Contractor to Contractor
MCAA member contractors respond
to the industry issues of the day.
B. W. Dexter II, Inc.
B. W. Dexter II, Inc., has two, fully-staffed locations in Connecticut and is the largest mason contractor in the Northeast. The company has won over ten awards in the last four years and been continually recognized by ENR magazine as one of the top mason contractors in the country. The ultimate compliment is the fact that most of Dexter's approximate 300 employees have been with the company for at least seven years. In aid of these accomplishments, Bruce Dexter II relies on faith, quality craftsmanship and employees, and a proactive management approach.
Masonry: Since the establishment of B. W. Dexter II, Inc., in 1987, your company has grown considerably in size, from small residential and commercial jobs to being the largest mason contractor in the Northeast and serving the entire United States. What do you think has been the key to your company's growth and success over the years?
Dexter: First and foremost, I pray each day that God's will be done, and that I be granted the wisdom to make proper decisions for the company.
Since our inception we have tried to hire individuals that possess a quality that makes them stand out from the average person. By creating a company of quality people, we were able to stand out from the average company. This and a lot of hard work created more and more opportunities for B.W. Dexter II, Inc.
One of the biggest struggles for me has been when to say "no" to a potential project or new relationship with a contractor, fearing that we would not be able to service the customer or our employees the way we need to for everyone to exceed their goals and objectives. By balancing this and not compromising our integrity and reputation, we were able to successfully grow, even in lean economic times.
Masonry: Many of your current projects, such as Adriaen's Landing, not only include traditional brick and block, but also incorporate several other types of masonry including stone, decorative CMU, 8x8 brick, glazed brick, glass block panels, precast and Cultured Stone. Do you think that owners and architects are starting to realize the different masonry materials available and being more creative with them?
Dexter: Yes, we are starting to see a larger variety of masonry materials being introduced into each new project. Most of these products are user-friendly and therefore are cost-effective, and unlike other building materials masonry has a proven longevity.
Masonry: B. W. Dexter has won many awards and honors over the years. What are some of the things that you attribute to these successes?
Dexter: The credit should first be given to great masonry architects. Without their designs we would not have the opportunity to showcase masonry as an art form.
We have always been proud of our work, and by implementing strict quality control measures and employing the best skilled craftworkers who share our pride in workmanship, we consistently produce the highest quality of work.
Masonry: B. W. Dexter won a Golden Trowel Award in the 2002 IMI New England Region for The Mohegan Sun Casino, Hotel & Sunburst Projects' Wombi Rock building. Tell us a little more about this unique project.
Dexter: This project was certainly unique. It is a 60-foot-tall manmade mountain housing offices, lounges and a nightclub constructed of 5,000 multifaceted pieces of onyx. The onyx was produced in Pakistan and custom cut in Italy in different geometric shapes. We then applied the onyx to a structural steel frame and shipped the sections to the site after they cured. It was not our largest or most difficult project, but constructing this piece of art brought us into a new category of specialty work.
Masonry: Bruce, you received the 2002 New England Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Tell us more about this honor and what you did to earn it.
Dexter: I was nominated by our banker and accepted the nomination, really never expecting to win. There were other construction companies and real estate firms that had hundreds of millions of dollars in sales yearly and been in business many more years than us. The award was presented to me, but it was earned by the entire B.W. Dexter II, Inc., team members, for their vision, determination and innovative approaches to the masonry business. We are all very proud of this honor.
Masonry: B. W. Dexter utilizes a company web site in its marketing plan. How has this tool affected your business?
Dexter: Much of our business is with repeat clients that we have a longstanding relationship with; however, we often receive bid invitations from companies that are not familiar with us. When they ask about our company and history, the web site is an excellent reference source.
Additionally, our employees are able to log-on and see other projects within the company that they have not directly worked on, obtain information particular to the project they are on, and get information regarding company events, training, etc.
Masonry: Looking back over the years, what was your most difficult masonry project and how did you overcome the obstacles?
Dexter: The Bio/Physics project at the University of Connecticut was our most difficult project. The project itself in terms of constructability was not much different than your average masonry building; the problem there was that the general contractor, the owner and design team began to have adverse relations, which ultimately led to the termination of the general contractor.
We were one of the many subcontractors on the project that were not being paid timely, working without a schedule, having to coordinate our work with other subcontractors, and all the while documenting every project condition in preparation for a final decision to be determined by arbitration or within the court system.
We overcame these barriers by knowing and performing within our contractual rights and obligations, and documenting all pertinent information which would later be used in a claim for equitable adjustment. This was an added burden to our workers, project managers and foreman who were already dealing with the everyday stresses of the project.
Through perseverance and the desire to maintain our reputation and relationship with the owner, we completed the project to everyone's satisfaction. Financially the job broke even for us, but the ongoing relationships and lessons learned were invaluable.
Masonry: What is the best advice you would give a budding mason contractor?
Dexter: To surround themselves with quality employees, maintain a strict hold on production levels, implement that knowledge in future bidding, and build and continually maintain customer relationships.
Masonry: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the masonry industry?
Dexter: The biggest misconception is that the reason projects fall behind is that there is a manpower shortage. Rarely will the mason contractor fall behind if everything is ready in front of them when it is time for them to do their work. What happens most often is other trades ahead fall behind and the construction manager (CM) or general contractor (GC) expects the mason to make the lost time up. This usually results in stacking manpower, which is not a solution it only costs the mason large sums of money and lost productivity.
Masonry: What would you do to change that misconception?
Dexter: Try to get involved with the scheduling of projects up front or as early as possible. Most GCs or CMs we've worked for will put together a schedule, but never realize or deliver everything that needs to be completed before the mason can perform his or her work. They will simply call or write letters saying more crewmembers are needed. This is the reason for the misconception about manpower shortages.
What we as mason contractors need to do is become proactive and educate others involved about what will be required for the mason contractor to keep "X" amount of masons on the job and still be productive. When we have been actively involved with scheduling in the past, everyone on the project benefited. It is not often that I've seen a mason contractor who is allowed to keep their momentum on the job not be able to deliver on schedule.
Masonry: What do you feel is the industry's biggest challenge in the near future?
Dexter: Convincing architects to continually design with masonry and remain innovative with a variety of available masonry products. I believe they may have the misconception that masonry designs are not as "cutting edge" as other building materials.
Masonry: What do you think will be the masonry industry's biggest competitor in 10 years?
Dexter: I believe the biggest competitor will be metal and glass panels that are "futuristic" looking.
Masonry: What do you feel are the most critical issues you'll face with future government regulations?
Dexter: The most critical or constant issue is the movement to repeal the prevailing wage rate in construction. If it is repealed, the union masonry industry as a whole would suffer greatly. This would be detrimental because the BAC/IMI not only promote and help educate designers, but offer the best apprenticeship training available.
Masonry: Which group do you feel has the bigger impact on masonry's future: architects, engineers or general contractors?
Dexter: I feel architects have the biggest impact. While I was attending a regional board of directors meeting for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers in Boston, one of the guest speakers, a professor from MIT, informed us that most of his students want to design in flashy, futuristic materials, such as metal panels and glass, discarding masonry altogether. This is the reason we need to educate the architectural community to all the innovative advantages that masonry has to offer.
Masonry: What do you like most about being a member of MCAA?
Dexter: I enjoy the networking with other contractors and being able to express to other industry team members thoughts and ideas for the future.
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