellence in safety. And yes, the mod rate came down.
- C. Even with the best Safety Program, SPAN experienced a weakness with the attitude of some employees regarding the Safety Program. SPAN initiated a Safety Incentive Program which pays a $1 per hour safety bonus for each hour an employee works on any particular project. However, if there is a major accident on the job or an OSHA fine, there will be no safety bonus for any employee on that project. The employees now monitor each other to maintain a safe working environment and to collect the safety bonus.
MCN: Why do you like working with King and his company?
Crabtree: It’s exciting and challenging. I place great value on my personal and business relationship with King and the SPAN employees. Even though SPAN and VarcoPruden are separate companies, we are truly partners in business. We are dependent on each other for our mutual success. The strength of our relationship is very evident at our semi-annual VP /SPAN meeting. All the team players from both companies give an honest critique of each other’s performance. We then develop a game plan to resolve the problem areas. It is truly a win-win situation.
Here is proof of how King’s tenacity has led SPAN to unprecedented success. Sales exceeded $45.5 million on the new construction of more than 65 commercial, industrial and agricultural projects in 1995. Noteworthy projects in 1995 include the Guardian Float Facility located in DeWitt, IA. The massive 755,000 sq. ft. float glass plant was a large and complicated project which included buildings for warehouse, furnace, tin bath, lehr and support facilities. Cardinal Float Glass, Portage, WI, is similar to the Guardian Float Facility but has 400,000 sq. ft. Another distribution center, Ball Glass in Fairfield, CA, uses 623,000 sq. ft. of hardwall design for the storage of glass bottles. Located in Tracy, CA, the Buzz Oates Enterprises Warehouse is a distribution warehouse utilizing hardwall design. It covers 620,000 sq. ft. Another warehouse project coordinated by the National Services Team of Varco-Pruden in Memphis, TN, is the 135,000 sq. ft. PriceCostco in Wenatchee, WA. Other projects are shown throughout the article ranging in size from 19,000 sq. ft. to more than 750,000 sq. ft. Many projects were designed for repeat customers. Further insight on SPAN’s success and relationship qualities are discussed through the following interview with King Husein.
MCN: Since the start of your company, what have you learned that is the most important ingredient for a successful company? What wisdom can you offer a construction company just starting out?
Husein: We strive to practice the basic principles that guide us, which are: keeping our commitments, being honest in our dealings, providing the best quality, providing excellent service, and fair pricing which denotes value. A company starting out should strive to practice the above principles. Also, it is very important to maintain control on growth one sure step at a time, pay attention to details, and do not compromise quality and service.