There is something unique to every construction project. It could be something in the design of the building or location of the site, the materials, the scheduling or budget requirements, or an assortment of other things. However, not every construction manager recognizes the unique aspects of a particular job. There are those that show up to each job with the same game plan no matter what, insisting that their way is the right way.
That is not the Stuart Olson approach. “It’s not just, ‘This is Stuart Olson and you’re stuck with what you get,’” President and COO Don Pearson states. “We tailor the whole construction process to fit the project team’s objectives. At the end of the day, we do more than just provide another building.”
Essentially, what Pearson is conveying is that Stuart Olson does not come aboard a project with a set way of doing things and expect all involved to follow along. He expresses that it is important for Stuart Olson to get to know how the owner wants a building to perform, and for the team to devise a plan that will deliver on the owner’s expectations.
The company describes itself as a progressive builder and construction manager with a unique, team-based approach. “We generally enhance the overall project team by bringing more than simply construction abilities to the table,” Pearson says. “We put a heck of a lot of effort into the cost side of things, with not only a value-added approach in putting the job together, but also in identifying risks in the earliest stages of preconstruction and working hard to mitigate those risks for our clients.”
Another key to presenting the best delivery system for a project is by paying attention to what is taking place in the market during construction. Pearson asserts that Stuart Olson takes advantage of opportunities in the market at the moment of construction, offering tender strategies tailored specifically to meet the client’s needs. “We try to be as creative as possible in our cost modeling and budgeting to guarantee the best results for our clients,” he says. “We take a look at what’s being proposed and what’s being put on the drawings, and ask ourselves, ‘Is this the very best solution to this situation,” Pearson continues. “Presenting options and cost saving alternatives is huge. It allows owner’s to know what the real costs are associated with the decisions being made. We try to foresee the gains we can give to a project. We look at building systems with cost association to make better informed decisions.”
According to Pearson, about 85 percent of the work done by Stuart Olson is from repeat business, which he notes is the result of the company’s commitment to building strong client relationships. “Relationship building has a huge affect not only on our company’s success, but on the success of all of our stakeholders, clients, consultants and subtrades,” Pearson explains. “So we want to ensure that we continue in this capacity.”To do that, Stuart Olson stays open minded in its relationships. “We try to be humble,” Pearson explains. “We know that we’re not the focal point of a construction project. The owner’s desired outcomes are the focal point of a construction project. We are just a small part of the process that helps to ensure those objectives are reached.”
Stuart Olson has been in business for more than 70 years, and Pearson indicates that its longevity is a huge part of the company because it allows it to take a long-term approach to its operations.
“It’s not just about ‘winning this particular issue,’ but about furthering our approach to business and making sure that we are successful in the long term, rather than just gaining short-term wins,” he says. “We keep a 5,000-foot view of every issue and opportunity to make sure we’re always staying on track.”
One way the company brings its long-term approach to a project is through preconstruction. By “putting a tremendous amount of effort in the preconstruction side of projects,” Pearson says Stuart Olson has seen great results. He adds that effectively handling the upfront work on a project before breaking ground, as opposed to trying to take care of things on the tail end when the associated costs are higher, has a huge effect on the overall success of projects.“We think our long-term approach is something that distinguishes our company,” Pearson explains. “Not only with owners, but with subtrades and suppliers.”
Stuart Olson also fosters open communication between itself and its subtrades, looking at subtrades as partners on a project.
“We found that you can play hardball with subtrades and try to take advantage of subs, but the biggest wins and most successful projects come when you accept subs as partners and work with them,” Pearson says. “In turn, they work harder with us to get projects done on schedule, without compromising quality. To us, that’s what success is all about. We build on the unique strengths that each team member brings to the table.”
An example of how Stuart Olson acts as a partner with its subtrades is by allowing them to present options on projects to Stuart Olson and the owners. Pearson explains that since the subtrades are experts in their field, they have the best understanding of what may make a project more efficient. “It’s great to have an open and honest atmosphere – to communicate back and forth, versus, ‘We are the general contractor and we tell you when and how to do things, and it’s your job to get it done.’”
The company serves southern Alberta through its headquarters in Calgary, and northern Alberta with its Edmonton office. Stuart Olsen’s work throughout the province of British Columbia is done through its office in Richmond, British Columbia.
Last March, Stuart Olson opened a new office in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The company says it is excited for its fourth office in western Canada, and views Saskatoon as an area where business is thriving. In the future, Pearson notes that the company also would like to expand further east, and open an office in Winnipeg.
Along with its expansion into new regions, Pearson says Stuart Olson wants to continue being a value-added company that enhances the project teams it participates with. “We want to continue to be a true resource to the construction industry as a whole,” he states. “We want to see people advance [within the company] as quickly as they possibly can, and make sure Stuart Olson, at the end of the day, is a fun place for people to come and work.