Agate Construction was named a finalist in Phoenix Business Journal’s 2020 Small Business Awards. Read more below!
Top exec: Lou Primak, chief operating officer
Type of business: Commercial, industrial construction, Scottsdale
No. of employees: 41
What was the biggest challenge to your business because of Covid-19 and how did you deal with it? At the onset of the pandemic, it was of vital importance to keep our entire team calm by reassuring them we had a plan to address the health concerns, and the financial ramifications of its effects. We communicated with our team clearly, often, and with transparency as to how we were dealing with all of the ramifications of the disease. It’s important to note that although we were, and are, sensitive to the effects of the health concerns of the virus, we operated as close to normal as possible, pushing ahead with our business plan and its associated tasks, servicing our customers and continued to pursue additional opportunities.
Many businesses have pivoted from their usual operations into new revenue streams or products because of Covid-19. Did that happen to your business? No, we stayed the course on our strategy of providing excellent customer service on all of our projects, traveling to our regional offices, and continued to emphasize the health and safety of our team member. We were fortunate to have hired new employees over the past six months, as opposed to laying people off. Our business plan was solid, and our customers remained bullish about the economy during the pandemic.
What permanent changes to your business will happen because of what you learned in adapting during the pandemic? We are developing programs and approaches to allow our team members to work from home when feasible, as long as that approach does not effect the service to our customers.
What was the toughest lesson you learned in the first year of starting your business? The hardest part about starting a business is developing the team. We should have placed more emphasis on securing additional team members that were caring, committed, dedicated and had a foundation of grit, determination, strong work practices and ethics. We focused more on processes and sales and learned that the foundation of every great company is great people. Good sales, great service [and] profits will come once the right team is in place. After three long, hard years, we have finally arrived at the milestone of having a great team, and it’s making a substantial difference in our performance and the enjoyment of coming to work every day.
What is access to capital like in your industry, and what’s your experience been with it since you opened for business. (Also, did you get PPP funding or any other government assistance?) We can access capital that we need to methodically enhance our operations and manufacturing facility and are continually upgrading our fabrication facility, vehicles, people plant and equipment. Our bank has been very supportive of us over the past three years because of what we continue to achieve.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business? Be prepared to work long hours, sacrifice time away from your family, be very uncomfortable, worry, and make others uncomfortable, so that they can grow and move out of their comfort zone. Beg for work opportunities and make sure the customer is always right and serviced. And eat on the run.