At a time when the construction industry continues to contract, especially in Florida, one Palm Beach County builder is not only surviving the prolonged recession, it’s thriving.
Hedrick Brothers Construction of West Palm Beach, run by a county native since 1979, has been adding to its staff of 100 for the past two years, despite an Associated General Contractors of America report that shows Florida losing the most jobs of any state in the industry last year.
President and CEO Dale Hedrick credited flexibility and a friendly workplace for the growth that continues to propel the success of the company he started with his older brother, Paul, 33 years ago.
“We figured out either you have to do a lot of things well, or do one thing really well and travel all over the United States,” Hedrick said, adding that the multi-platform approach the company chose has worked to its benefit. “That’s been actually what saved us, our diversity. When certain market segments are down, others are up, and fortunately, our people are talented enough and cross-trained enough to make it work.”
The company, which started modestly with a few remodeling projects after Hedrick graduated with a construction degree from the University of Florida, has grown to specialize in luxury equestrian properties, high-end residential, commercial and educational construction. Early gigs like hanging shelves in the Cheney Brothers warehouse soon turned into 40,000- and 65,000-square-foot homes for famous Palm Beachers.
Hedrick is not shy about admitting his own mistakes and failings and neither is he afraid to list the reasons he believes his company stands out above the rest. None of the buildings his firm has constructed, ranging in worth from $2 million to $84 million, has ever been damaged by Florida’s brutal hurricanes through the many years, for example.
Hedrick grew up in Palm Beach County swinging a hammer and soon followed his great-grandfather, grandfather and father into the construction business. That influential lineage, he said, not only taught him the trade, but it also instilled family values and a strong work ethic – key qualities he credits with helping him stay grounded as company president.
“We believe that no organization can rise above the constraints of its leadership,” Hedrick said. “What I had to realize is that I was the biggest constraint keeping Hedrick Brothers from growing. When I got feedback and developed skill sets to effect those changes needed, then that allowed me to be more effective as a leader in the company. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
Hedrick takes a philosophical approach to leadership, requiring his employees to sign a social contract that creates a culture of accountability, an environment that is open to feedback and improvement and, from Hedrick’s end, promises “a fun and friendly workplace.” It’s this positive work environment that Hedrick says gives his company one of its many advantages over its competitors. That, and the quality it has become known for, he said.
The evolution of Palm Beach County’s landscape has been undoubtedly altered by Hedrick Brothers’ fingerprints. Some of its most well-known projects include the restoration of the county’s historic courthouse, Palm Beach’s Town Hall and City Place’s Harriet Himmel Theater and fountains. The company has built more than 1 million square feet in the town of Palm Beach alone.
Hedrick Brothers has created a niche for itself in the expanding world of “green construction,” too. The U.S. Green Building Council formed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program to provide standards for green building and renovations. In addition to the myriad other industry awards Hedrick has earned over the years — including the American Institute of Architects’ coveted Builder of the Year Award three of the last 10 years – the company has taken an aggressive role in the area of sustainable construction. The company is building more and more LEED-certified projects, and it’s being recognized for excellence. One recent example: a technical education center for Palm Beach State College in Belle Glade.
Hedrick was cautious when asked about the future of the industry in general. On the economy and the availability of loans, he stressed the need to change banking and security laws and to elect a new American president.
As for his own company, the proof of success is hard to ignore.
“Our philosophy is that we go where the money is and we focus on the opportunities that are there,” Hedrick said. “Then, we leverage the skills and talents that we have. It is our great advantage.”
“While other companies are downsizing, we are hiring,” Hedrick said.