Lexicon Battles Labor Pinch as Jobs Roll In

Lexicon Battles Labor Pinch as Jobs Roll In
Lexicon President and CEO Patrick Schueck says companies are building now to get ahead of rising costs. (Hannah Jobe)

A labor shortage may have helped dampen Lexicon Holding Co.’s revenue growth last year, but that doesn’t mean the Little Rock company is slowing down.

While Lexicon’s energy services sector lagged compared with last year, its industrial construction, fabrication and golf groups grew, President and CEO Patrick Schueck said.

In 2020, the company’s total revenue rose by 54.2%, the highest jump in revenue on Arkansas Business’ 2021 list of largest private companies and placing it at No. 15. This year, Lexicon stands at No. 18 with revenue of $824 million, up 0.9%.

Lexicon has participated in major projects in the last year. In addition to partnering with North Little Rock’s Seal Solar to build Arkansas’ first solar array with locally manufactured steel, the company worked on the PGA East headquarters golf course in Frisco, Texas, and plant projects in the electric vehicle battery and microchip industries.

The biggest challenge to revenue the past year was a significant labor shortage, Schueck said. The company has about 2,100 employees and could stand to hire 500 more. But Lexicon’s executive team is working to address the shortage.

“We could do more if we had the manpower,” Schueck said. “We’re predicting that inflationary pressure could hurt us in 2023-24. To ensure we have the manpower to meet the needs of our partners, we must position ourselves as the employer of choice,” he said. The company wants “a work environment that’s inviting, both for new and current employees. We’d rather keep an employee than hire a new one.”

And Lexicon does a lot to keep employees.

It has a “longstanding tradition” of celebrating employees with 20-year anniversaries by giving them a check for $10,000, with taxes paid. Since Schueck became president and CEO in March 2020, he’s implemented an “employee first’’ policy and has emphasized innovation.

“We’ve historically been run very dictatorially. But we’ve empowered our executive group to empower their teams,” Schueck said. “It’s allowed for more innovation, better feedback and much smoother adoption when it comes to transitions. It’s dawned something bigger than I ever could have imagined.”

Focus Is Innovation

Lexicon’s focus is innovation, and Schueck wants to fight the misconception that innovation is bad for employees. It’s actually the opposite, he says.

“Innovation is the core of everything we do,” he said. “It motivates our employees and makes us stand out from others within our industry. We’re reinventing the stereotypical dingy fabrication shop and bringing it into a new age of state-of-the-art, automated environments. And while some may perceive innovation to equal fewer jobs, it actually does the opposite because where there’s more steel, there’s a need for more people. Innovation makes our projects more efficient and safer for our people, which has a positive impact on the bottom line and gives more money back to our people.”

Schueck knows innovation is the future of the company, but he also won’t forget the past. He says Lexicon, founded by his father, Thomas Schueck, will remain “a mom and pop shop” even if it hits billion-dollar revenue.

“We’re taking the lessons from the past and incorporating them into our future. We want to be that employer of choice and for our employees to feel appreciated,” Schueck said. “I can walk up to anyone in the shops and they know who I am. Not because of my position, but because I’ve grown up working beside them. I’ve been part of their problems and their celebrations. Regardless of our roles, we’re real people and that will remain a core value that we will continue to reflect.”

And what does 2022 look like so far? Schueck is confident company revenue will match the upward trends of 2020 and 2021. Companies are building now because of rising supply costs, and Schueck is excited about the possibility of expanded infrastructure bills and more steel mills.

“People know they can’t kick the can any longer. If they’re going to build, it has to be now.”