Greymane aims to build on first 25 years
Technology has brought huge changes to the construction industry over the last quarter-century, but some elements have remained unaltered over time, according to Greymane Contracting Ltd president Alex DeCouto.
The company celebrated 25 years in business in November, inviting clients and industry partners to a bash at Azura, Greymane’s ongoing three-phase project on the site of the former Surf Side Beach Club on South Road, Warwick.
While processes have changed since Greymane was founded by Tomas Smith in 1994, and some personnel needs have disappeared, a lot has stayed the same, says Mr DeCouto, 43, who took over the business ten years ago.
“A guy still mixes mortar in a concrete mixer, an electrician still cuts wire with a pair of pliers, and we still drive trucks to haul away dirt.
“But technology in the workplace? We have been affected by it just like every other workplace. We don’t have a receptionist any more, there is no one to type my letters, and there is a constant fire hose of information coming at you all the time. On the good side, that information can help the business, and make it easier to do your job.
“Take our job at the airport, we don’t produce printed drawings any more. We use iPads, or phones. Our drawing package of 1,000 drawings ‘lives in the cloud’. Our architect might be in Toronto, and our engineer might be in New York, and changes are made live. The guy on the job site has access to those changes right there. That requires new skills, and technology, more hardware.”
He added: “We do a lot of things the same, but we have improved information, and that has sped up things, and it means that our quality levels, and our finished product, can be higher now than it used to be.”
Greymane, which is 100 per cent Bermudian-owned, started out in the drywall business. Evolving to meet the changing needs of the local construction market, the company’s offerings now include general contracting for large-scale commercial and residential projects, and a builders’ supply business that provides materials to the local industry via partnerships with overseas manufacturers such as Armstrong and 3M.
The company has 55 full-time staff, including 12 people at the management level, while there can be “hundreds of people” working on Greymane projects at a given time, Mr DeCouto says.
He added: “We are management-heavy compared to some companies. We are not a ‘man in the van’ type of outfit. We have five or six guys who have been to university working for us.
“We have hired a largely local management staff, and have empowered them to join the leadership team with me so that we can grow and evolve the company. It’s an exciting time for us.”
Most of Greymane’s clients, Mr DeCouto said, are other businesses, including developers, hotels and commercial tenants.
Aside from the Azura development, the company’s current major projects include a subcontract at the airport for Aecon and Skyport, and the renovation of Hiscox Bermuda’s new corporate office space.
The company has a well-deserved reputation for top-class commercial interiors work, having worked on jobs including the newly-renovated PartnerRe office space designed by CTX, and the award-winning Hamilton Re headquarters designed by L&S Design Ltd.
Commercial clients understandably have high expectations, Mr DeCouto said, and so Greymane staff must have the skill sets to deliver those projects.
A graduate of Mount Saint Agnes Academy, Mr DeCouto later earned a diploma in the three-year construction management programme at George Brown College in Toronto and a construction-specific master’s degree in business administration from the University of Reading in England.
He said: “The MBA was eye-opening, it created that thirst and curiosity for bigger and better things, like running a company.”
Mr DeCouto, recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from the Construction Association of Bermuda in 1998, is a big supporter of the industry group’s annual educational offering, which has now increased to become a $15,000 stipend.
Greymane’s project manager, Malachi Astwood, is another former recipient of the scholarship while 2019 summer student, Patrick Gibbons, is the current recipient. A number of Greymane employees got their first taste of the industry during the company’s summer internship programme.
There are a wide range of career opportunities in the local construction industry, Mr DeCouto said, including working as an engineer, architect, designer, quantity surveyor, building surveyor, in real estate building valuation, or in construction management.
“There is a whole world of opportunity in construction, whether it’s as a white-collar worker or blue-collar worker,” he says. “Blue-collar work can be just as lucrative for a seasoned, trained and certified tradesperson.”
A decade after taking over Greymane, Mr DeCouto said the company’s ability to adapt to fluctuations in the economy have allowed it to survive some difficult years in the industry.
“The last ten years have been a bit of a roller-coaster,” he says, “but in the last two years, we have poked our head above water.
“Having a growth mindset that looks for opportunities, believes there are opportunities, and goes out and finds them or creates them, there really is something to that as opposed to the opposite, where a person lets pessimism rule.
“I have resolved to have a positive outlook, and find or create opportunities if they aren’t there.”
Mr DeCouto said the company’s future is “tied to the success of Bermuda over the next while”.
He added: “People invest in construction because they’re confident where Bermuda is going. So, if Bermuda can maintain its success, there will be opportunities.”
The company marked its 25th anniversary with the launch of a new Greymane brand, designed by local firm Strata-G. The tagline, “Building Inspiration”, speaks to the team’s desire to bring their clients’ visions to life through creativity and innovation, the company said. The new brand, Strata-G explained, has an energetic, vibrant feel and puts Greymane’s clients, and their success stories, at the heart of its communications.
“It was time,” Mr DeCouto said. “We wanted to be topical, in the forefront of people’s minds, popping up on their social media feeds, so that if people make a critical buying decision later, we have got a coherent message pulled together. It’s why we rebranded.”
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