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A century of experience & lessons learned from South Carolina's oldest GC

At 102 years old, McCrory Construction is the oldest general contractor (GC) in the state of South Carolina. Interestingly enough, the company has experienced surprisingly low turnover—in comparison to its industry competitors—in ownership during its 100-year history. The company is now under its fourth generation of ownership.

Headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, McCrory is a full-service GC ranked among the Southeast’s largest and most respected construction services providers and consistently listed as one of the Top 40 Privately Held Companies in South Carolina. After a century in existence, McCrory maintains a high level of repeat business at more than 90%.

As the construction industry, the business community and the country as a whole grappled with the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the McCrory leadership team made a conscious decision to do everything possible to keep all employees on the payroll as it weathered the storm. At the same time, it made a commitment to put the safety of its people and its clients first.

 

 

Seven months into the pandemic, the company has stayed on course for the most part. While McCrory’s employee roster has taken a small hit, its safety record has remained intact. This article covers some of the workforce-related knowledge the McCrory team has gained over more than a century in business—ideas, actions and lessons learned that the leadership team believes has enhanced the company’s ability to recruit and retain the best of the best.

Building the Foundation for the Workforce of the Future

On the heels of the company’s centennial celebration in 2018, McCrory rolled out a new strategic plan. In tandem, the company formally reintroduced its core values to its 95 team members. Like its counterparts in the region and across the nation, the leadership team knew that it must find a way to attract the best and brightest to a sector that is viewed as something less than glamorous. Using the multifaceted approach outlined below, the team is now making slow but steady progress in addressing the complicated issue of workforce development.

1. Create the Right Culture

McCrory’s comfortable and energetic workplace is specifically designed to cultivate a homegrown wealth of talent while attracting the top industry candidates and graduates from construction programs throughout the Southeast. The team focuses on fostering an environment where team members love what they do and where they work.

It’s important that victories are routinely celebrated—from project awards and safety to anniversaries, birthdays, new hires and promotions. Equal importance is placed on retention. McCrory has a new generation of gifted individuals who are making contributions to the company’s future by advancing innovation and offering fresh perspectives.

2. Invest in People

Simply put, happy employees lead to happy clients. The McCrory employee experience includes comprehensive training programs; a strong benefits and bonus package; a focus on safety; and a team that is always working to balance of time spent on the job versus that spent on life’s other priorities.

 

The leadership team puts considerable resources toward developing the next generation of leaders, including offering training with FMI Corporation. McCrory cross-trains its employees and encourages them to pursue rigorous professional certifications like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Design-Build Institute of America Fellowes, and certified Instructional Trainer (CIT), and become involved with various professional and industry organizations, such as the Construction Financial Management Association and the Design-Build Institute of America.

3. Promote Careers in Construction

Each and every construction team must do its part to make a positive difference when it comes to the current and future labor shortage problem. McCrory employees promote careers in construction to students of all ages, an example of which is shown in Image 1. Employees regularly participate in job shadowing days and hire high-school and college-level interns.

To promote the trades, the team works through industry associations like Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of the Carolinas, as well as its own administration contacts and guidance counselors at technical colleges. McCrory is also a supporter of the “Be Pro—Be Proud” mobile workshop for skilled trades unveiled by the state of South Carolina in September 2020. At the collegiate level, McCrory employees are actively involved in industry advisory boards for university construction programs in the region, such as Clemson University’s Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management.

It’s also important to consistently encourage more women to join the industry. Several of the company’s employees hold leadership roles with the local chapter of National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and have been recognized for their contributions at the regional and national levels. Much of the career outreach activities the company supports in the region—especially for young children— has been initiated by NAWIC involvement.

4. Foster Community Engagement

Giving back to the community is integral to McCrory’s corporate culture. This includes providing viable opportunities to local and minority firms and making every reasonable effort to enhance their opportunity for success. Through purposeful mentoring, the team helps to ensure the growth and success of those selected to work on its projects.

 

Many of the company’s employees are personally involved with a wide range of entities that make a real difference in several communities. As a company, McCrory annually supports a select group of nonprofit organizations. These include the South Carolina Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Heart Association, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Humane Society of South Carolina and Habitat for Humanity.

Focus on Your People

It all comes down to one sentiment: focus on enriching the lives of your employees and your employees will enrich your company. In its 100-plus years as a growing business, McCrory has gained a unique perspective. To put its longevity in context, McCrory was founded in 1918—the same year as the last major global pandemic.

Here’s one final thought: Don’t lose focus. On McCrory’s philosophy for recruiting and retaining people, CEO Allen Amsler said, “We are keenly aware that we need to maintain the culture and the family atmosphere over the long run. Our goal is to be ‘the most sought-after builder and employer’ in our region, not necessarily the biggest.”