Mobile Modular

Mobile ModularMobile Modular continues its success by consistently communicating with its employees, partners and customers.
By Bianca Herron

For more than 30 years, Mobile Modular has been a leader in the temporary modular space industry. The Livermore, Calif.-based company has served the commercial and education markets, renting everything from single-floor modular offices to multi-section portable classrooms and office complexes.

Mobile Modular’s parent company is McGrath Rentcorp, which manages a diversified portfolio of business-to-business equipment rental providers worldwide. Mobile Modular has expanded well outside of California into the District of Columbia and 16 states including Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Texas.

“Mobile Modular was one of the pioneers in the modular industry and has achieved growth through all types of economic cycles,” Vice President Phil Hawkins says.

Hawkins attributes the company’s significant growth to its employees. “Our founders believed that it was all about getting the right people in the organization,” he explains. “So it was about hiring the right folks. That included hiring those that were focused on growth and had the ability to see opportunities outside of the California market and then take smart risks.” Mobile Modular box

One of the things Mobile Modular is very proud of, and which has contributed to its success, Hawkins notes, is product innovation. In all of the markets it serves, Mobile Modular has been innovative and tailored its product offering to the type of modular solutions needed by its customers. “Our modular building designs and quality have given us the ability to expand into new areas and has opened up opportunities for us to be more competitive, appealing and differentiated which has allowed us to get a strong position in the markets we operate,” Hawkins says.

Customer First

Mobile Modular’s customers include K-12 public school districts, higher education institutions and private schools. However, a significant portion of its business is public school work. “That segment of the market depends on us to be professional and highly responsive,” Hawkins says. “They want us to provide a quality learning environment and a price point that they can fit within their budget.

“So we offer excellent solutions for any of those customers,” Hawkins adds. “With our product innovation we have been able to develop some compelling designs that we can deliver that do not look like your typical modular buildings. We try not to use the word ‘trailer,’ but there is a lot of product on the market that is small and not very attractive. We believe that we offer product that is very aesthetically pleasing, and also provides a larger, more appealing environment for the students, teachers and community.”

In addition to schools, Mobile Modular’s clients can range from general contractors building a restaurant all the way up to Fortune 500 companies that are opening a new facility, or need a temporary space.

“Again, they are all looking for an affordable, high-quality space,” Hawkins notes.  “Customer service is important to us, so we maintain the building over the life of our client’s rental. For example, if we get a call during the summer from a client in Texas saying their air conditioning went out, they expect us to be there pretty quickly. We’re able to do that because of our infrastructure and the skilled service employees we have on our team. Our goal is to deliver an exceptional service experience to every customer every time.

“Even though we believe we have a differentiated solution, many people view the modular building product as a commodity. It all comes down to the service we provide at every step in the process so that the customer’s project is successful and we have had a reputation for a long time now in the industry for doing that extremely well.”

Working Together

One of the things that make the education market challenging is that customers typically need all of their work done in a compressed timeframe. However, with the help of its partners, Mobile Modular completes projects on time and on budget, according to Hawkins. 

“If they want to repair or refurbish an existing facility, the work can’t start until the students are out of school, which is late May or early June,” Hawkins explains. “So as soon as those students are out, the clock starts ticking until they have to return to school in the fall. Now we have this two- to three-month timeframe where we have to do a significant amount of work in terms of site work, portable classroom delivery and installation – amongst other things – in a short amount of time. So though it’s very difficult, it’s a part of our business that we excel in with the great help of our subcontractors.”

Sometimes the company may have more than 10 public school projects at the same time, calling for even greater collaboration and cooperation with its subcontractors. “We have people in place to help support with completing all projects diligently and efficiently, such as partners we can depend on to deliver and install the building,” Hawkins says. “They are an extension of us so it is critical that they deliver that same great experience to our customers. It takes a lot of really skilled folks to make all of that happen quickly and correctly.”

Communication also plays a critical role in ensuring successful completion of a project. “We truly look at our subcontractors as partners,” Hawkins says. “We have some that we have worked with for 20 years and have great relationships with them. So it’s really important that we work closely with our subcontractors and are very transparent with them as well.”

An Open Door

Hawkins also attributes the company’s success to its employees. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without our people at every level of the organization,” he says proudly. “They do an amazing job for our customers and we really try to hold on to that family culture that our founders created. So we have a pretty flat organization.

“We are a company where everyone wears a bunch of hats; however, it’s very much an open-door organization,” he continues. “For example, anyone can come to my office or even the CEO’s to ask what’s going on in the business, or to share an idea about anything. We have more than 400 employees at Mobile Modular and everyone has my cell phone number. So I’ll get a call from someone who works in our production facility about an idea they have, an issue they want to be sure I am aware of or it might be someone calling to ask if I can help with his or her child’s math homework. So we are all super accessible and listen to everyone’s ideas.”

Ultimately, Mobile Modular is focused on results. “It’s about completing successful projects for our customers, but our team also knows that we take care of each other,” Hawkins explains. “We give each other feedback and want everyone to know we genuinely care about each other.”

Hawkins has been with Mobile Modular for over 13 years, and has worked in its Modular Division for five. During his tenure with the company, he concludes that he is most proud of the quality of people in the organization. “Again, it always comes back to the quality of the team,” he says. “It’s about having a great team in place. Once we’re all clear about a mission, everyone can get out there and manage what they are supposed to. We talk about our mission and what needs to be done to pursue excellence.

“So it’s all about exceeding the expectations of our customers and acting with one accord every time,” he adds. “We can do everything right, but if one person in our chain has an interaction that doesn’t go well, it can change the whole customer experience. So communication between all team members is critically important so that we do not negatively impact the customer experience.”

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