One way to survive lean times: Keeping your operation lean

Posted On February 26, 2019

When the housing market crashed in 2008, Mobile builder Rogers & Willard found themselves in the same situation as pretty much every other construction company in America.

After the crash, the company limped through 2009 on only a third of the revenue it had enjoyed in 2008. Times were lean. But fortunately for Rogers & Willard, “lean” is something with which it was already familiar.

Our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” Rogers & Willard president Mike Rogers says the company survived those tough years by keeping its operation lean as a matter of principle, by adhering to its company motto: “Built Lean. Build Smart.”

“Even though revenue dropped by 70 percent,” he says, “we were still profitable.”

How did they do it? By not getting desperate and taking on bad projects, Rogers says, and by having the foresight to have diversified their client base before the crash hit, so they weren’t just tied to the local market.

Now that the market is rolling again, there is a different set of problems: Keeping up with demand and finding enough skilled labor. “If you are a skilled craftsman and you become really good at your craft,” Rogers says, “and then you couple that with all the other characteristics employers look for – being trustworthy, friendly, able to communicate well – I firmly believe you will never be out of work.”

In a wide-ranging discussion on the construction business, Rogers also shares the effects that automation may have on the industry, the pros and cons of modular housing, the character traits of a successful builder, and his passion for community revitalization. He and a partner have taken on revitalization efforts in a 16-block area on the edge of Mobile’s Oakleigh neighborhood, and Rogers & Willard now has its office located in an old, restored Buick dealership downtown.

While the construction business, like most industries, can have its ups and downs, one adage tends to hold true, Rogers says: “If you do a good job, they keep coming back.”

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Real Estate, Recession Economy, What's Working with Cam Marston, Work