Retail Construction Services Inc.

After eight years of working for a national retailer building stores, Steve Bachman – president of Retail Construction Services (RCS) Inc. – started his own company specializing in building retail stores. “I knew the business from the retailer’s perspective,” he says. RCS has constructed retail stores for Sears, U.S. Shoe, Nine West, Genesco and Ann Taylor in the early years, and has increased that to more than 50 companies today.

But in the last 18 years, the company has expanded into the financial sector, as well as public structures for communities, such as clubhouses, gatehouses, community centers and fitness centers. The 26-year old Minnesota-based builder also has offices in Dallas, New Jersey, South Dakota, Florida and California.

Several of RCS’ retail projects have received Superior Achievement in Design & Imaging (SADI) awards and other construction honors from its peers. Also, according to Bachman, the company’s golf course clubhouses have won numerous awards from various club managers’ associations and organizations. “We really can’t take any credit,” Bachman says. “We just implement their vision.” He adds that RCS bids off other architect’s drawings about 95 percent of the time, but the company has been known to complete design/build projects, too.

“We have a passion to be the best,” Bachman says. “Some companies just give the customers lip service, but we try to model our business on being the best. We’re always asking our customers, ‘What could we have done better?’ We can always do a better job.” Bachman adds that RCS practices honesty in all its work. “We’re licensed in all the states the company does business in, we pay our taxes, follow the rules and do everything we’re supposed to do.

“Our mission statement is, ‘Do the right thing,’” Bachman explains. “We live, breathe and model that in all our work.”

Community Service

Just last year, RCS started its “Giving Garden,” where employees grow produce on a half-acre of land on the company’s property. “[The land] was just sitting there and we were watering it anyway,” Bachman says. “We really hyped it up – not to pat ourselves on the back, but to create awareness for this project and so the community could get involved.”

The garden also is incorporated into the local school system to help teach children about growing their own food and being socially responsible. All the produce was given away to local food pantries, rest homes, battered women’s shelters and group homes, Bachman says. This year, a local high school is not only building a green, reclaimed garden shed, but will be acting as mentors to younger students on a wide variety of garden projects.

Bachman knows the construction industry produces too much waste, and RCS is doing its best to cut that down. “We actively look for LEED projects and want to be affiliated with corporate-responsible projects,” he says.

Safety First

RCS’s safety program is very structured, Bachman says. The company clearly lays out its goals, objectives and benchmarks, and those are all reviewed on a quarterly basis. 

According to Bachman, the program was started 15 years ago and has brought RCS recognition from the Minnesota and National Safety Council for its best practices and safest work sites. The company has had no lost workday incidents since 1999.

Once a week, the construction crews have what Bachman calls a “Tool Box Talk” where the crews sit down with their supervisor and discuss safety. “We have different personnel come and go throughout a project, so it’s important that everyone is on the same page,” he says. The supervisor walks through the site and writes down any potential hazards that will be discussed during the Tool Box Talk. A new safety topic is introduced each week, as well.

Old Methodologies 

Bachman misses the good ol’ days when people actually talked to one another. “I want to engage with people,” he says. “I think, with all the time-saving devices we have, we’ve lost the ‘human-ness’ of dealing with people.”

Bachman believes that because of those time-saving devices, the act of construction has slowed down. “The paperwork is phenomenal, and I’m not even sure how efficient it makes the project,” he says. “People spend way too much time in their Web-based construction systems and are buried in paperwork.

“I think some of the old methodology was better,” Bachman adds. “We’ve got away from just doing it right and executing. Now, it’s a lot of cover-your-[rear-end] stuff. We’re broadcasting too much information to people who don’t need it and then it has to be dealt with on their end. All of this slows down the construction time.”

Dealing with Tough Times

With today’s tough economic climate, RCS – like many other construction companies – has had to lay off employees. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Bachman explains. “It made me miserable.” 

However, when better times finally come around, he says he plans on re-hiring those lost employees. In fact, Bachman believes things are turning around. 

“[The economy] is slowly coming back,” he says. “It’s not a Maserati going down the highway; it’s more like a farm truck.”

But Bachman says he has a plan. RCS is going to continue to push for more financial construction work and become more diverse in its retail construction. “The construction industry has been beaten up pretty bad over the last few years,” Bachman admits. “But as long as you’ve got good core values, you’ll survive. We are always striving to do a better job.”

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