McGraw Builds Own Company

February 3, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — If a smile a day keeps the doctor away, then Paul McGraw is one healthy contractor.

And what’s not to smile about? Growing a business out of hard work and determination to the point of working on some of the premier buildings in the area — and loving every minute of it — has definitely put a smile on McGraw’s face.

In 1989 at the age of 21, McGraw started McGraw Construction after realizing it was the industry he loved. He spent his summers going door-to-door, handing out fliers and taking any project that was offered — from decks to roofs to kitchens.

“I would target a certain neighborhood and dedicate my Saturdays to going out and putting fliers in everyone’s mailboxes, sometimes 50 at a time. And sometimes I would get maybe 10 responses,” said McGraw. “Then I would go out and estimate the job and complete the work.”

Handing out the fliers, advertising at trade shows and introducing the company to as many people as possible, McGraw was soon rewarded with small renovations and some service work.

Two years later he landed his first commercial project through the father of a friend. From there the business continued to grow and by the time he was 25, McGraw had added a couple more people to the staff and had begun taking on commercial projects of all sizes.

Building the business from the ground up has taught McGraw and his staff that hard work pays off and the company is only as good as its last project. And it’s those past projects, McGraw said, that will fuel future growth.

That philosophy has led McGraw Construction to some of the area’s best-known projects, including the Brassworks Building, Van Andel Arena, Peninsular Club, Aquinas College, Tower Automotive, Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center, Porter Hills and many others.

But McGraw said he is careful not to spread his reach too far.

“We were bidding on all different kinds of projects and that was good, but we really wanted to be able to be more full-service and hold more of an advising role to our clients,” he said.

With that in mind, the company identified its largest markets — and those where it had the most competency — and from now on will actively pursue only those, while still leaving the door open for other work.

“We will focus on office, medical, service/residential, multi-housing and historic preservation,” he said. “We are not closing our doors to other markets; we will just not be actively pursuing them.”

With this refocus, the company also offers a few ancillary services for added value for its clients. The company is able to offer real estate brokerage services and development, for which it has added additional staff.

While keeping the focus on the core product — construction, these services will add value for the customer and give McGraw the knowledge it needs in understanding what a client’s overall needs are.

“Offering this package of services, if nothing else, allows us to understand the pressures and quality the client needs,” he said. “It opens up more doors with the client relationship and is just a much better way to do business. We want to distinguish ourselves, and in this business that is difficult to do.”

He added that everyone touts personal service, quality and speed, but what McGraw wants to offer is a management relationship. When dealing with larger companies, he noticed the client often has no contact with the management staff or the owner and only deals with the project manager.

“In my business I know each project that we are involved in. I know where it is, what stage it is in and what the client needs,” said McGraw. “Any of our clients can call me at any time and I think that helps to have a relationship like that. I am proud of the work we have done and I can shake any one of my clients’ hands on the street. That is a good feeling.”

And it is also part of the job that he loves. McGraw noted that to go to a job site that is near completion and see that everything is running smoothly and coming together is a good feeling — and the real proof that he has put together a good team.

Looking ahead, with nearly 15 years of experience under his belt, McGraw said he hopes to continue to build his core business while building on the ancillary services to offer clients a full-service operation.

“My goals are simple: I want to grow the business and offer everything the client needs in terms of building their dream space.

“That,” he said with a smile, “and to build a huge skyscraper downtown.”           

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