AUCH Construction

AUCHGeorge W. Auch Co. celebrates 110 years in southeast Michigan with repeat business and a loyal workforce.

By Staci Davidson, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing

Repeat business and customer satisfaction are important ingredients for long-term success and growth. Maybe not all contractors believe in those, but for 110 years, George W. Auch Company has demonstrated ongoing repeat business and customer satisfaction by following a tried-and-true formula: focusing on customer service and demonstrating how valuable its employees are to its success. As a result, AUCH has been a leader and innovator in Michigan throughout its history. 

“When we do things like strategic planning, we’re always focused on how we can serve our clients better,” President and CEO Vince DeLeonardis explains. “Like how can we train better, how can we implement changes, how can we handle succession planning? At 110 years old, we know where the true value lies, and that a strong and sustainable company will continue to provide opportunity and advancement for 105 families. Growth is incremental and it is not one of our top priorities. We focus on looking for new opportunities that will align with the skills of our people and create opportunities for them.”AUCH info box

The skills of AUCH’s employees are vast, allowing the company to take on a range of projects, including commercial, higher education, K-12 education, healthcare, municipal, religious, industrial and special projects, such as performing arts centers. The company’s services involve preconstruction, program management, project deliver, facility assessments, sustainability, BIM and lean construction. DeLeonardis stresses that AUCH couldn’t do all it does without the expertise of its people. 

“We recently went to a client interview, and there were 106 years of AUCH experience in the interview team,” he says. “That client recognizes the value of tenured employees and understands our company’s philosophy, and we’ve worked together on many building projects. You can really measure repeat business in so many ways, and more than 95 percent of our work is with repeat customers. Last year, AUCH was assigned more than $330 million in contracts.”

Team Loyalty

AUCH’s field supervision staff members have an average of 20 years of experience with the company, and most started working with AUCH in the trades. This level of service contributes to the company’s strength in the Michigan market. In addition. AUCH has a low EMR, its safety program has received two national awards in the last five years, and regularly has projects honored with awards from organizations such as the AGC of Michigan, the Construction Association of Michigan and the AIA of Detroit. Additionally, the company has been recognized as being one of the top places to work for the past five consecutive years by the Detroit Free Press.

DeLeonardis notes AUCH does all it can to promote staff from within, ensuring its operation maintains its deep expertise. Some of its project managers started with the company as interns, he adds. 

“We don’t pretend to be perfect but that is what we strive for., but We have our core values that have been built around accountability and responsibility,” DeLeonardis says. “We expect honesty and integrity from our employees. This is important because of to affirm the character of our folks; they won’t be asked to do things that go against their personal values. We expect our people to do the right thing and know that we have their back. We are firm and fair, and treat our trade partners the same way. They know our schedules and focus on quality and what’s expected and we hold them to that, but we also make sure they get paid in a timely manner.”

He explains there is a lot of team loyalty at AUCH, and even if people disagree about something on a project, all team members will be on the same page when they walk out of the meeting room. Additionally, AUCH places a high importance on workforce development. “We want to empower our people to succeed, so we make sure they are trained,” DeLeonardis says. “We align experience with talent and give them the support to succeed.”

He mentions the company’s safety record reflects its dedication to hiring the right people, training and giving the support to employees to perform work in a safe manner. While AUCH doesn’t employ a full-time safety director, the safety director’s position is the responsibility of a vice president who acts as a safety resource and trainer, but he also has other responsibilities. In addition, a senior project manager serves as an assistant safety director and all employees are expected to ensure safety on all AUCH’s projects. The effectiveness of this approach is demonstrated by the fact that the company has had no lost-time injuries since 2006 and only one recordable injury since 2008. Additionally, AUCH tracks the safety of its subs and their injury rate on AUCH projects; it is a fraction of the industry average. 

“When you’re dealing with people, you have a lot of variables, but everyone here knows what’s expected,” he says. “We empower our people to be responsible for safety, and we want all of our partners on the jobs to do the same.”

Enhanced Collaboration

AUCH maintained its focus on its people as it participated in the designed and construction of its new headquarters office in Pontiac, Mich., which was completed in May of this year. The 20,000-square-foot building is the first new construction in downtown Pontiac in more than 30 years, and AUCH wanted it to be a quality workplace for its employees, while also demonstrating its commitment to the community.

