SBF Construction

SBF Construction

SBF Construction Inc.’s culture places an emphasis on employees.

By Bob Rakow

When SBF Construction Inc. President Ron Ferrari talks about his construction company, it isn’t long before he mentions family. After all, family is at the heart of the Hackensack, N.J.-based reinforced concrete company. “My dad started the business,” Ferrari says. “He was a cement mason.”

Ron Ferrari Sr. is 73 years old but remains active in the day-to-day operation of the company. “He won’t retire,” his son says. “He goes to the jobsites every morning starting at 6 a.m.” But Ferrari appreciates his father’s input and the family culture he instilled in the company that he founded in 1970. “Having my family involved is an advantage,” Ferrari says. “Everyone is watching the store.”

Ferrari’s cousin, Nick, is his business partner, and brother, Dino, also is involved in the management of the company. But the family atmosphere extends beyond blood relations, Ferrari says. “The family culture carries over into our office,” he says. That’s not difficult to achieve when many employees have worked for the company for two decades or more. Ferrari knows his employees’ families, socializes with them and celebrates the important occasions in their lives, he says. His philosophy for employee relations is simple.

“We treat them the way any human being should be treated,” Ferrari says. “Our business model is not that of a large company.”

Early Years

SBF Construction got its start in New Jersey doing concrete work for warehouses including those owned by Hartz Mountain Industries. “That was the type of work we did early on,” Ferrari says. He joined the business in 1986, working as a laborer. His father believed he could not ultimately run the business if he did not understand all aspects of it, he recalls. “I was learning the business,” he says. “I was learning everything. I could not ask an employee to do something I did not know how to do myself.”

Ferrari later moved into the office and learned the other side of the business including bidding, estimating and project management. “I learned the business of relationships,” he says.

SBF Construction eventually moved away from warehouse work to take advantage of the increase in big-box store construction, Ferrari says. “We also did several office buildings but that market eventually saturated. As the market evolved, so did we.” The company began pouring concrete for mid-rise office and residential buildings in New Jersey, the focus of its work until the 2007 recession. “New Jersey construction got very quiet,” Ferrari recalls.

New York Expansion

The lack of work caused Ferrari to consider larger projects across the Hudson River in New York City. SBF Construction was selected to perform concrete work for construction of the Mercedes House, a 34-story residential property located on the western edge of Midtown Manhattan. “This was an enormous project,” Ferrari says. “It was the biggest job we ever had.”

Ferrari says the project owner could have selected a more established concrete company but a competitive bid was in SBF Construction’s favor. “Our numbers are what got his attention,” he says. SBF Construction was involved in the three phases of the work, which started in started in 2009.

The project helped SBF Construction establish itself in the New York City market. The economy improved after the Mercedes House project was completed, and the company took on other high-rise work in the city. “I had to go where the work was,” Ferrari says. “We started to go after high-rises. Forty stories is no big deal in New York.”

SBF currently is working on a 26-story residential tower built to passive house standards at Cornell University’s mega-campus on Roosevelt Island. The 270-foot tower will be the tallest structure on campus and the tallest passive house in the world.

Passive housing is a sustainable building standard that reduces both energy consumption and costs using advanced insulation and ventilation techniques. SBF expects to complete its portion of the work by the end of February.

“It’s an exciting project,” Ferrari says. “It’s great to be part of it. Indeed, that’s the sentiment Ferrari has about all of his company’s projects. “I tell my kids, ‘Dad built that one,’” he says. “I really like what we do. Every day is challenging. There is never a dull moment.”

Ferrari is exploring limited growth by considering projects in New Jersey. He does not have ambitions for major expansion. “I don’t want to get too big,” he says, adding that significant expansion could harm overall quality.

“I’m driven by providing a really good product,” he says. “We’ve been very successful. This is a recipe that works for us.”

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