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Baldwin & Shell CEO Bobby Gosser Living Proof of Building from the Ground Up

4 min read

Bobby Gosser holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Ouachita Baptist University of Arkadelphia and a bachelor’s in construction management from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He joined Baldwin & Shell in 1987 as an estimator.

Gosser has worked as a project manager, division manager and central Arkansas division president. He was elected to the company’s board of directors in 1999. The board elected him president and CEO on Jan. 1.

During his career, he has been named Estimator of the Year and Recruiter of the Year by the Arkansas Chapter of American Society of Professional Estimators, and Chairman of the Year by the Arkansas Chapter of Associated General Contractors. His projects include Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock. He’s also the founder of 8212X, a local group of Christian CEOs.

How have you been handling the increase in supply costs?

Our preconstruction teams stay in constant communication with trade partners and suppliers to monitor and accurately forecast costs. With early project engagement with our customers, we can analyze and propose alternate materials and construction methods that meet our customer’s needs that provide cost savings opportunities and product procurement to meet project schedules.

We also encourage early purchase orders that get materials and equipment that are subject to price volatility locked in as soon as possible to hedge against inflation.

How are inflation and higher fuel costs affecting the pricing of construction jobs?

Material and labor costs are both on a steep and unpredictable incline. Of course, petroleum is the central driver of everything. Petroleum is in several materials and in the transportation of all products, even labor getting to and from the project site. Inflation factors, or the forecasting of inflation, is applied to each product based on industry input along with local supplier and trade partner input. Construction inflation is real and until a flattening occurs, it has to be considered.

Are clients postponing projects?

We are aware of customers who are reviewing their proformas with renewed scrutiny but as of yet, we have not had a project placed on hold or canceled. Coming out of the unknown of COVID and going through the unknown of rising costs and supply chain bottlenecks, we are working tirelessly through the ingenuity of our preconstruction services to provide stability and rationale to move forward and not postponing projects. I am sure there are projects that we do not know about where the owner has paused or postponed. But interestingly, we are seeing an increase of opportunities despite [rising costs].

How are you attracting and retaining workers?

Attracting workers is a full-time job. It starts with our 75-year reputation; this certainly provides a first impression of integrity and stability. Then it becomes an evaluation of our aggressive salary and benefits.

Retaining workers is another focus. We are constantly listening to our employees. Very quickly employees learn about our family-first culture and recognize our team approach. The company is known for the advancement of internal employees before looking externally, and it is important for our employees to know that with hard work, everyone can advance. I am living proof of this.

What other trends are driving the industry?

More than anything else, it’s technology and processes, all geared to make us more efficient to help combat the inflation and supply chain issues. Lean construction techniques, virtual construction techniques, robust project management software and virtual conferencing all aid in speed to market, resulting in a more efficient project for our customers.

Does Baldwin & Shell still limit its jobs to Arkansas?

For many years, we have had opportunities to work outside the state but declined, even though we have carried licenses in many surrounding states. In fact, we used to brag about only working in Arkansas. Now we are intentional about working in other states. Several years ago, we decided to cross our borders if we had a customer scaling and they wanted to take us with them. Several customers have taken us to nearly all the southern states and that has been the springboard for us now pursuing other work in several southern states.

You started your career with Pickens-Bonds Construction Co. in 1985. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the construction business since then?

Two things come to mind. First, the decline in the workforce. Every year, we see less and less entering the workforce.

Second, the way we handle the flow of information with all the new technologies. Everything from blueprints and specifications, tracking submittals, the flow of RFI logs, proposal requests, schedules, and the lists goes on. All the different technologies that improve these efforts now innately demand immediate results and that has really improved the efficiency on job progress.

What’s the best leadership lesson you’ve learned?

A former long-term president and CEO of Baldwin & Shell, Bob Shell, was my mentor, and I learned so much from him. I constantly learn leadership lessons. Leadership to me is taking a back step, letting others lead, demonstrating receptiveness even when disagreeing. I hold my opinions until others thoughts are expressed, then make a decision, make a plan and follow the plan. Allow employees to do their jobs and recognize not everyone is good at the same things. I understand that different approaches can yield the same results.

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