Honest Work and Expert Ability

Sierra Construction

Sierra Construction was originally launched as a heavy civil construction company in 1994. A few years later, Founder and President Cliff Zaluski saw an opportunity to expand into the building sector. The Ontario based company has been growing steadily ever since, and annual revenues have increased from $1.5 million in 1994 to more than $35 million in 2008.
The successful strategy behind the company’s initial expansion was to hire “key people” who knew the ins and outs of general contracting, explains Michael Sheehan, Director of Business Development. In any industry, different sectors have unique needs and contributions to make, “and you need to know those things to work in those businesses,” he explains. Therefore, breaking into new markets “is a combination of training, which is a commitment of your own resources, [and finding] individuals who complement what you do.”

During its expansion, the company has developed two separate divisions – each of which boasts in-depth expertise within its area of focus. Covering two very different areas of construction sets the company apart and offers important advantages. “There are not too many construction companies that provide both services,” Mr. Sheehan reports. As a result, the team is well prepared for almost any circumstance, and is armed with a full fleet of vehicles and equipment. “We can be very independent,” Mr. Sheehan explains. “We are not reliant on other sub trades.” The team is flexible, however, and will certainly join forces with partners if a project or timeframe makes such an arrangement more expedient.

The heavy civil side of the company typically works on projects involving sewers, water mains, sidewalks, roads, or earthworks. This division has matured quickly, and has completed a number of large scale projects in both the public and private sectors. Mr. Sheehan says that a strong reputation within the industry has been integral to the division’s success. Without a solid track record and memorable customer service, companies stand little chance in this word of mouth industry.

Sierra Construction will also oversee a project from conception to completion, offering a turnkey solution for a wide variety of clients. Beginning with the earliest stages of design, the team will “walk it right through the process for the owner and do the construction of the building as well,” Mr. Sheehan explains. As a result, the client is spared any number of hassles and headaches. Having one company executing the entire vision also prevents any communication glitches arising from multiple parties working on one job.

The general contracting arm of Sierra Construction also has its own erection crew trained in pre-engineered building construction. The crew is expert in all the steps required to quickly erect a metal structure, from putting in the steel frame to completing the cladding. Steelway Building Systems, a steel building systems manufacturer, is Sierra Construction’s major steel building supplier and has worked closely with the company on a number of projects, including the recently completed Corix Water Products office and warehouse facility in London, Ontario.

Both of the company’s divisions maintain a strong commitment to environmentally friendly construction practices. “Environmental issues are front and center,” Mr. Sheehan insists. “The senior management of this company has made some significant commitments [in this area].” These commitments include earning ISO14001 certification, which demonstrates that the company meets rigorous international standards for environmental management systems.

In fact, the senior management is committed to improving business practices and maintaining the highest standards in all areas of the company. As a result, Sierra Construction has also achieved the globally recognized ISO9001 and ISO 18001 certifications, which show that the company meets international standards in quality management and health and safety.

All ISO standards require a great deal of effort to earn and maintain. “[The certification] doesn’t just say we do something,” Mr. Sheehan explains, “it demonstrates and proves that we do things. It takes time. It takes commitment.” Audits are conducted on a regular basis to ensure that compliance is maintained once ISO certification is achieved. “If you don’t comply, they want to know why you have not complied. And, when they come back, that is the first thing they go looking for – that [the noncompliant area] has been corrected and has stayed [corrected]. And they can rescind your registration very quickly.”

Mr. Sheehan says that maintaining a healthy relationship with clients is also a crucial part of the team’s business practices. Honesty is always first and foremost. “We like to be as transparent as you can be in business.” Clear communication is particularly important when the team is working on a turnkey project and bears the full responsibility for the job. “We have invested a lot of time and effort into training personnel to do the right thing,” Mr. Sheehan explains.

As a matter of fact, training and mentoring the workforce is a trademark of Sierra Construction. “The senior management of Sierra does a great job of letting people reach their potential,” Mr. Sheehan says. “They don’t have a confining management style. You have to work within the ropes, certainly, but if someone wants to try something and they put their case forward, the senior management under most circumstances will support them.” As a result, the company maintains a fresh, relevant approach toward its projects. And, if an innovative approach doesn’t quite work out as planned, “there is not backlash from that.” Instead, the team learns from every strategy implemented – successful or not – which keeps the company on top of its game.

Sierra Construction has earned a position as a market leader in its field, but the accomplishment has not been without challenges. “It is very competitive,” Mr. Sheehan admits. “Construction is a big part of the economy – certainly the economy in Canada, if not North America. And the construction industry is a competitive market. There are some very capable companies out there.”

The team’s expertise, strategies, and customer care has kept them ahead of the competition, however. And, the company is currently in the process of expanding even further, both geographically and in terms of its skill base. Traditionally, the team has only operated within a 50km radius of Southwestern Ontario, but that area has begun to broaden in recent months. Mr. Sheehan credits the company’s ongoing success to the same core practices that fostered its previous growth. “It comes down to skill sets [and] training,” he says, as well as a commitment to treating people right. “We [want people to want to] do business with us again. We are pretty easy going and we like it that way. We treat people the way you like to be treated.”

July 16, 2018, 6:48 AM EDT

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