Completed in May, the headquarters was designed by HED of Southfield, Mich., and focuses on the needs of its existing and growing workforce with a design that allows for staff interaction, as well as employee mentoring and development. State-of-the-art technology was implemented to support client service and efficiency. 

“This building was designed to meet – and we hope to achieve – LEED Silver,” DeLeonardis says. “It has 40 to 45 percent barrier perimeter glass for the exterior walls, which is almost twice of a typical building. Our floor to deck height is 17 feet, so with much of our glass going from the floor to the ceiling, it allows for a lot of daylight that penetrates deep into the building. We also incorporated a variable flow refrigerant system, all LED lighting, special coatings on the glass along with a lot of sustainable materials. 

“The high-traffic floor areas are all polished concrete, and we have an open floorplan for a lot of collaboration and interaction,” he adds. “All of the desks allow for a stand-up function. Throughout the planning and design, we engaged employees in steering committees.”

What AUCH discovered from the committees and employee surveys was that its people wanted spaces for collaboration and more daylight in the working areas because the previous office had limited meeting rooms. The company added these features, and chose a site on 3.66 acres that allows for expansion while also being land that beautifies downtown Pontiac. 

“We are getting so many compliments on this building and the site,” DeLeonardis says. “Our building is the eastern gateway to Pontiac, so a lot of traffic will see the building. Pontiac sees it as our commitment to the city and the redevelopment of the area. This is in addition to how active we are in the community to create opportunities for good paying jobs in construction.”

Delivering Excellence

All of AUCH’s work is in southeastern Michigan, and it does about 150 jobs each year, which is enough to keep its people busy while also returning them home each night, DeLeonardis notes. Other recent projects for the company include Masco’s new world headquarters in Livonia, the McLaren Corporate Services building in Grand Blanc, Haggerty II Industrial complex in Canton and underway, a vertical expansion to an Ascension Healthcare site in Warren. 

“We show innovation in the way we estimate in-house and understand where a project’s costs are,” he explains. “Then we recommend alternate systems with value engineering, value analysis and alternative materials. On a large medical office building, for example, its mansard roof was designed with structural steel, but we used cold-form framing to reduce costs and get straighter lines. 

“We differentiate ourselves by delivering excellence, which is the result of upfront planning,” he continues. “We offer preconstruction services and we do in-house estimating with four professional estimators. This is at a time when many construction managers are relying on trades to do their estimating for them. Our teams also innovate in how they sometimes contract the work. For example, a project may require a tower crane and our team is at the front end to provide scope certainty so the bids are more accurate for what they need for hoisting. We do not self-perform, so we are not in competition with the trade contractors. This results in a much stronger trade following – they really want to work with us.”

AUCH cares about its relationships with subcontractors just as it cares for its clients and employees. These relationships will continue to drive the company forward, ensuring its ongoing legacy of excellence. 

“We have a very horizontal structure and our management staff averages well more than 20 years with the company,” DeLeonardis stresses. “Our vice presidents all have 21 to 25 years with the company. Our board of directors are all company employees, and we work hard at workforce development, making sure our people are aware of the opportunities. I am most proud of our people and their growth because that is key in the way we are able to maintain this level of repeat business. We are always working to be better – we never rest.”

SIDEBAR  – Community Building

AUCH Construction has been working throughout southeast Michigan since its inception 110 years ago, and has been based in Pontiac since 1985. The company takes pride in working in its communities, helping to develop the local workforce, but also supporting organizations in need. 

Through the ACE Mentoring program in the Detroit and Pontiac school systems among others, for example, AUCH is part of a team that works with juniors and seniors in high school who are interested in construction, engineering and architecture. “There is a 16-week program that takes them through a project from soup to nuts,” AUCH President and CEO Vince DeLeonardis explains. “There are 30 mentors for 40 students, and the program teaches them about the various disciplines and all of the activities that go into a construction project.”

At the Grace Center of Hope in Pontiac, AUCH supports their programs which reach out to citizens to offer job training and create opportunities for home ownership. DeLeonardis notes that once a week AUCH employees are allowed to wear jeans in the office if they make a little donation, and the donations are given to organizations like Grace Center of Hope, HAVEN and Lighthouse Path Pontiac. Additionally, a couple of weeks ago, AUCH was contacted by a local church when its large concrete steps collapsed. AUCH arranged for all of the concrete to be removed and cleaned up the site, by working with local industry partners. 

“We like to give young people opportunities,” DeLeonardis says. “At the same time, we can give back to our community.” 

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