Tucked away in the trees across from an open field is the headquarters of Bostic Construction Inc. – a Colonial-style house with a design borrowed from Thomas Jefferson. Go inside at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and you'll probably find company president Mel Morris. Sometimes, he is listening to jazz and talking with family and friends. But most likely, he is just looking for ways to prod Bostic Construction to build apartment buildings even faster than it already does.
Not exactly the scene you'd expect in the sedate, low-key rural McLeansville, N.C., where most people are getting ready to go to church at this time on a Sunday morning. But this is a company that relies on a breakneck pace and razor-sharp efficiency to build a three-story, 24-unit apartment building in 105 days.
When former National Football League (NFL) players Jeff and Joe Bostic started their multifamily business in 1991, creating a faster building system wasn't their priority. But now, more than 10 years later, speed has become a de facto theme for the company.
When Bostic Construction looks for land to develop, it seeks property that is already zoned for multifamily: It takes too much time to change zoning, Morris says.
To keep construction on the fast track, the company builds a model of each type of unit in a warehouse. This not only eliminates waste but also helps nail down processes – so there are no surprises or holdups when construction actually begins. Then, when it's time to build, the company relies on vertical integration – the company's ability to manage both the flow of supplies and the schedule of its subcontractors. Finally, the company preassembles building components, saving the subcontractors' time at the jobsite.
Bostic Construction has used this process as a vehicle for rapid growth during the past five years. In 1997, the company had one employee, Morris, and $3 million in revenue. It now has more than 150 employees and more than $250 million in revenue. After building 672 units from 1992 through 1997, Bostic Construction production took off. In 1998, it built a total of 1,258 units. In 1999, it increased production to 1,875 units. By 2000, its 2,678 units moved the company into the top 10 of Builder magazine's Top 50 list of multifamily builders. In 2001, Bostic Construction stayed at No. 10, building 3,477 units. It followed up with 5,706 units in 2002, moving up to the No. 2 spot.
Of course, its building speed and rapid growth spurt has lead to growing pains – which Morris struggles with as he tries to take Bostic Construction to the next level. While it anticipates maintaining its frantic building pace, the company faces challenges in securing financial partners, continuing to improve its building process, and finding new places to build in a soft economy.