ARTISTIC BUILDERS RECOGNIZED BY INSIDE SELF-STORAGE MAGAZINE
By Elaine Foxwell and Kimberly Hundley
In this day and age, the phrase doubtless sounds too good to be true. But Artistic Builders Inc. is genuinely “at your service” when it comes to development assistance and construction of self-storage. It’s service that’s led Artistic Builders to establish a rock-solid national reputation for integrity and expertise in its decade of existence. “One of the things that sets us apart as a company is we don’t consider ourselves to be just a contractor that builds self-storage facilities,” says Charles Plunkett, owner and president. “Artistic Builders is a development-service company.”
Plunkett, founder and CEO of sister-company Capco Steel since 1984, realized he could use his broad experience in steel building and self-storage construction to fulfill another industry need. He introduced Artistic Builders as a turnkey contractor in 1994. Company growth has been exceptional, with numerous projects garnering award recognition. Like reports of an honest mechanic, news of a trustworthy self-storage contractor spread quickly, and Plunkett’s business snowballed. The numbers speak for themselves: Between 2002 and 2004, the company’s gross revenue increased 50 percent.
How It Works
Artistic Builders’ winning theory is to get involved with a project as early as possible. “One of the first things we ask an owner is his objectives,” Plunkett says. “We don’t go in with any preconceived notions or try to push any particular product.” The company forms a team with owners, offering suggestions in the preplanning stage to help them meet their goals in the most cost-effective manner.
“Part of our job is to help the owner figure out what is important and what is not,” Plunkett explains. He adds that communication is a guiding principle for staff members; for example, they’ll identify obstacles to an owner’s vision and specify why it is important things be done a certain way to achieve optimal results.
A full-time staff manages nationwide projects from a central location. Artistic Builders maintains a drafting department to do preliminary designs and refers owners to architectural and engineering firms best suited to their needs. During the pre-design stages, the company often acts as client representative at meetings with municipalities, zoning boards, architectural/engineering firms and other agencies.
Plunkett is proud of the collaborative efforts of his staff members. Glenda Jacoby, senior project manager, oversees operations as the company’s project director. She has 12 years of experience in self-storage development, design and construction.
Jacoby directs the work of company project managers and superintendents who run day-to-day operations. Artist Builders’ superintendents are routinely sent from the home office to job-site locations. “Occasionally, we will hire superintendents in the city in which we are working, but it is more common to send one of our own staff superintendents to oversee the project,” Plunkett says.
Project managers in the home office communicate daily with jobsite superintendents equipped with laptops and digital cameras. Team duties include reviewing status reports, and discussing and resolving issues. Project managers also make regular field visits to see project progress firsthand. All of these team efforts help reduce instances of change orders—a frequent cause of budgetary woes with some developers. “We don’t look at change orders as a way to make extra money,” Plunkett assures. “Change orders may be necessary, but they need to be the exception rather than the rule.”
Many prospective owners believe the more a project costs, the more a contractor makes. That scenario isn’t the case for Artistic Builders, which devotes substantial time to predevelopment in an effort to control costs. Most projects undertaken by the company are done on the basis of costs, plus a percentage fee with a guaranteed maximum price. Artistic Builders solicits bids from reliable subcontractors, and clients recommend their preferred service providers. Plunkett’s staff then evaluates each bid and make recommendations to the owner, who ultimately makes the decision. This helps the owner remain in control of project costs.
Throughout each project, owners receive a monthly report that includes copies of every transaction. The procedure creates a transparent relationship of trust in which they can audit the books at any time, Plunkett says.
The Highest Standard
Plunkett’s standards for each project are a throwback to the good old days of pure integrity. Artistic Builders tells you what it’s going to do, how much it’s going to cost and, quite simply, does as promised. “The company’s objective is such that when the project is completed, the owner has exactly what he expected as a minimum, and we have delivered a little bit more than what was expected from us,” Plunkett says.
Artistic Builders’ clients often come back. The company has won several major facility awards in three of the last eight years. “We have been very fortunate to have built some really nice projects,” Plunkett says. “Owners seek us out through reputation. They see the type of work we do and want the company to be part of their team.”
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