How Cody Crawford's Construction Company Weathered the Great Recession

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, May. 27, 2013 12:00 am  

Cody Crawford

Cody Crawford and his partners have led their young company C.R. Crawford LLC of Fayetteville into and through the Great Recession.

Crawford grew up in El Dorado and became interested in the construction business as a teenager doing summer work for Systems Contracting Inc. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in construction management from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2001, Crawford worked for the El Dorado industrial contracting firm of Systems Contracting and the Little Rock general contracting firm of Dave Grundfest Co. of Little Rock. Opened the Rogers office for Little Rock’s Bell-Corley Construction Co. in 2004. Formed C.R. Crawford Construction in 2006.

Q: What attracted you to a career in construction?

A: I complain about the pressure, but I think it’s what I’m actually attracted to. I started as a young kid working in El Dorado for a contractor who was a family friend. I really got interested in it from there and always knew it was what I wanted to do. I like being able to look back at a building that’s going to be there a long time and know I played an important part in it.

How did your company fare during the Great Recession?

What’s really been beneficial for us is we’re licensed in 20 states, so we haven’t relied just on northwest Arkansas. We’ve been fortunate to develop relationships with some of the leaders in the restaurant and retail business: Darden’s, Cheddar’s, Wal-Mart, Academy Sports and Dollar General. They’ve weathered the storm well, which has been good for us.

What is the greatest challenge now facing the construction industry?

Managing risk will always be our greatest challenge. That’s a broad answer, but every component of our business has huge risks, whether it’s the financial condition of an owner/developer or subcontractor, staying in compliance with the ever-changing rules and regulations, safety on a job site, managing overhead and dealing with all of the other risks associated with assembling complex buildings.

There are projections that sectors of the construction business will be encountering worker shortages in the near future. What’s your take on that?

In my opinion, the downturn in the construction industry has hurt the skilled labor pool. Many people retired early, moved on to other careers or continued on unemployment because of the lack of work. As the economy improves, the shortage of qualified help is going to continue to make our jobs much more management-intensive. As always, you expect the laws of supply and demand to eventually kick in and that problem to correct itself.

What are the market conditions for the different commercial building sectors: retail, office, hospitality, industrial, etc.?

Generally speaking, all of the commercial sectors seem to be more active than they’ve been in the last three to five years. It’s nice to see a few developers with legitimate private projects and conventional bank financing back at it. That’s a great sign.

What are the most important ingredients in your formula for success?

For me, it’s having the right people and team around you. That’s No. 1. My name is on the sign, but there have been some extremely instrumental people in making our company a success, including my partners Scott Stokenbury and Jason Keathley.

No. 2 is trying to spend as much time staying away from the bad deals as you do chasing the good deals. You get a gut feeling for whether something is going to be a good project or bad one after the first few conversations with the owner. Over time, you develop a sense about who you’re dealing with, whether they are fair and honest. We’ve all been in deals we wish we hadn’t been in, and you just have to push through and finish them as best you can.



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