Generations of Success
Overland Park, Kan.-based A.L. Huber has been constructing
buildings since 1903, so it seems natural that they would turn to
past customers for future work. According to Phillip W. Thomas,
LEED AP, president, about 80 percent of the firms' work comes from
building owners and designers it has have worked with previously.
That kind of repeat business rate only comes when a company can
deliver on its promises and provide value to the building owner.
A.L. Huber has done that for generations, and there are a few
A.L. Huber focuses extremely closely on the pre-construction
process; the company culture respects and supports all members of
the team, including staff and trade craftsmen; and company
management takes an active leadership role in the industry,
bringing back knowledge to the company and giving back to the
Four generations of excellence
|The leadership team includes three Huber
brothers. (Front, L-R, Joseph, August and Randy.) President Phillip
Thomas is in the back.
A.L. Huber is a fourth-generation commercial construction
company that does most of its work in the Kansas City region,
although it does take projects nationally-often for a former
client-and has done projects internationally. The company is led by
August L. Huber III, who is CEO, which is a position he has filled
since the 1980s. Joseph T. Huber and Randy K. Huber, senior vice
president, are Augie's brothers. Thomas is the only non-family
member on the leadership team and has worked for the company for
more than 29 years. "It's a family culture, and I feel very
fortunate that my first job was at A.L. Huber," Thomas says.
The company works in multiple market segments including
commercial, manufacturing, warehouse, education, retail,
hospitality and historic. Organizationally, project managers are
responsible for developing its own business, and have the expertise
of the entire company on which to draw.
A.L. Huber self-performs very little work, but does do
specialized work such as some carpentry and concrete. The decision
is made, Thomas explains, based on whether the company feels the
value it can by doing the work in-house is great enough compared to
the cost. Slightly more than half of the 35 employees work in the
field, with the majority of them serving in some project management
When asked what the biggest differentiator between A.L. Huber
and its quality competition is, Thomas answers succinctly.
"Pre-construction. We see it as the number one way to deliver
something of real value to our clients. As we started to do more
and more negotiated projects and work more and more in
pre-construction, we knew we had to work on those processes to make
them the absolute best.
|Metal buildings are a key tool in the belt of A.L.
Huber, andinclude such successes as the LEED Gold Missouri Gas
Energy Service Center.
"Success through pre-construction goes from very early on
developing a budget and a baseline for that budget, very early on
controlling the schedule, and helping the design team analyze every
design decision along the way," says Thomas. The consistent and
regular feedback during the design phase that includes scheduling
information and budget requirements helps A.L. Huber deliver more
value to its clients and speaks to why the repeat rate is so high
among both building owners and designers. "If we didn't have a
reputation for great pre-construction and a proven track record,
and have owners and designers trust us, we wouldn't be nearly as
This is also the exact point during which the decisions are made
about construction methods such as choosing a pre-engineered
building. As Thomas explains, "A lot of times analyzing design
decisions comes down to 'should this building be a metal building
structure or should it be some other type of structure?'"
A.L. Huber has been affiliated with Memphis, Tenn.-based Varco
Pruden Buildings since March 1977. That 37-year partnership has
given A.L. Huber a breadth of experience in metal buildings that
radiates throughout the organization. Thomas says, "Sometimes when
we show up, the owner or design team may not have thought about a
pre-engineered structure, and we bring that to the table, showing
the advantages from a schedule point of view, a cost point of view,
a quality point of view."
Market and industry leadership
Joe Huber is the company expert in metal buildings. His son,
Andy, who is the great grandson of the founder, serves on the board
of directors for the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors
Association, and recently assumed an officers position as secretary
of the organization. "I got involved because I wanted to know
everything there is to know about metal buildings," Andy Huber
says. He was recommended to serve on the Kansas City chapter board
by Metal Construction Hall of Fame member Mary Farrar, of Olathe,
Kan.-based All Pro Construction Inc., who was a past chair of the
national organization. "I got a seat at the table with people who
had been doing it for a very long time," Huber says. "Listening to
people talk about the processes has been an invaluable
Huber works as an estimator and project manager for the company,
and he's responsible for developing and managing his work. Being
involved in an industry association, and the MBCEA in particular,
has been important at this stage of his career. "What I've learned,
I'm applying to our projects," he says. "I'm paying more attention
to what the MBCEA talks about all the time: safety, production and
training. There's so much training besides nuts and bolts."
The entire company is focused on playing a leadership role in
the industry. Currently, Thomas serves as chair of the local
builders association. Augie Huber has served as president of the
local Associated General Contractors chapter. It's part of the
company culture to take on these responsibilities. "Our company
involvement in leadership in industry organizations is about
leadership and relationships," says Thomas. "We're able to build
relationships with people we're working within the industry. We're
giving back to the industry. It's important to us."
Huber elaborates on the relationship even further. "When I'm
looking for a metal building erector," he says, "I'm looking for
someone involved in the association." He trusts they'll be trained,
productive and safe.
A.L. Huber is a family business, and it has developed a distinct
culture that everyone in the organization recognizes. "It's going
to sound a little simplistic," Thomas says, "but our whole culture
is built around treating everyone as you would like to be
That attitude migrates out from the company and immediate staff
to building owners, designers and trade contractors. In fact, the
implicit sense of respect in that concept shows in the term Thomas
uses to describe the men and women working on the job sites:
"craftsmen." A.L. Huber pays subs on the day they're paid and
treats them with respect, but Thomas pushes a little further in
what he expects from subs. "When their craftsman wake up on a
morning when they have to go to an A.L. Huber job, we want them to
wake up with a smile because they know they'll be treated with
respect and be allowed to do their work to the best of their
ability and they're going to have fun doing it."
Thomas boils it down to five tenets: "Cost, schedule, quality,
safety and fun."
Into the future
During the recent downturn, a lot of construction companies
failed to survive, even fourth-generation companies. But the
underpinnings of respect that drive A.L. Huber were essential to
its own success. You can't build a growing business on repeat
customers without delivering quality and showing respect. Thomas
feels like the tough times are in the rearview mirror, "but we
still have plenty of capacity," he says.
Much of the future relies on pursuing the right opportunities.
"There's still some people that are pretty desperate so there's
pricing that doesn't make sense," Thomas says "A lot of those
people went out of business. Now there might be enough opportunity
if we make sure everything we do it prudent."
By relying on past customers, A.L. Huber has been able to avoid
bidding projects, which forces the company up against lower-priced
competition. As with any quality firm, there will always be someone
cheaper than you.
But landing projects in a tight market from repeat customers
requires a strategy. One of the successful tools was to extend the
post-construction phase. "We have the typical one-year warranty,"
Thomas says. But by extending the phase during which the company is
involved with the building after construction, such as making sure
door closers are adjusting, they are able to build goodwill and
remain in the building owner's eye.
The end goal is simple. "We want raving fans forever," Thomas
says. "Not just a client who is satisfied but someone who is
singing our praises."
Year Founded: 1903
Location: Overland Park, Kan.
Metal Building Affiliation: Varco Pruden
Buildings, Memphis, Tenn.
Geographic Areas of Service: National, but
primarily Kansas City Region
Services Offered: General contracting, construction management at
risk, design-build, pre-construction, LEED project services,
pre-engineered metal buildings
Number of Employees: 35
2014 Revenue Projection: Approximately $40
2013 Total Revenue: Approximately $37 million
CEO: August L. Huber III
President: Phillip W. Thomas, LEED AP
Senior Vice President: Randy K. Huber
Joseph T. Huber, LEED AP