Small Projects Division builds opportunities for employees and benefits for clients

For a management graduate of Loyola University Maryland, it was a dream job opportunity.

Jared Geary had applied his business skills to the construction industry over the past decade, initially working for a national home builder and later managing larger projects for Plano-Coudon Construction. But when company founders Brett Plano and Ryan Coudon announced their plan to create a Small Projects Division (SPD), Geary jumped at the chance to lead it.

“It was a great opportunity to do something entrepreneurial inside of an existing company – start from scratch to create a business unit and grow it,” Geary said.

Focused on completing projects priced up to $500,000, the SPD was designed to deliver several distinct benefits to Plano-Coudon and its clients.

SPD crews, for example, soon became vital tools in speeding the progress of large Plano-Coudon projects.

“You can run into tricky scenarios when you’re working through a punch list at the end of a project,” Plano said.

For example, a plumbing problem in a cabinet could require the general contractor to call back not only the plumbing and casework subcontractors, but also the tile work, electrical and drywall contractors could be required in the event an outlet, backsplash or wall was damaged during the repair.

“Scheduling a half a dozen trades to come back in to make that one fix could take weeks,” Plano said. “That can be a nuisance for an owner who just wants to get this one punch list item complete.”

The SPD, however, was designed to complete such jobs both quickly and expertly. Comprised of a foremen, carpenters and laborers, SPD crews could self-perform a wide variety of construction work and complete punch list repairs, such as the cabinet fix, within a day.

Similarly, Plano-Coudon could quickly tap SPD crews, rather than waiting to coordinate subcontractors, to provide general conditions needs on large projects. By installing safety railings, covering temporary holes in concrete and completing other general conditions tasks, the SPD crews could enable Plano-Coudon to quickly meet all safety needs on job sites and proceed with construction.

The SPD’s expertise, speed, flexibility and cost-competitiveness helped the division quickly build a hefty book of external clients.

The division follows the Plano-Coudon commitment to providing on-site supervision of all project work in order to manage clients’ risks. However, instead of assigning superintendents to projects, the SPD assigns foremen who have supervisory skills as well as trades skills and can self-perform some project work. That arrangement, Geary said, makes the SPD more cost competitive on small projects while still enabling the SPD to apply Plano-Coudon’s big-company sophistication to smaller jobs.

Since it was created in 2010, the SPD has completed projects ranging from small office renovations and site improvements, to the installation of a complex gable roof at a Sykesville church. In the last fiscal year alone, the division’s revenue grew 76 percent. It has even enabled Plano-Coudon to land larger projects.

“Very rarely in Baltimore do you knock on a brand new door and have somebody say, ‘Sure, here’s a $15-million job. Take a shot at that,’” Plano said.

Through a series of well-executed small projects, however, the SPD has proven Plano-Coudon’s value to some new clients and opened the door to larger contracts.

The SPD has also generated one benefit for Plano-Coudon staff. Individuals hired by the division are “a special breed,” such as carpentry or drywall foreman who are eager to take on the challenge of managing multiple trades and delivering completed projects on time, on budget and to the client’s satisfaction.

“People see the Small Projects Division as a good growth opportunity for them professionally,” Geary said. “They can get several projects under their belt quickly, probably 6-10 projects in a year. It helps them build a resume of good clients and good projects, and can set the stage for them to become superintendents or project managers.”