We met with Harby Moses, owner and president of Coastal Structures Corporation in Georgetown, South Carolina. During our one-on-one, Moses shared the highs and lows of his life’s work in commercial and industrial construction, how he weathered the recession, and the secrets to his success in building relationships with his employees and clients.
Harby Moses founded Coastal Structures Corporation in 1990, and has led the organization for the past 36 years, serving as President. Moses received his formal education from Clemson University.
Coastal Structures Corporation is headquartered in Georgetown, S.C., and located at 407 Church Street, Suite J. This full-service commercial construction business has a portfolio of successful builds in many industries throughout the Grand Strand and S.C.’s Lowcountry including commercial, healthcare, industrial, institutional, religious and retail.
Moses offered, “My father ran a Savings & Loan business in Sumter, where I’m from. One summer he decided I needed to go to work. I was 14-years-old at the time. He talked to one of his contractor clients and they put me to work. I was a laborer building houses that summer. After that job, I told my father, ‘I can pick up a house.’ After all, I had handed every board that made up that house to someone during that build.”
“It’s basically the only job I’ve ever had. I worked for another company during college called Coker Builders. Right out of Clemson, I went straight into the construction business. It’s all I’ve ever done.”
“This is a business where there are no in-betweens. You absolutely love it or hate it. If you’re not coming to work really looking forward to working every day, this isn’t the job for you. It doesn’t take long for young men or women to figure out. If you have a work ethic, I can teach you how to build.”
Moses shared, “My daughter has now worked for me for two summers. She has been pouring concrete, digging ditches and whatever needs to be done. She’s about to graduate and is planning to come to work for us full time after graduation.”
“I do serve as President, but as owner I do a little of everything. We really don’t use a lot of titles around here. That being said, I even run some of the jobs. I have four project managers, a bookkeeper and an assistant. Most of our guys and gals are in the field most of the time.”
“We have around 50-60 full time employees. The bulk of our work is commercial construction where we have a lead on the job that oversees the laborers. We also have four concrete crews now that do specialty work mostly on the industrial side.”
“Our reach is really within a 60-80 mile radius of Georgetown. We are a little bit different and do very little bid work. Over 90% of our work is negotiated for repeat clients. We do a ton of repeat work as a result of the relationships we build with architects and industry professionals.”
Moses continued, “We try very hard to build relationships with our clients. Honesty is the biggest asset around here. Being straightforward and honest goes a long way in this business. I hate to say it but we would almost rather lose money than leave a client unhappy. There are no games in what we do. We disclose everything with monthly accountings for all expenses.”
“We don’t want to be the biggest. We’re not built that way. For us, it’s about the relationships we build and continuing to do their work long-term.”
“When the recession hit, we got hurt like a lot of folks. However, we were extremely fortunate during that time. We were cautious and able to weather that storm. We landed a very large $20 million job with an important client of ours. That job really helped get us, and a lot of contractors and suppliers, through the recession. It was amazing how many people that job really touched. As a result, we were able to maintain our size and hold on to all of our employees. We have really been growing ever since.”
“The construction business in S.C. is probably the same as everywhere else. We are getting more and more regulations we have to deal with. That’s not to say they are bad or wrong but there is more we have to work with in compliance now, such as dealing with storm water plans. There is a lot involved here and can take months to get all the permits in order to break ground. This slows down the process to get started on new projects. Storm water permits can take up to three months to get now.”
“We do not handle residential work, with exception to building a house for an extremely good client. Some people ask me why I don’t do residential. In commercial and industrial, that money is being spent to make money. For residential projects, the money comes from the heart.”
“I really love the industrial side of the business – heavy concrete and steel. There are only so many of those clients in our area. Although I stick within a 60-80 mile radius from our headquarters, almost half of that area is covered in water. To be successful, you need to find your niche and stick with it. Mine is definitely in commercial.”
“What I am the most proud of, as far as my business goes, is the fact we don’t have a lot of turnover. We have a strong team of managers and superintendents that I have worked with for many, many years. I’m very proud of that. Having good people means as much to me as anything. They buy in to our philosophy. If you mess something up, tell us. We work together to fix it.”
Moses added, “We have a philosophy around here to be straight up with everyone. Sometimes that is hard for people to embrace. A lot of folks today lead with smoke and mirrors. That just isn’t our way. I was very fortunate to be brought up with values by both parents. I learned to treat everyone the same, and be completely honest with them. When you lead this way, you don’t have to worry about the small stuff.”
“Honesty is the best policy. Tell the truth. When there’s a problem, we’ll lick our wounds and then get it done.”
“We spend a lot of time with our clients trying to maintain or improve budgets. We have a lot of the same subcontractors that we work with as well. There are never a lot of change orders or surprises from our customers. And, we do it in a timely fashion. They don’t all go smoothly, but that’s not for a lack of trying. Budget and timeliness also help us to maintain a strong relationship with our clients.”
Moses concluded, “I’m a small fish in a mud puddle. We don’t have an ego. We don’t care to be the biggest. We just want to be the best at what we do.”
About Coastal Structures
A leading commercial and industrial construction firm, Coastal Structures has served the Lowcountry of South Carolina for twenty-five years. The commercial building company offers a full range of construction services and delivery methods. Coastal Structures’ team, most with more than a decade working together, is known throughout the Lowcountry for its attention to detail and cost management.
Specializing in turnkey construction with an emphasis on the commercial, healthcare, and industrial sectors, Coastal has developed an unmatched reputation for providing quality com construction services. Healthcare projects range from new medical office buildings to extensive renovation projects in large medical facilities.
For more information, contact:
Paul Hughes, firstname.lastname@example.org, 843-916-2000
Erin Adkins, email@example.com, 843-916-2000