Posted 5/29/2012 07:32 am
Updated 2 years ago
This Week: William Clark
Chief executive officer of Clark Contractors LLC of Little Rock
Background: Clark founded Clark Contractors in 2009. He is the son of the late Bill Clark, co-founder of Little Rock's CDI Contractors, which is now wholly owned by Dillard's Inc.
William Clark had worked at CDI since 1991, moving up to CEO before resigning that post in January 2009 and going on to launch his own construction company.
Q: How did your father influence you?
A: He's influenced me in so many ways it's impossible to count them all. As it relates to Clark Contractors, two things I learned from him that we practice today are that the owner's best interests are always priority one, and to take good care of your people. He believed that if you did those two things everything else would work out, and I've seen that be the case at Clark Contractors.
Q: What was the major challenge you faced in starting your own construction firm?
A: Other than the fact that the economy was in its worst recession of my lifetime? I'd say the most common issue was getting people to understand that a new construction company was capable of building large, complicated projects. A well-capitalized contractor with the right team can do anything, regardless of its age. We started construction on a $19 million hotel in Houston four months after we opened the doors and finished it early with a cost savings to the owner. Now it's much easier earning those people's trust.
Q: Is there anything you know now about starting your own firm that you wished you'd known then?
A: I can't say we encountered anything totally unexpected. Our management team has a wealth of knowledge about construction. We all knew it would be several years of really hard work before we felt like we were on top of things. Now we're in our fourth year, and we'll be doing over $100 million in 2012. That's a credit to the team and the owners who have put their trust in us.
Q: How have federal stimulus funds affected your industry?
A: The federal funds that were made available for construction projects really helped get a lot of contractors through the recession. For quite a while, there weren't many projects going on at all that weren't funded at least in part by government funds.
Q: It appears that many companies are beginning to see a slow uptick in business. Has that been your experience?
A: We've been very pleased in the last 12 months with the return of privately funded deals that are coming down the pipeline. In the last eight months, we have pursued or been awarded a number of hotel and office building projects that simply weren't happening just a couple of years ago. While I think the arrow won't be as steep as in other recoveries in the past, I definitely feel like the worst is over.
Q: What construction trends are you seeing?
A: Building Information Modeling is becoming more standard as a way to be more efficient in design and construction, and even for the owner as a maintenance tool. Ten years ago, sustainable design was a grassroots movement; now it's standard practice.
Q: What are the major challenges in the construction industry?
A: I think we're going to be dealing with the financial fallout for a couple more years as it relates to contractors' and subcontractors' solvency. A lot of companies have been trying to hold on for four or five years now and are just getting to the point where they can't stay in business anymore because construction hasn't picked up enough. There are some good companies that weren't able to withstand such a long downturn in the economy. We've got to find others to step up and take their place in the market.