Reliable Equipment Helps G.W. Phillips Construction Continue on Successful Path
George Phillips knows the value of longevity and continuity when running a family business. When Phillips started G.W. Phillips Construction in 1984, his first son Matthew was still two years away from birth. Today, Matt is Vice President of his father's Houston company, and the Phillips family continues to operate a profitable business.
"When your family name is on your business, there is a pride factor involved," noted Phillips, who is Principal Owner. "You are held to a higher standard, which is a challenge you want. Our customers know they will be dealing with the company owner at all times. That's customer service that most companies can't provide. For 32 years we've had the same goal: Do a better job than our competitors."
The Phillips name is not just about father and son. George's father, who was a mason, and grandfather were also in the equipment business, which influenced his decision to start his own construction company. Since retiring from teaching school, George's wife, Rhonda, handles the company's primary accounting duties. His younger son, Aubrey, who attends Texas A&M University, works for the company in the summer and plans to join the business after graduation.
"I started the company because I had to have a way to make a living and support my family, and the construction business was what I decided to pursue," Phillips said. "Having my family directly involved in the company is a blessing."
Concrete paving, lime stabilization and underground work represent G.W. Phillips' core businesses. The company also specializes in concrete demolition, sawing and breaking; provides detention work; and offers a 24-hour service to repair water main leaks.
G.W. Phillips, which started as a small residential construction company, focuses on industrial customers today, working for several general contractors and 15 mechanical companies as well as the cities of Katy, Humble and Pearland and the Harris County Flood Control District.
The company has more than 35 full-time employees and occasionally hires short-term operators to support bigger jobs. "We treat our employees like our own family," Phillips said. "They have a name and a face - not just an employee badge and number. Our employees mean everything to us."
G.W. Phillips is located on the east side of Houston on some of the land that was part of the Furr Ranch. That property has been in George's wife's family since the 1880s. Again, family is a common thread when it comes to G.W. Phillips' success.
"I've had fun with the business through the years. Since Matt came on board 12 years ago, I've experienced even more satisfaction watching it grow. We've been successful because good, talented employees have joined the company," added Phillips, noting that his business has increased 15 percent each of the last four years.
Phillips encourages his employees to get involved in every aspect of the business. "We want them to learn numerous skills. We teach our workers different aspects of our business, which gives us a more versatile workforce. Instead of handling only concrete and dirt work, an employee also should learn underground and paving work. This also adds value for our workers for future job growth whether at this company or somewhere else."
The owner leads his employees by example. "I still handle different job tasks whether it's greasing a machine or changing the oil. I get my hands dirty just like all my employees. That's the nature of the construction business."
When asked what company projects were noteworthy over the recent past, Phillips said he is "proud of all of them."
The company is presently working on a complex project at Keegan's Bayou, where workers are running a reinforced concrete pipe under a 16-inch, high-pressure natural gas line. They are battling difficult soil conditions and working in a cramped area.
During this past spring, G.W. Phillips withstood major rain problems and a tight deadline to complete a parking project ahead of schedule for the Golf Club of Houston, site of the PGA's Shell Houston Open. The company cleared land, installed storm sewer drainage piping and paved a three-fourth mile road with 7 inches of concrete to accommodate tournament spectators' parking needs. This performance exceeded the client's expectations.
Whether running pipe or clearing land, G.W. Phillips utilizes more than 30 pieces of equipment, including excavators, bulldozers, backhoes and skid steers, to complete their jobs safely and reliably.
Phillips said the biggest reason that his company owns its equipment is that some pieces are not available to rent or lease. "We're also looking at the long haul. We want to take care of our equipment and build equity. When we need new equipment, we sell the old equipment so we are making money on the back end of the deal."
Sales Representative Chris Peterson of Doggett Heavy Machinery noted that his customer takes excellent care of its equipment - both mechanically and cosmetically. "Looking professional is one of the reasons they are awarded jobs. When I visit a Phillips' job site or go to their equipment yard, all their machines are in great working shape and also look great. They even wax some of their equipment."
Phillips remains satisfied with the business relationship he has with Doggett and Peterson, who has served the construction company since 2007. "They have good down-to-earth people like Chris and do the best job of taking care of our equipment needs. For example, if we have a problem with a machine, they quickly get a loaner to us."
Phillips added that his company couldn't go wrong buying John Deere equipment. "It's high-tech, dependable and safe, but if you have an equipment problem, they will stand behind their reputation and make things right."
Phillips also noted the "cold" cabs on the two John Deere 700K Dozers that G.W. Phillips recently purchased from Doggett. These tractors are Topcon GPS system-ready and keep operators protected from summer heat.
Phillips gave his son credit for helping him learn how to operate the complex GPS laser system. "Matt understands the new technology much better than I do. He is not just a foreman. He's a top operator - as good as there is in the country. He can move pipe in and out of difficult situations. He's the right person to run our field operations.
"I think our working relationship is a good one. Some days we might not agree on business issues, but it doesn't affect work. While I learn from him on the newer technology, he learns from me on traditional ways to do business. Some procedures such as shooting grade and cutting grade of hubs and stakes never change."
Matt started working part time at his father's company when he was 15 years old and full time when he turned 20. "I started with the basics - spotting pipe in a ditch while dad was running equipment. I also learned how all the equipment worked. Every chance I had after school and on the weekends I experimented with the machines in the yard. I also serviced the equipment."
The most important lesson he has learned from his father? "Dad says the only thing that comes to a dreamer is a dream, meaning I have to get off the couch and out of the house and get to work. Nothing comes for free."
Phillips said he is fairly satisfied with where his company is today. "I have lofty goals and a hard work ethic and drive. I'm not sure I will ever be completely satisfied. You always want to do better and push forward. There are always things you can do to improve."
Looking ahead to a demanding business environment, Phillips said, "We don't plan any major changes in our company. We will continue bidding for and choosing the jobs that are a good fit for both our company and our clients. We will continue to hire experienced people who are versatile and young workers who are eager to learn other job skills. That's the G.W. Phillips way."