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Meet Derek K. Robbins of Robbins Construction Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek K. Robbins. 

Derek, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Looking back over my career as an employee, I realize I was a difficult employee, but not so much as a trouble maker but as someone who was always thinking outside the box and looking for new and different ideas and processes. I had a personal goal of always being better but at my own pace. 

With a desire to want to own my own construction business, I fostered the same different approach to construction, finding ways to be different but better. In January 2019 the business was officially opened. Our office consisted of a large open room with two desks and my partner and I worked to find any available project to work on; the first six months were tough but worth it. 

Throughout my career, I worked as a Project Manager and as a Preconstruction Manager, eventually promoted to Senior Preconstruction Manager and lastly to Director. 

I have been working in the construction industry since 1990, beginning my construction career working with H.M. Kern in Greensboro, NC. Since that time, I have worked at Samet Corporation, 

Duke-Weeks, (Duke Realty) Weaver-Cooke, D.H. Griffin, Harrell Contracting, Clancy Theys, and one other undisclosed company. 

In my opinion, The construction industry has always favored project management over preconstruction personnel, and many of the preconstruction individuals left the industry during the 2006-2020 construction downturn. It wasn’t until the shortage of preconstruction professionals, that their craft was valued and realized. 

The sense of being undervalued coupled with the broken promise of ownership drove me to the realization of starting a construction company. I build my business on those things I have learned which were positive and integrated into my business and eliminate the negative things of how to treat employees and clients. 

My wife, Teresa, works in the business and handles all the human resources and office manager duties. Additionally, I am excited to work with my son Thomas, who handles the company’s Business Development efforts. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
There have been many obstacles, but I am not a worrier. I have strong faith and know I can work through or overcome any situation. 

Shortly after being in business, my partner and I met with the historic mayor of The City of Charleston, Joeseph P. Riley, and he noted his secret to success was “don’t let someone outwork you”. His words inspire our work ethic to know if someone else can do it, we certainly can do it and better. 

The most difficult hurdle to overcome has been the company’s experience or the lack of experience for a newly formed company. After 30 years of building an impressive project resume, when I began my business, owners, developers, and clients did not recognize my professional past projects as a fair comparison to the company’s ability. However, I would argue, does the company make the individual or does the individual make the company. In my opinion, I believe the individual makes the company, it’s their leadership and ability which leads the team. Case in point, the Chicago Bulls were good but were great when Michael Jordan joined them. 

Robbins Construction has had some unique challenges in its fairly short time in the industry. During its first eighteen months, the business had to endure hurricanes, including the devastating Hurricane Dorian. Additionally, the advent of COVID-19 caused delayed work for the company, with one client’s whole operation having to be shut down. This unexpected development caused the company to establish all-new procedures for job site safety and has doubled the resolve of its teams to continue delivering projects even during these unprecedented events. 

As you know, we’re big fans of Robbins Construction Group. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Robbins Construction Group is a nationwide commercial general contractor. The type of construction includes retail, hospitality, office, higher education, industrial, manufacturing, large distribution, medical, religious, and financial institutions. 

We specialize in Design-Build construction, we add value to any construction project by providing an innovative and more integrated approach to construction. 

Our Design-Build process offers clients a turnkey solution with design, specification, consultancy, project management, and construction services all under one roof. Design-Build is a procurement process that speeds up your relocation or refurbishment program, delivering a more time-efficient and cost-effective design solution. Using this modern procurement method, the project owner hires a single company to perform both the design and construction under a single contract. 

We have developed strategic partnerships with local, regional, and nationwide developers; I personally hold an unlimited license in 26 states; giving us the ability to travel for our clients to provide consistency in the construction process and a trusted partner. 

We also maintain a strong relationship with subcontractors and vendors and affirm that these firms are essential to the business. We approach every project as a team and subcontractors and vendors are important and integral to the team. 

Our project consists of an open-book approach to the project while communicating; there is also transparency that comes with the “open-book mindset,” and the company frequently shares unfiltered information with its clientele. Realistic expectations are set, and integrity is of the utmost importance, as Derek feels that trust is built on consistency. The company’s priority is not centered on profit but on helping clients achieve investment goals. “We do not offer solutions; we offer results,” 

Robbins Construction Group stresses that communication is both a necessity and a challenge within client relationships, and the company takes great care to listen to gain an understanding of any client’s needs, challenges, and goals. This hearkens back to ensuring that the company’s clients are informed at all points and have an environment where they feel free to ask questions, request input, or even challenge if necessary. “We treat our clients as partners because we see it as a truly collaborative partnership where we are both mutually invested.” 

We also pride ourselves on repeat clients, we want every customer to call us back for their next project. Most recently, we have begun our 6th project with Floor & Decor, a nationwide retailer. After we completed the first two projects, we developed a playbook noting areas that require special attention, sequencing of events and subcontractors, and lessons learned. We shared this information with the Floor & Decor construction team; they were truly impressed and want to share this information with the other general contractors. It is truly humbling to have our construction approach and techniques emulated. 

Although a young company in construction, Robbins has not failed to make an impression on its clients and the industry at large. Clients frequently want Robbins Construction to return to work on other projects in industries from retail to automotive, industrial, manufacturing, medical, or education. Being favored by its clients is considered by the company to be a significant milestone. Derek Robbins feels that the quality of clients the company has and many repeat customers, speaks a great deal toward the firm is not just a one-and-done solutions provider, a role which he has always sought to overshoot. 

Robbins Construction Group was voted the #1 Commercial Construction Company (2020 and 2021) in the Post and Couriers annual best-of awards. Robbins Construction Group was also presented with the Gleaming Star award by the South Carolina LLR in 2021. 

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Throughout my career, I paid attention to those individuals that were successful and paid attention to their habits and with my competitive nature, would try to improve on their process. 

Construction is a competitive industry and mentors are rare or finding individuals willing to help others is rare. There will always be individuals willing to train new employees up to a point but never willing to train one to be better than themselves and train their replacement. 

Another important trait is the treatment of employees, I treat every employee with respect and understanding, “I do not tolerate bullying, harassment, or intimidation within the organization”. Every employee has something special to offer the organization. We offer a fun and exciting atmosphere (purposely eliminating any ping pong tables) while keeping things professional at every turn. 

I have always been willing to help to train the next generation of those who want to learn more than the minimum; I enjoy having people around me that overachiever helps me be successful. 

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Michelle Bolton

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