No Substitute for Experience

Buttcon LTD

Ontario’s small and medium construction companies are in the midst of a challenging time when it comes to procuring government projects. The program Infrastructure Ontario has been bundling development projects together, often making the bids inaccessible to anyone but the largest firms. These are very important jobs that could help small and medium sized companies expand their footings and bolster their reputations; instead, these companies are being left behind…

Buttcon Ltd is an award winning, medium sized construction company that excels at successfully completing any project work that comes its way. The company has built a reputation for itself, having had its hands in some big projects including the remodernization of the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Hiring workers that are fresh out of College construction management programs or Universities, Buttcon starts new employees as green as they can be and then turns them into highly skilled, experienced construction employees. Buttcon also encourages all of its construction staff to be Gold Seal Certified with the Canadian Construction Association. Buttcon’s average employee has between 15 and 20 years of experience with the company.

Buttcon is 100 per cent employee owned. The pioneers of the business first strapped on their tool belts for the company about 33 years ago in Etobicoke, Ontario. Some years later the company moved into a new location in Concord, Ontario. Micheal Butt is the company’s founder and still its major shareholder. Most of the senior staff, hired around 25 to 30 years ago, are still working hard for the firm. Throughout the years, the company has always been fortunate to experience steady growth, through even the toughest of times.

The challenge when growing steadily is in keeping the workplace “family” together. There are people within the company, explains Mr. Di Gaetano, who have tremendous loyalty and stick with it because it’s a great place to work, but all companies inevitably face change as new hires are needed to help them grow. When people work out and become a part of the family, Mr. Di Gaetano tells us that the result is very satisfying, particularly when a long time employee enjoys the company and the work so much that he encourages his own family to work with Buttcon – a rather unique situation, with multiple generations working together under one roof.

Currently there is a transition beginning to take place within the company, as many of the senior staff members look to retirement. In their places will be a younger generation taking the business forward. Along with senior staff moving out and their successors moving up in the company, there will also be other promotions and new hires coming in. “We’d like to see that it’s seamless, because you don’t want [the difference] to be night and day,” explains Mr. Di Gaetano. “The subcontractors now have to get to know the new management, and sometimes that isn’t easy when they have been dealing with the same people for so many years. The goal is to keep the family atmosphere and it’s hard to do because we are growing; we’ve gone from 65 employees to over 100.”

At this point in time, Buttcon’s total volume adds up to over 100 million dollars per annum. The company completes various types of contracts within the ICI (Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional) and high rise residential sectors of the market. Buttcon also has 51 percent ownership of another company, Buttcon Energy Inc., which operates out of the same office and deals in renewable energy-using natural gas-fired generators.

The company’s work ranges from the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., where Buttcon partnered with PCL, to a series of casinos in the 1000 Islands and in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to other large contracts for pharmaceutical companies, assisted living centers, hospitals, high schools, and even a good number of rides at Canada’s Wonderland. According to Mr. Di Gaetano, “As long as they have a design, we can build it. We can even provide the design, depending on the type of contract that the client wants.”

Delving into the company’s past, a number of great achievements stand out. During a major renovation on the inside of the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Buttcon actually relocated the ice rink up to the third floor, and built a grocery store on the first floor and a Ryerson Athletics gym on the second floor. “We could not touch the outside walls or the dome roof; we basically had to gut out the entire inside of the building and build a new structure in the space, including the underground parking level,” explains Mr. Di Gaetano. “We only had one opening on the north side of the building. It was like building a ship in a bottle – there were a lot of significant challenges.”

The Buttcon team also constructed Casino Niagara, built in seven months for a sum of 100 million dollars. There was no hesitation to take it on, and the work was completed on time and on budget. In a different vein, the exterior renovation work, windows, and roof at Queen’s Park in Toronto was a three year project for the experienced company. Recently Buttcon was selected as construction manager for the restoration work consisting of lowering the existing crypt basement and major structural and restoration work for the façade and bell tower.

Mr. Di Gaetano is proud to work for such a unique company: “Our culture has always been to work with the client, not to be adversarial at all, and to work well with our sub trades. We are fair with our sub trades because that’s who does the work on the sites and a lot of them we have known for years. Even if it’s a lump sum bid, we go in with a good attitude and we do good quality work that gets finished on time, because our goal is repeat business.”

Buttcon also views its stature as a mid-sized company as an asset when it comes to working with clients. “The client gets a lot of involvement from the senior staff of this company,” explains Mr. Di Gaetano. “When compared to our competitors, who have so many big, huge, massive jobs going on, their clients don’t really get much attention from the top; our company is able to bring a concern right up to the top.”

Even in the face of adversity, when the government makes it challenging for contracts to be won, Buttcon continues to grow and thrive on what Mr. Di Gaetano calls, “the crumbs that they leave behind.” Make no mistake, this company is as innovative as they come, has a breadth of experience, and celebrates the fact that its workplace is more like a family, with all members able to do something they enjoy – building something that will last.

July 21, 2018, 3:42 AM EDT

The Gig Economy

There are countless studies that demonstrate that the nature of work is changing. Work is becoming increasingly precarious, but what does this mean? Does precarious employment imply doom and gloom or is there a silver lining for work that no longer fits traditional or conventional models? Is it a necessary evolution for the increasingly automated economy?