Florida-based construction company, Verdex, continues to thrive through thoughtful growth

The world has changed a lot since we last sat down with Rex Kirby, President of Verdex Construction. Now picking up pace in a post-pandemic world, Rex discusses the challenges his company has faced over the past two years: “The last few years have been a very different period for the industry. From 2022 onward we saw tremendous escalation across the construction industry, and prices soared. We were forced to look at our business in a different way.

“We worked more closely with our clients to solve problems that were impacting all of us. We decided the best way to do that was to be open and transparent with our clients, giving them the opportunity to participate in the buyout and understand supply chain challenges with each trade. Because clients saw the whole pricing process from beginning to end, they knew they were getting the best possible deal. We plugged in direct costs and put a reasonable contingency on all new projects, so owners were assured they got a fair deal.

“Another challenge we faced during this period was material scarcity throughout the supply chain. We had a lot of difficulty sourcing electrical switchgear and meter boxes. They both became a really big issue; deliveries with up to 50-to-80-week lead times. We had to figure out ways to get the products installed so that clients could get a return on their investment as soon as possible. It was definitely difficult, but we worked together to overcome the challenges. A lot of people moved to Florida during that time, so with the new influx of people, we were seeing a good supply of work coming through and a continued strong market,” he adds.

The strain of a pandemic meant it was time to sink or swim for companies across the construction industry. “We had to change the way we worked if we wanted to stay on top. We started working more closely with designers and clients earlier in design. Facing those challenges together has helped us understand each other’s processes a lot better, and that’s become a big part of our business practice moving forward.

“We have also started pre-ordering materials that we use a lot, such as ISO board which is used on roofing. We’ve invested in storage for these materials because it helps us prevent delays on projects. I think a lot of businesses in our industry have gone through that learning curve over the last few years; you face a challenge, you learn, you find ways to overcome it,” explains Rex.

Remaining adaptable and willing to learn has helped Verdex stay successful for over a decade. As the man behind the business, Rex ruminates on how his personal journey helped shape Verdex into the company it is today: “I’ve spent 40 years in the construction industry, nine of which have been with Verdex. I’ve done a lot of growing up since I started. I joined my first company as a young project manager and worked my way up to senior vice president. I oversaw the whole Florida region, which was a huge amount of responsibility. I had to learn quickly, and they gave me the space to grow into the leader I wanted to be.

“After that, I moved into a second business as upper management. I was able to grow it into a half-a-billion-dollar company. I took the lessons I’d learned from my first company and applied them to my new position, but the learning never stopped. I gained new experiences from that second company and developed different skills. Finally, it was time to branch out on my own, and that’s when I decided to start Verdex. I had the experience, I knew the basic principles of this business and the core values I wanted to abide by, and that evolved into the Verdex culture we have today. I’ve really enjoyed being able to strike out on my own and do business with a good team of people behind me.”

The right formula
Some key principles keep Verdex true to Rex’s original mission, even as the company continues to grow. As Rex details: “There are some basic principles that will guarantee stability when working in the construction industry. For example, we always pay our subcontractors quickly. It shows that we respect their labor and professional relationships. We’d always rather get them paid, we’re not here to make money on someone else’s money. Plus, when the subcontractors are getting paid promptly and regularly, they want to work for you and will work harder to give you their best manpower.

“The second thing is to look for the right people — team members who want to work hard and care about doing a good job – I always invest in them. We can teach people business, but it doesn’t matter how talented someone is, you can’t teach them to care. We are very particular about who we hire, as we want everyone within Verdex to be a good fit for our culture.

And finally, it’s about staying grounded and keeping it simple. Build a strong, reliable brand, and do a good quality job. We trademarked ‘building something better’ as our slogan to not only reflect how we want to build, but more importantly, how we want to grow our company.

“Going into the future, I want to see Verdex stay true to its current philosophy. We’re not looking to grow for growth’s sake. As long as we can deliver a good product for our clients, with the right people by our side, I’ll be happy. That said, growth is still on the horizon. We will eventually establish another office in Central Florida and continue to broaden the sectors we are working in.

“The biggest thing will always be ensuring that we continue to deliver on our promises, whether that’s finishing a project on time, or delivering a specific end-product. The bigger you get, the harder it is to find the right people and maintain company values, so we will continue down the path of thoughtful growth. Our internal mantra is this: we don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best,” he concludes.