Highly regarded, in demand and debt free
Suncor, Inc. has forged a sterling national reputation as a go-to structural steel specialist capable of tackling the toughest jobs Written by: Kevin Doyle Produced by: Stephen Marino
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ith 18 years of industry experienc behind him and $10,000 at his disposal, Doug Kuiper took a leap of faith and founded Suncor, Inc. in 1992 with the very specific goal of building a self-sufficient, debtfree operation. Over the course of 25 years, Kuiper has accomplished just that. The $25 million structural steel fabrication specialist is free of bank loans and investment partners and, Kuiper says, “a comfortable size.” “It took many, many years to build this company with our own resources and cash flows. There are other ways of growing a business faster but we chose to grow slow and solid to maintain complete control. This requires a great deal of patience but believe it was the right path for us”, says Kuiper, Suncor’s president. Suncor, Inc. has forged a sterling reputation and regularly works with major national contractors ranked in the Top 50 based on their volume. The company typically employs 30-40 and averages 20-25 jobs per year with
competencies in office buildings, airports, medical buildings, public works and school projects. The company maintains offices in Longwood, FL, Hialeah, FL and De Forest, WI. Suncor’s state of the art plant is also located in De Forest, WI Suncor also shares common ownership and partners with National Metals, LLC, a separate company founded by Kuiper in 2009 with his sons. National Metals, LLC focuses on structural steel and aluminum fabrication and the company holds
| Suncor Inc.| 2 had for many, many years.”
Building a Reputation Patience has paid off for Kuiper, who says he is conservative by nature. National contractors, he explains, maintain stringent prequalification guidelines and closely examine subcontractor’s financial strength and bonding capabilities. “Larger general contractors insist that their subcontractors are able to provide performance and payment bonds,” Kuiper says. current certification by the American Institute of Steel Construction. “Our focus is on the customer. When you develop solid relationships, we might be working with them on a sizable project but they might also need assistance on a smaller one. When you partner with customers, it is important that they know you will be there for them on projects that don’t fall within the range of our target work. So that’s why we have a pretty wide range of job sizes,” says Kuiper, adding “ most of our customers we’ve
Some of the larger contractors rely increasingly on Contractor Score, which measures a company’s short-term financial and management capacity and whether it has the available resources to manage problems on the job. Results can either be confidential or shared with the public. “You send in your financial information and bonding limits and they grade you on a scale of zero to 2500. This is a tool that some of the
| Suncor Inc.| 3 larger general contractors use as part of their prequalification process. We just updated ours and I’m proud to say we have achieved the maximum score and are among the top three percent of companies (based on financial strength) on that program,” Kuiper says. Suncor’s stability and long-term success all relates back to Kuiper’s founding philosophy – that slow and steady wins the race. “It goes back to having no debt. When you don’t have any debt, you can ride out the storm like we did from 2008 to 2012 when a lot of good people could not withstand the declining construction market. If you’re paying loans back when you’re losing money, at some point you’re going to say ‘I give up.’ Being debt-free is a philosophy that has worked for me,” Kuiper says.
Treating People Well Kuiper takes pride in the fact the company has never needed an
“When employees feel that they are part of the team effort and you show them trust, they’re going to give that trust back.” Suncor President Doug Kuiper HR Department. The reason is simple – employees are valued highly, compensated accordingly, and therefore rarely leave. Once employed for three calendar years from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, employees are afforded the opportunity to join the company’s unique IRA program. “Once we know they are serious about working here, we give them a high percentage of their salary once, sometimes twice, a year that they invest however they want. For example, someone making $100,000
| Suncor Inc.| 4 gets $20,000 above and beyond that, tax free, to invest,” Kuiper says. Additionally, employees get full health coverage at no cost. On occasion, when work slows a bit, Kuiper will tell workers to take a paid week or two off. “The nice thing is that, if things get really busy, even if they have plans, they will often say ‘I’m not going to take my vacation because I know how busy we are.’ It’s a rare thing to see in business these days but I just don’t like making employees
feel insignificant. When employees feel that they are part of the team effort and you show them trust, they’re going to give that trust back,” Kuiper reasons. The company has not laid off a single employee in its existence. “I might be old-fashioned, but if somebody wants to dedicate their career to me, the last thing I’m going to do is hurt them in any way, financial or otherwise,” he says. Hence a loyal, stable workforce with decades of experience. “Why would they leave, unless they’re moving,” Kuiper asks, rhetorically.
Invested in Technology When it became clear the industry was shifting to Business Information Modeling (BIM), the company purchased Tekla software. “I didn’t know anything about it. My background was in twodimensional detailing and I was like a lost puppy. I hired a BIM manager, Tim Reinhardt, because we had a real need to start creating these 3-D models. The Tekla software works really well for structural steel,” says Kuiper.
| Suncor Inc.| 5 The company has also purchased a computer-driven Water Jet cutting tool capable of cutting steel up to five or six inches thick; a coping machine that cuts beam ends to job specific configurations; and a computerized drill line driven by the Tekla software.
