Bryan Garvey, founder and CEO of Corbet Design + Build, is an entrepreneur in the commercial construction field. Beginning his career shortly after graduating Tarleton State University, Bryan worked alongside his own excavation team for several years, expanding the breadth and depth of both his trade and management skills. It was through this experience that he realized the lack of excellent construction services readily available to mid-market clients. He then formed Corbet Design + Build, a boutique design and build firm that provides high-quality building management services with an emphasis on the client’s priorities and experiences.
Since founding Corbet, Bryan has partnered with a range of clients, from franchisees and clergy to developers and architects, to construct a wide variety of projects. He comes alongside partners to provide strategic advice regarding site-selection, design, permitting, budgeting, construction, and commissioning. Most notably, Bryan recently managed the construction of the largest freestanding Volkswagen dealership in the U.S.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I started doing construction management for friends and the business just started growing. It’s really our clients that inspire the work and the direction. There are certain areas of the market that are terribly underserved, even though they have plenty of great projects. Corbet Design + Build has been fortunate enough to meet some of those needs.
How do you make money?
We work with individuals who want to expand or establish their commercial real estate footprint. Generally, Corbet jumps in at the conceptual phase, partnering with the owners to create designs and schedules to their specifications, though we can take on projects in other stages of development. We then manage the build, quite literally, from the ground up, providing seasoned guidance and strategically navigating any potential issues all the way to completion.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We came into the market meeting a very apparent need, so Corbet has been profitable from the start. It started out with a good foundation due to the reputation we had established with our work previous to Corbet’s inception. Our clientele has changed throughout the years, but we have been able to scale with the market so Corbet has been steadily growing since its creation. We are always looking for opportunities to expand into new markets, which has helped us stay profitable throughout the years.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
If we were ever unsure of continued success, it was during the 2008-2009 time frame when the real estate and construction industries just stopped. Everyone was uncertain as to what was going to happen, but we focused on staying the course and not giving up on the market. We worked hard to stay true to who we are since great people still had great projects that needed great management. Choosing projects that worked for us to be sure we could meet our client’s needs remained on top of our priorities list. Eventually, the world got back to its normal pace and when we realized that we had ridden out that rough patch, it was great to look back and see that Corbet had maintained its integrity.
How did you get your first customer?
They called me! A friend of mine had a commercial construction project that he needed help with, so he reached out to us. We managed it for him and since we had a really great experience, we decided to dig into the industry. Between our investigation and some wonderful referrals, we started getting more and more work until it became our primary focus.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Well to tell you the truth, the commercial real estate/construction industry runs on referrals. We have found that it’s best to market in a way that compliments that process. Lately, we have really been utilizing social media to stay in front of people and remind them of what we do. It’s a great way to capitalize on the connections that we already have. By maintaining consistent communication, future clients get a taste of partnering with Corbet and past clients can easily share their positive experiences.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
We are presented with partnership opportunities on a regular basis. It is always challenging to determine which projects to accept. In order to maintain our integrity and provide excellent service, we have to be strategic and avoid over-extending ourselves. We also need to be confident that Corbet is the best fit for the project. This can mean turning down opportunities, but if that allows us to put our best foot forward on every project we accept, it’s worth it.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
A high personal standard of excellence is key. Day in and day out, treating everyone as you would like to be treated will get you far. For Corbet specifically, that looks like communicating clearly, often and honestly. It’s doing the hard work to become the expert you would want working on your own projects. It’s providing seasoned, strategic advice and being diligent to stay ahead of a build in order to mitigate the issues that arise on every construction site. Those things ensure a great building experience, which leads to a great referral.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
We took over a project for a client who needed a company that would manage it for him. The previous company had been experiencing some financial difficulty, so he had to release them. We took over and managed the project clear to the end. We successfully completed their project and got their staff into their facility to use it as it was planned. I even got to be a part of their opening day. I was definitely satisfying to know that we took such a great burden off of them.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
With construction, every project holds unique challenges and rewards. That’s what makes our industry so exciting. Every new partnership and project is an opportunity to refine our skills, expand our business and work with amazing people. Those growth opportunities are easy to get excited about. There is so much potential and it’s thrilling to imagine the possibilities.
What business books have inspired you?
“Every Good Endeavor” by Tim Keller. I have read it a few times and every single time, I learn something new and valuable. He really gets to the core of why we work, which, when something takes up so much of your life, it is vital to know the “why” behind it. He also does a really great job of defining the goals of our work and what we should be seeking to accomplish in the big picture. It keeps my eye on the prize and helps me prioritize my day with the end goal in mind. I highly recommend re-reading it every few years. As I learn and grow as a person, I read from a new perspective and gain a deeper insight.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
Our company’s best investment has always been in our people. We have a great team of professional staff members and support teams. We invest in finding good people to keep our business growing.