'Align yourself with a company that offers a culture of respect'
Q: Describe your company.
A: Kinzie Builders is a construction company that specializes in the planning, designing and building of both residential and commercial real estate developments. Over the past five years, our business has grown threefold. We now employ over 30 people across two Chicagoland locations and manage millions in construction activity throughout Illinois.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: We moved into a new office in 2021, around the time of our 10-year anniversary. We can see the return on that investment already, as we were able to design a space that suited the needs of our more hybrid working arrangements.
There is a demand for talent industrywide, and given our pipeline for 2022 and beyond, we're definitely interested in hearing from anyone who would like to work at a company like ours. As a general contractor, we are always mindful of having the best possible relationship with our subcontractors so we can work with the very best. In fact, our excellent reputation among subcontractors is something we have become known for in the greater Chicago area.
We're also interested in continuing to broaden our geographic scope. Right now, our current and future multifamily projects range from Chicago's Old Town neighborhood and Aurora to Mount Prospect and Crystal Lake. We anticipate opportunities to stretch those boundaries in the next year or so, maybe even into Wisconsin.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: Like any other firm in development and construction, materials procurement will continue to be a critical challenge as supply chain issues and fluctuating prices for materials linger into 2022. If the pandemic has taught us anything it's that being prepared can also help a company be flexible. In our case, we are determining how we can purchase materials ahead of time and have them on hand versus to mitigate the impact of shipping delays.
Given the extended lead times of a construction project, budgets are generally determined long before some materials need to be used. In a situation when pricing is more stable, it's beneficial to wait to purchase materials that will be used further along in a project. Given the instability of materials pricing that will impact construction for the foreseeable future, purchasing in advance is better for cost control.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: Great amenity spaces continue to be in high demand among renters and, therefore, our developer clients. This aligns with another trend we've seen accelerate during the pandemic, which is the rise of Class A suburban apartments that emulate those found in city centers. Suburban residents of all generations, but especially empty-nesters and millennials, want the style, amenities and walkability found in upscale urban apartments in suburban downtowns.
Our recent completions of 10 North Main in downtown Mount Prospect and Avere on Duane, which is just steps from the Glen Ellyn Metra station and Illinois Prairie Path, are great examples of this. We're also seeing interest in rental townhouses, as evidenced by our Elm Street Place development in Deerfield, which was fully leased before we completed construction, and one of our new developments, 4th and Broadway, which offers seven rental townhouses in Libertyville.
Designing buildings in the most cost-effective way possible is critical right now given this inflationary climate. It's important for developers to have the right design and structural teams involved as well as bring the general contractor into the process from the beginning. You would be surprised how many times critical elements of a developer's team, like general contractors, aren't included early enough in the planning stages, especially given how much impact building materials and construction labor prices have on a budget.
Fortunately, many of our clients take advantage of our preconstruction services, and we are often in a position of helping clients during the very early stages of a project given our experience working with so many different municipalities. The fact that the Kinzie Builders team has a strong engineering expertise is tremendously helpful too.
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?
A: Align yourself with a company that offers a culture of respect, driven by great people. In our industry, you can tell a lot about a company by how it treats its subcontractors and other project partners. If the respect extends to the broader team, you know you are in a good place. Also, consider what the company means to you and your future. Always make sure you understand and are abreast of opportunities for professional growth. At the same time, be flexible enough to keep your options open.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: Be kind, courteous and respectful -- basically, follow the Golden Rule. Our employees at Kinzie Builders set a great example for this, and I strongly believe it's a major factor behind our success. Our ability to be respectful in negotiations and project planning enables us to work with partners to create the best possible outcomes for everyone.
The spirit of kindness drives our charitable commitments, too, which we've striven to keep up with even as the pandemic has limited some of our in-person volunteering. For example, earlier this year we broke ground on the Harbour House, a new shelter for young women experiencing homelessness located in the near northwest suburbs, where we are providing construction services at a reduced rate and have brought in subcontractors who are doing the same.
We are also involved in PADS Lake County, an organization that helps homeless individuals and families through food and shelter services, Feed My Starving Children and Rebuilding Together, an organization committed to improving homes for low-income residents.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: I've met so many people deserving of admiration and respect in my career, it's hard to choose one over another. For some, I relate to their drive and aptitude for hard work, because the energy I put into this business is one of the reasons I can enjoy the accomplishment of Kinzie's 10-year anniversary. For others, the way they conduct themselves with business associates, project partners and employees make them not only a pleasure to work with, but also someone to emulate.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: I married my high school sweetheart. We went to college together at Valparaiso University and continued to date each other throughout our time there. This year, we're celebrating 36 years of marriage.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I love to spend time with my family, so it's convenient that one of my favorite hobbies is cooking. With four children, two sons- and daughters-in-law, three grandchildren and two more on the way, our dinner table is rapidly expanding, and I'm sharpening my skills at feeding a crowd! And with all the good food around, it's also helpful that another of my hobbies is working out.
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, a former monk who now hosts a podcast called On Purpose.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: I haven't been a great sleeper for more than a decade, so this is a tough question for me to answer.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: My first job was stenciling addresses on street curbs, followed by mowing lawns and caddying, jobs that have probably launched many kids into the working world.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: None. Instead of spending money on a sports venue sponsorship, I'd rather invest it in the community by supporting a charitable organization.
Founder and Principal
678 Broadway Street, Suite 200, Libertyville, IL 60048
Industry: Real estate/construction
Number of employees: More than 30
Family information: Met wife in high school, four children, three grandchildren with two more on the way.
Hometown: Born in Lake Forest, raised in Deerfield and lives in Libertyville.