Safety Officer conducts weekly meetings that spell out the challenges to focus on. The company also self-polices – if employees are concerned about a specific job site procedure or have an idea as to how protocols could be improved, their input is encouraged and valued.
“A guy in the shop puts a beam up, sets the position, presses a button and the machine does the work,” Kuiper says. “The technology takes human error out of it and drives safety as well.”
“We’re very safety conscious but we don’t see everything. If someone is doing an unsafe thing, the workers will come in and let us know and we’ll reprimand the guy. Something like that just doesn’t happen very often,
In regards to safety, the company
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maybe one every year or two. You just don’t see it that much,” Kuiper states.
Operations/Premier Projects Once focused almost solely on the public school sector, the company learned a hard lesson about diversification at the start of The Great Recession. “We were 90 percent in the public school market in Southeast Florida and it was fantastic. We were making lots of money but it was a mistake. It was so good and we had so much work that I didn’t have time to look at anything else. We got trapped and it all ended just
like that. Thankfully, we had carryover that took us into 2009,” Kuiper recalls. And allowed for the time to seek out and cultivate other markets. Now the company operates in multiple sectors, doing jobs big and small, confident that if one sector slows another will provide work. Suncor, Inc. is in the finishing stages of a $6.5 million concourse expansion of Terminal E at Logan International Airport in Boston. Kuiper is especially proud of the company’s recent work on a $1.6
| Suncor Inc.| 7 placement of embedded materials cast by other trades, all of the framing members were different which greatly increased our shop labor costs. We had to fabricate, for lack of a better term, brackets that weighed four tons apiece – 50 of them, all a little bit different because the complications in the field. A lot of people did a really good job to make that successful. That’s the most satisfying thing – to be able to do something extremely challenging and do it well,” Kuiper says.
million project at the Miami Science Museum. He states that this project is among the most complex the company has performed with its technology capabilities yielding perfection. “A portion of the science project included AESS structural steel framing for an exposed elevator. From first glance, it doesn’t look very complex but due to errors in
Other notable projects in Suncor’s portfolio have included a sports facility at Camp Lejeune, NC; a high profile garage project in Miami Beach; a Univision television station renovation project in Miami, and an entertainment facility in Arundel Mills, Maryland. “We also have a plethora of jobs in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. Smaller jobs take nearly as much time and money to manage as big ones as far as overhead goes, but you take them in order to continue ongoing relationships,” Kuiper says. As for his own role in day-to-day
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â€œDo a job exceedingly well, regardless if it is simple or complex and always be on time. Once you get that reputation, you will stand a much better chance of booking the next project.â€? Suncor President Doug Kuiper www.suncor.net
| Suncor Inc.| 9 operation, Kuiper wears many hats. He personally oversees company finances, spends a considerable amount of time marketing with new and existing customers for upcoming jobs, travels between offices and from job site to job site (often six or seven in a single day), does some estimating and handles whatever day to day issues crop up. “Creating estimates has been one of my ongoing tasks for many years. I’ve actually created building plans on napkins on several occasions and offered
budgets and pricing to clients with the understanding that once the jobs move forward, we will be strongly considered for the award. If you’re quick to fill a need, clients will be less likely to talk anyone else during the process. Even though contractors have to receive multiple competitive bids, our success rate for landing these types of projects is very high”, Kuiper says.
In The Future Aside from the occasional tweak, don’t expect Kuiper to change much – Suncor has settled on a
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formula that works. There are a number of possible jobs in new markets resulting from what Kuiper calls “the springboard effect.” “For example, if a contractor in Florida is pleased with our performance, we will ask for an introduction to one of their offices outside their area. Recently, this strategy has led to a new contract with a new customer in New England. That’s how you grow a business. Do a job exceedingly well, regardless if it is simple or
“Creating estimates has been one of my ongoing tasks for many years. I’ve actually created building plans on a napkin on several occasions and offered budgets and pricing to clients with the understanding that once the jobs move forward, we will be strongly considered for the award.” Suncor President Doug Kuiper
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| Suncor Inc.| 12 complex and always be on time. Once you get that reputation, you will stand a much better chance of booking the next project. Sometimes, clients will even pay a little more for quality
work, especially if it is a higher profile projectâ€? Kuiper concludes. In other words, grow smaller relationships to larger ones.
Company Name: Suncor, Inc. Country: U.S. Industry: Construction Est: 1992 Revenue: USD $25m Premiere Service: Structural steel specialist President: Doug Kuiper Website: www.suncor.net www.suncor.net
Longwood, Florida Office Suncor, Inc. 2170 West SR 434 Longwood, FL 32779 P: 407-230-2118
Hialeah Florida Office Suncor, Inc. 3408 W. 84th St. No. 116 Hialeah, FL 33027 P: 866-649-9360
Wisconsin Office Suncor, Inc. 612 Stokely Dr. DeForest, WI 53532 P; 608-846-9300