CRE N Illinois

For this construction firm, it’s the power of the people

For this construction firm, it’s the power of the people,ph1

Successfully launching a new business simply isn’t possible without taking into account the human factor—at both the employee and client level. That’s the premise behind ACCEND, a general contracting firm that recently launched in Chicago.

The firm’s founder and president, Andy MacGregor, is an industry veteran and he drew on his past experiences when forming the construction company. Specializing in commercial interiors, hospitality, new construction, heavy renovation and consulting, ACCEND will also attempt to stay grounded by focusing on those who will make the enterprise run efficiently.

“It’s all about the people. You need strong processes and you need strong leadership, but when it comes down to it, it’s really all about structuring your team in the right way,” said MacGregor.

This focus on the individual is baked into the company’s core, as ACCEND was set up as an employee-owned firm. By organizing under the ESOP model, the thinking goes, employees are inspired to put in the extra effort and discover innovations that both streamline their process and attract clients.

“At the end of the day, it’s fair and its equitable. I was a philosophy major in college and fairness, equity and maximizing the motivation and culture of your employee are all important things to me,” MacGregor said. “I always struggled a little bit with the partnership model and whether it was really fair.”

Before launching ACCEND, MacGregor spent more than 11 years at Skender, where he led teams building some of the most notable, complex and creative office spaces of the last decade. Clients include 1871, Facebook, Google and Motorola Mobility.

“What I learned from those behemoth, impossible projects is that your basic operating procedures—things like Lean Construction—those are table stakes,” MacGregor said. “To really elevate it and take it to the next level, you have to focus on the human component of things. What motivates people? What makes them excited about doing their job? What brings out the best in them?”

As he says, ACCEND will incorporate Lean Construction methodologies as the lowest bar. Here, too, a focus on people comes into play. As MacGregor sees it, Lean is more than efficient job sites, diverting waste and improving supply chains; it’s also about fostering cooperation and fortifying relationships.

“Lean and planning are all about … working together as a team, collaborating to come up with a plan that you can follow, that you can track, that you can communicate and that you can execute,” said MacGregor. “That’s a battle, that’s not where you win the war. Where you win the war is when you get your clients to see the light and do things smarter and better.”

“To survive in a market like Chicago, you’ve got to be doing things the right way, you can’t have a lot of waste. You’ve got to be sophisticated enough to deal with Fortune 500 and 100 companies,” MacGregor continued. “Years ago you still had legacy guys that were surviving off of their relationships. I don’t think that’s cutting it anymore.”

ACCEND is a subsidiary of Skyline Construction, a San Francisco-based company that has been seeking expansion opportunities in other markets. This new venture is their first foray outside of the Bay Area.

“Although we had synergies in the type of work that we did, it’s very rare that you find people who are as concerned about the average employee,” said MacGregor, “and making sure that everybody who works hard and contributes to the growth of the company has the opportunity to become wealthier, or at the very minimum enjoy a comfortable retirement.”

ACCEND is meant as an alternate spelling of, and rhymes with, “ascend.” That was the driving theme behind MacGregor’s new venture: to elevate the industry. It’s also a legit word in its own right, meaning to set alight or to ignite. “That’s what we want to do,” said MacGregor, “we want to light the world on fire.”