Marous Brothers Construction

Thirty years ago, Chip Marous, one of the three owners of Marous Brothers Construction in Willoughby, Ohio, didn’t imagine the firm he started with his brother Scott would be as big and diverse as it is today. “We’re determined and we like big goals,” he notes. “We thought that the sky was the limit and that we’d be big some day. We knew we wanted to grow the company.”

The firm specializes in projects in the education, government, healthcare, industrial, office, religious, multi-family residential, restaurant, retail and sports markets. It also does historical renovations and focuses on the eastern region. 

Marous Brothers Construction is comprised of four building divisions – general contracting, design/build, construction management and special projects group. “Clients have an opportunity to pick a delivery system that best matches their needs,” Marous says.  The company also has four self-performing divisions: site, concrete, carpentry and interior finishes. Its diversification has been the company’s key to success. “That’s why during the hard times, we are busy,” Marous says. “We’re flexible enough that it helps us weather this economic storm.

“We’re very diversified in historical rehabilitations, student housing and we do healthcare and government work,” he explains. “These markets have helped us get through the good and bad times.”

The company also has been involved with many affordable housing projects, a sector that has continued to be strong. “That sector has been good for us for a lot of years, and continues to be good for us,” he says. 

Self-performing aspects of these projects – such as site, concrete, carpentry, and interior finishes – has also been beneficial to the firm. “We are unique because we are a true builder,” he describes. “We are a throwback to the ’40s and ’50s because we self-perform. A lot of general contractors just basically manage the project.

“We have the opportunity to control the schedule better,” he explains. “We also have better control of the budget with our own people.”

Project Milestone

Marous – who was just 19 years old – and his brother Scott – who was 23 – founded the company in 1980. “Times were really good and, basically, we just started off as a carpenter contractor,” Chip Marous says. “As we grew, we did larger carpentry jobs and started adding people to our staff. We became the largest carpenter contractor in the area.”

As the business grew, Marous Brothers Construction also began serving as a general contractor and performing development work. It also started going outside of the Willoughby area to perform jobs as clients requested it. He also highlights his brother Ken – who joined the firm in 1997, and is now vice president and runs the site and concrete divisions. 

Although it had been growing since it was founded, a 1996 historical renovation project in Cleveland put the company on the map, Chip Marous says. “The $10 million job was our largest project to date at that time,” he says. “The year before, we only had $10 million in revenues. It was very successful, and that project benefitted us for years to come.”

That project was the renovation of the Central YMCA, and the company’s scope of the work was to rehabilitate the entire building including sections of the student housing, athletic facilities and apartments on the site. “That really launched us as a general contractor,” he says. “We knew [the potential of the project] and with that in mind, we pulled it off.”

The company had performed historical renovations before this project, Marous notes, but this job helped that sector become one of its specialties. Today, “It’s very typical for us,” he says. Also, “there are tax credits involved, as well as restrictions and guidelines you have to abide by.”

Unique Projects

By early 2011, Marous Brothers Construction is scheduled to complete the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo African Elephant crossing – a $21 million project that will be the first LEED gold certified animal exhibit and the largest elephant exhibit in the country. 

The five-acre site will house six elephants and hold new pools, a facility to house the elephants and roaming space. Some of the sustainable aspects of the project include the filter system, pool and the mechanical, HVAC and heating systems, Marous says. Material will also be recycled on site, he adds. 

“It’s unique because we don’t usually build elephant exhibits, especially $21 million ones,” he says. “A lot of the projects we do are unique. I think we’re built on unique projects.”

Another unique project Marous Brothers Construction recently completed was the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. The $115 million project involved completely gutting the 32-story facility. Floors one through 26 encompassed 450 Westin Hotel rooms, while the rest of the floors held condominiums. 

“It was a building that was sitting there for 30 years and was vacant,” Marous says. “We had to demolish a part of the roof and structure and it was difficult to do that. It was sitting in the city, so there was not a lot of room to work.

“Included in the scope of work was to refurbish the exterior of the 32-story building,” he adds, which included the replacement of more than 1,700 windows and copper work on the roof that cost over $2 million. “We had to help design a hotel to fit into a building that wasn’t designed to be a modern hotel.”

Thinking Ahead

One of the company’s strengths is its ability to work within a budget and meet a project’s schedule. Self-performing aspects of the project help the company to meet those goals, Marous says. 

For example, the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel encompassed 10 months of design work in which the project team went through all the subs – such as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors – to find ways to cut costs. “We helped them design/build the mechanical system,” he says. “We put pen to paper in making sure [all the equipment] will fit. 

“We did a lot of upfront work,” he adds. “That doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges. We definitely ran into challenges. But through the design team approach, we eliminated some of those issues.”

Strong Client Base

Marous Brothers Construction has a strong repeat client rate. The company has worked with some of its clients for 25 years. “A big part [of our firm] is repeat business,” Marous says. 

“But as big as we are, we are always looking for new clients and making sure we take care of the ones we have. We have a huge focus on client service at Marous Brothers Construction. We strive to make sure we understand what our clients need from us.” 

The company recently started bidding on more public work as the private sector remains almost stagnant. “We’ve been very successful in bidding public work,” he notes. 

That is not the only change the company has experienced because of the economic conditions. “It has definitely impacted the company in late 2008 and early 2009,” he says. “That is when the market was crashing and it affected us the most. [Fortunately], we have been very successful in getting some public work because a lot of our bigger clients weren’t doing projects.”

The firm did experience some growth last year, he notes. “Naturally, the bottom lines were tighter,” Marous says. The company’s Total Quality Management Program was a major factor in helping it meet clients’ needs and continue to grow.

Marous Brothers Construction is also performing more hard-bid projects as opposed to negotiated work, he says. Before the recession, 10 to 15 percent of its projects were hard bid, but that number recently increased to 50 percent. That has led the company to deliver work through the design/build method to ensure it submits the lowest bid, Marous says. 

“We have to go through the process much tighter,” he says. “The bigger challenge has been to bid it and maintain it. But we have been very fortunate to go and grab some good work.”

Hard Work and Dedication

Although the company’s growth and family focus is notable, another important aspect of the firm is the outreach programs and community organizations it participates in. “As a company, we do things together,” Marous says. “We build together, we help to rehab homes. We supply material a lot. That is one of things we are proud of.”

In addition, Marous Brothers Construction participates in city and federal programs that encourage employment of low-income and project area residents to work on its projects. The company provides these employees on-the-job training and opportunities to work at Marous Brothers Construction full-time. Because they participate in these programs, it also assists the project owners the opportunity to obtain additional money to help fund their projects.

Two of their most notable success stories are Mary Lou Correa and her sister Diana, Marous says. Mary Lou was hired to answer phones at a affordable housing projects site more than seven years ago. After a short period, the company decided to transfer her into their corporate offices, and Diana replaced her. 

Over the years, both have climbed the corporate ladder, and today, Mary Lou is a project coordinator for the carpentry and interior finishes divisions, and Diana is the corporate compliance administrator for the human resources department.

Reason for Success

Marous credits its leadership team – there are 14 managers across all divisions and departments – and says it is the main reason for its success. “I’ve been very fortunate to have my brothers as my partners,” he acknowledges. “We were very young and times got tough, and through that, we grew.”

Several of his nephews and sons have also joined the firm, he adds. However, blood-related or not, all 650 employees of the firm are treated like family, he stresses. 

“It does come down to our people,” he adds. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our people. Hard work and dedication is why we’re successful. We are proud of our family orientation, and the culture is unique.”

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