From Kitchen Table Startup to Industry Leader
Stronghold Engineering began with a dream. “When pregnant with my third child, I decided I did not want to work in my then current position in real estate,” remembers President & CEO Beverly Bailey. “I knew the only way to accomplish this was through some kind of self-employment. Scott, my husband, and I prayed about the situation and on October 1, 1991 started our own small electrical contracting business out of our home.”
In the beginning, the couple ran their humble startup from their kitchen table in Southern California. But it was not long before the company took off, relocating to offices in San Diego and Riverside, California, and earning a place among industry leaders. “With determination, hard work, a talented group of team members, and a commitment to always exceed client expectations, Stronghold Engineering, Inc. has become the company it is today – an award winning general contractor concentrating on government and public construction,” Ms. Bailey explains.
The company has successfully completed $1 billion in various projects since its inception. Stronghold’s areas of specialization have expanded over the years to cover a full range of construction support including design-build, new construction, tenant improvements, complete renovations, civil construction, and electrical services. The team routinely engineers, designs, and constructs projects valued at anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to well over $100 million.
With an aggregate bonding capacity of $250,000,000, over 150 employees, a fleet of more than 100 trucks, and an extensive inventory of heavy machinery, Stronghold has the resources needed to self-perform electrical, civil, and concrete features of work. On average the company self-performs anywhere from 30 to 100 percent of the work on a given project, drawing from a large pool of pre-qualified subcontractors for the remaining work.
In addition, Stronghold has the capability to successfully manage and administer contracts across a wide range of geographic locations. The team has executed design-build and bid build construction work all over the country and beyond, from Arizona, Nevada, and California, to Hawaii, Florida, Canada and Barbados.
The company’s success is evidenced by a number of industry awards and over 250 letters of commendation from clients. Over the last two years, Stronghold has won six ABC Excellence in Construction Awards. In 2010, the company won the National Excellence in Construction Award for LEED sustainable Design Build Project. That same year, Ms. Bailey was named the U.S. Small Business Association’s Entrepreneurial Success of the Year. Stronghold’s projects have been consistently recognized by the Navy’s Safety Through Awards and Recognition (STAR) program and the company has been nationally recognized as an ENR Top 500 Construction Firm and Design Firm.
The team maintains a strong set of values that has helped bring the company success over the years. “Stronghold has five core values: Teamwork, Safety, Commitment, Quality, and Integrity,” Ms. Bailey shares. “When we started this company, we knew if we based our projects on an unwavering promise to these values everything else would fall into place.”
The company also stresses employee satisfaction, helping the staff to remain enthusiastic about their work. “Our culture is one that balances the personal and professional life. By working as a team to achieve a quality project each time, we are able to offer our employees benefits that help them in their personal lives. In addition to the typical medical and retirement benefits, we have programs that offer advice, support, and incentives for a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
This effort was recognized by The Press Enterprise, which named Stronghold as a top employer in the Inland Empire. “With over 116 glowing recommendations about our teamwork and rewarding work environment, the loyalty of our employees speaks for itself,” Ms. Bailey adds.
Stronghold is invested in the community as well. As one of the nation’s most successful U.S. Small Business Administration 8A graduates in 2003, the company is eager to give back to other small and disadvantaged businesses. The team contributes significant time to a range of outreach events in order to recruit and mentor small and disadvantaged businesses across various trades. “Our roots of being a small disadvantaged business are close to our heart, so we work diligently to assist companies in all aspects of the construction industry from field to administrative management,” Stronghold’s website explains. “We believe our success is directly attributable to those around us, which is why this will always be an important part of our daily business lives.”
The team is also active in a number of local charities. For example, Stronghold has supported United Way of Inland Valleys for the last decade through both employee and company contributions. This assistance helps provide funding for a range of important community programs including Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Habitat for Humanity, Operation SafeHouse and the Salvation Army.
Safety is Stronghold’s greatest priority. The company boasts a robust safety program and safety culture that empowers employees to strive for a 100 percent safe work environment. “Stronghold’s goal to ensure its projects are completed with zero safety incidents and zero lost time accidents starts with a Safety Attitude and Culture,” the company website states. “Safety is Number One on each and every Stronghold project.”
Stronghold’s safety team develops a detailed, site-specific plan that clarifies the correct policies and procedures for each individual project. Every stakeholder reviews and approves the plan before work begins. An outside safety consultant carries out surprise safety inspections three to four times a month to keep the team on their toes and make sure they are following through with the plan.
In addition to this safety consultant, the company employs a fulltime Corporate Safety Officer who conducts regular safety inspections as well. These inspections identify any hazardous conditions or unsafe acts, allowing the team to correct the potential danger before an accident happens. Safety inspection results are discussed with the Project Superintendent and then presented to the Executive Management, Corporate Safety, Director of Risk Management, Project Managers and all Site Superintendents and Safety Officers at Stronghold’s monthly corporate safety meeting.
The team’s safety efforts have paid off; Stronghold maintains an impressive safety record with an EMR of .76. This commitment to safety will continue as the company moves forward. “Stronghold’s annual goal, which continues on a daily basis, is ensuring that each and every Team member and project site demonstrates a safety attitude and culture,” the company website details.
Maintaining a superior safety record is not the only challenge that Stronghold faces. The local market has become increasingly tight, effectively separating the wheat from the chaff. “Due to the recent recession, the construction industry in our area has become extremely competitive and demanding,” says Ms. Bailey. The team has doubled down on what they do best in order to stay ahead. “Stronghold diversified our portfolio and returned to our niche services in order to thrive in today’s challenging market.”
Ms. Bailey is optimistic about the future, taking the stance that challenging times bring out the best in people who are willing to push themselves. She sees opportunities for expansion, but will carry it out carefully to ensure long-term success. “I am planning on growing the company at a level that will not jeopardize our good name and reputation in the industry. Realistically, we could double our current program.” Coming all the way from a kitchen table startup, any future expansion will only add to an already impressive track record.