At Lakeshore TolTest Corp., its core values are critical to its survival, Kevin Parikh says. “We live and breathe by our core values, for which we have coined the acronym, ‘CPRR,’” he says. Parikh, who is the executive vice president for its heavy engineering repair and construction division, says the “C” in “CPRR” stands for “client satisfaction,” and the “P” stands for a “positive, can-do attitude.” Meanwhile, the first “R” stands for “taking responsibility,” where the company’s employees are “holding ourselves to account,” Parikh says.
The very last “R” represents employees being “respectful to people” within its operations. “Without ‘CPRR,’ we can’t live,” Parikh says.
Based in Detroit, Lakeshore TolTest was formed last year through a stock transaction of infrastructure construction company Lakeshore Engineering Services Inc., and TolTest Inc., a specialty contractor. “[By] combining the two, we created a better company,” President and CEO Avinash Rachmale says, noting that the new company specializes in government construction projects.
He adds that both firms, which had worked with each other before, brought extensive experience to the partnership. For instance, while the 81-year-old TolTest completed many projects in Japan, Guam and Korea, Lakeshore Engineering’s projects brought it to such destinations as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since the merger, “The integration has gone well,” Parikh reports. “Judging by the performance that there was an acquisition involved, it was by far the best year ever.”
TolTest President Ernest Enrique adds that the merger has made both firms more competitive in today’s tough business environment. “In Southeast Asia alone, our firms have successfully executed over $715 million of high-risk, challenging projects, and we continue to win new work every day,” he says.
Along with its values, Lakeshore TolTest is set apart from competitors by the way it focuses on employees, Parikh says. “First, [we look closely at] who we bring into our team,” he says. “We do quite a bit of assessment [and] we form teams that are supposed to work together.
Additionally, “We focus on the way they operate within a team environment,” he continues, noting that Lakeshore TolTest also sets itself apart with its strong focus on customer satisfaction.
For instance, it will not hesitate when it comes to serving a client’s needs, Rachmale says. “If a client calls in the middle of the night, we’ll jump [to assist them],” he says. “We are not afraid of taking risks and if you compare [us to] the larger companies, they hesitate in taking risks.”
One example of a risk was a project in Afghanistan, where Lakeshore TolTest built a three-and-a-half mile runway at Camp Bastion, a British military base located in the Helmand Province. At the time, others told the company it would not succeed. “That was a calculated risk from our part,” he recalls, adding that the company did not hesitate and recently finished work on the runway.
Rachmale, Parikh and Enrique are each longtime veterans of this industry. A civil engineer by trade, Rachmale earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from the Government Engineering College in Aurangabad, India, and a master’s degree in civil engineering from Wayne State University in 1985.
He formed Lakeshore Engineering nine years later. In addition, Rachmale is in Wayne State’s School of Engineering Hall of Fame, and was honored by President Obama at the White House in 2009 for receiving The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Champion Award for Entrepreneurial Success.
Parikh has more experience in construction, although he is also a civil engineer. “I graduated from [S.V. Regional College of Engineering and Technology] in India and went to City University of New York and Buffalo [afterward],” he recalls, adding that he has been a contractor since he was young.
Enrique, a native of Venezuela, also received a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering from the University Rafael Urdaneta and a masters of science in civil engineering from the University of Toledo. In addition, he is a registered professional engineer in 10 U.S. states.
After moving to the United States, he joined TolTest. As it was under his leadership, the company won the HQ Air Force Center for Engineering and Environment’s Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award and the Small Business Administration’s Prime Contractor of the Year Award.
He adds that he enjoys the industry. “I like the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, and the challenges that come with it,” Enrique says. “While engaged in this business, I have traveled the world, met some very interesting people, made many friends and can honestly say I learn new things every day.”
Like many, Lakeshore TolTest is coping with a tough market. “It is brutal out there in the construction [industry],” Parikh says. “The imbalance in the economy has brought tremendous competition.”
Lakeshore sees more growth in its future, Rachmale says. Along with its current workload, “We see a lot of projects in the pipeline,” he says. “We’ll be growing at the rate of 20 to 25 percent in [the future]. We see ourselves in the market as one of the key federal contractors.”
Enrique believes that the merger has played a part in this growth. “Together, the two companies now have the drive, talent, corporate resume, past performance and infrastructure to grow the company and sustain that growth into the future,” he says.