The Martin Group

As a mid-sized general contractor, The Martin Group (TMG) is able to provide the attention and resources needed by clients in any phase of their business lifecycle. “We take a lot of pride in being flexible for the companies we do business with,” President Andre Grebenstein says.

TMG tends to gravitate to similarly young companies that need help in facilitating growth, but Grebenstein says the company also provides support work for several mature clients, such as on-call emergency bank repairs for a large Northeast regional bank. Being able to meet the needs of a wide range of businesses while providing hands-on service has helped TMG grow from $5 million in revenue to $70 million in just eight years. “Every client knows they have access to the people with whom the buck stops,” Grebenstein adds.

Jerry Martin and Patrick Hynes, who have more than 50 years of combined construction management experience, founded the New Jersey-based general contractor in the mid-2000s. The company started off primarily as an interior constructor, but, over time, TMG transitioned to data center work and since then has headed commercial and high-end residential projects around the country. Grebenstein says the company works in all project delivery models, including design build, construction management and lump-sum general contracting. TMG’s comfort with different types of projects recently attracted New York Life Insurance, the nation’s largest mutual life insurance company, which hired TMG to complete critical infrastructure upgrades for three of its facilities.  

Although the company operates in a variety of construction models, Grebenstein says design/build has been on the rise the past two years. “I think it’s speed-to-market driven,” Grebenstein says of the trend, noting that customers want projects finished sooner. TMG undertook three design/build projects in 2014, valued at a combined $12 million. Two of the jobs were data center expansions or upgrades and the third was a recovery project for a restaurant that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Data Center Drive

As TMG has grown, data center projects have become an increasingly large segment of its business. The company entered the field by completing smaller data center infrastructure projects, such as swapping out cooling equipment. But as TMG gained experience and its reputation grew, the company began doing full-scale data center construction. TMG has partnered with 1547 Critical Systems Realty, a real estate developer that specializes in data centers. Through that relationship, TMG has completed three data center projects: a small data center in Hawaii, a 35,000-square-foot facility built out of the ground in Cheyenne, Wyo., and $25 million of colocation space for a building in Orangeburg, N.Y., just north of Manhattan. Grebenstein says data center work now makes up about 60 percent of TMG’s activity, with 25 percent commercial interiors and 15 percent residential.

To keep up with the increasing number of projects, TMG needed to upgrade its own data. In 2012, the company rolled out a cloud-based project management system, ProCore, which provides real time access to project data to any device connected to the Internet. The cloud-based software has helped TMG teams to be more efficient and more involved with each project while giving clients instantaneous access to important documentation and communications. “It really took us to a different level as far as job costing and managing project management processes,” Grebenstein says.

Managing Growth

TMG is not the kind of contractor that chases the market, Grebenstein explains. Instead, the company identifies clients it wants to work with and looks to build those relationships. The data center community is filled with a tightly knit group of professionals who know each other and know the firms within the industry. TMG fosters those connections and aligns itself with people in the field to create positive word of mouth and expand its market. Grebenstein says TMG clients learn to trust the company and are often quick to recommend TMG to others in the industry. “If you build a community of partners you all succeed together,” Grebenstein adds.

As TMG has become better known in the data center field the company has had to be more conscious of the speed of its growth to continue to provide the level of service that attracts customers in the first place. To manage that growth, Grebenstein says TMG aims to add one good client each year with the goal of turning that partnership into ongoing project opportunities. The most recent additions were the LeFrak Organization, a family owned real estate firm that has enlisted TMG on projects in the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York City, and Infocrossing, a data center company. “They are quality blue-chip clients,” Grebenstein says.

Creating partnerships that lead to continuous work may be TMG’s prime objective, but Grebenstein says the company will also take on single project clients when the job is driven by an existing relationship, such as a $5 million restaurant reconstruction in Sea Bright, N.J., not far from TMG’s headquarters in Matawan, N.J. “When you’re a mid-sized company, resources are limited and you need to deploy your resources where there is maximum impact,” Grebenstein says.

Entrepreneurial Culture

Being selective in the number of new clients TMG undertakes allows the company to have a clear understanding of its project pipeline and whether it must scale up staffing. Careful staff planning is a necessity for companies such as TMG where each employee can make a large impact on operations. 

As a result, TMG does not conduct project-based hiring; instead new team members are brought into the company only when TMG has a need for a specific skill set. Grebenstein says he looks for people who take initiative and show good judgment. If team members have a strong foundation on how to conduct business, the technical skills can be easily taught, he adds.

The approach has fostered an entrepreneurial culture within TMG’s ranks. “It’s an environment where we are all very forthcoming,” Grebenstein says. “We understand mistakes are made, we learn from our mistakes and don’t make them again.”

Further Support

Grebenstein believes in continuous improvement and the next phase for the company will build on that dedication to quality. Throughout the organization, TMG wants to bolster the pre-construction department, in an effort to better support its evolving project base. “That’s a key piece to being able to support the developers,” Grebenstein says. 

In addition, an enhanced construction department will allow the company’s other employees to remain focused on superior project execution. Grebenstein explains that having more depth in pre-construction services will allow TMG to be at the table when key-go or no-go decisions are made on new project deals. 

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