Real Estate & Construction  September 1, 2020

BizWest 500: Arnold attributes growth to company culture

BOULDER — After spending most of his career working for other commercial contracting companies, Paul Arnold, founder and president of PG Arnold Construction LLC, decided to take a risk and create a company that combines the best practices from his past employers.

He started the Boulder-based PG Arnold Construction in his basement, but the business quickly built up from its foundation. The company is a Class A licensed commercial general contractor, mostly serving Boulder and Denver in both business and residential spaces. Six years after its start, PG Arnold has surpassed other Boulder companies’ growth.

PG Arnold saw 187% in growth over a two-year period, the company reported to BizWest. Its 2017 revenues of $5.5 million rose to $15.8 million in 2019.

Before PG Arnold, Arnold worked for both large and small companies. He spent several years with commercial contractors that specialized in ground-up, complex projects. Later, he went to a smaller contract company that focused on tenant finishes.

“I got to know the pros and cons of working for each, and I decided that I may be able to do things a little but differently if I were to do it myself,” Arnold said.

He admired the high level of organization and business scaling at large contract companies but liked the tight-knit work environment and customer service of the smaller business. With PG Arnold, he aims to combine efficiency with a “personal touch” for customers and a “family-feel” for the staff.

“We just want to make sure that everyone in the company feels like they’re part of the team and a part of something bigger. And that can get lost in a larger scale company,” he said.

At one of the larger companies where Arnold worked, he met his partner Shannon Rogers. Rogers joined PG Arnold in November of last year, serving as executive vice president. The duo’s paths crossed at the Colorado Springs-headquartered GE Johnson Construction Co. Arnold worked for the company for five years, starting in 2005. Rogers was with GE Johnson from 2006 until 2019.

Both Rogers and Arnold set out to build a company on their own, but said that working with a partner, and working together, is one of their best business decisions.

The two have similar histories, both wanting from an early age to work in the realm of architecture, engineering and construction. Rogers recalled asking his mother to pull over on the side of the road anytime they drove past a construction site so he could watch.

Rogers said that he and Arnold have healthy debates.

“Good strong partnerships are tough to come by, and Paul and I get along extremely well,” Rogers said. “I think we argue about the right things, and we decide the right things.”

Arnold said that one of the factors in the fast-paced growth of PG Arnold is the high market demand and ample project opportunities. The first year closed on $1 million revenue, Arnold said. The next year it doubled, and PG Arnold has continued its hockey stick growth until recently.

PG Arnold’s portfolio includes Bigsby’s Folly Craft Winery and Restaurant in Boulder, a 14,000 square foot renovation of commercial space at 207 Canyon, Mark on Pearl and Improper City in Denver.

Throughout Arnold’s experience in the field he has noticed that the construction market ebbs and flows and that upturns typically last seven to 10 years.

“I knew — starting the company in 2014 during arguably the hottest construction market that Denver’s ever seen — I knew that with every upswing, there’s always a downturn,” Arnold said.

But the downturn arrived early with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Revenues are down by 40 to 50%, Rogers said. Arnold said that projects disappeared overnight, losing nine projects over the course of a month.

In March, PG Arnold had a $20 million backlog that decreased to $3 million in April, he said. Right before COVID-19, the company was at its peak headcount with 30 employees. About 10 workers were laid off. Predictions based on the first quarter this year pointed to the company doubling its revenues, Rogers said.

Restaurant renovations normally add a great deal to PG Arnold’s project pipeline, but with the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, there aren’t many new projects in that sector.

Though new clients and projects aren’t where they used to be, PG Arnold has ongoing contracts. One is a $2.5 million construction contract with the town of Superior for the 1500 Coalton Road renovation project on the former Land Rover dealership property. According to Superior’s website, the town plans to create a mixed-use space and community center.

Rogers said that during this downturn, PG Arnold is strengthening its workplace environment. A work culture, full of team collaboration and work-life balance, will be the company’s north star as it moves into the future.

“We are in this foundational building mode, where we’re building the foundation of the organization. And one of the key elements — if not the key element — is our talent, and that alignment to the culture of the company,” Rogers said.

As management, Rogers and Arnold ask their staff to follow “professional courtesy.” In other words, they have a hands-off approach to managing in exchange for employees to be self-reliant and have the freedom to complete tasks with their own style.

Arnold and Rogers want to continue PG Arnold’s growth but not at the cost of losing the environment they’re building. It’s uncertain whether growth will return to its pre-pandemic levels, but that’s just fine for PG Arnold. The company isn’t aiming to ramp up at an unmanageable speed, Rogers said. Arnold added that they aren’t interested in growing for the sake of growth.

“Despite COVID-19, Paul and I remain very optimistic about what he and I can do and what the people of this company can do,” Rogers said. “We’re excited about the future.”

Click to view BizWest 500 supplement.

BOULDER — After spending most of his career working for other commercial contracting companies, Paul Arnold, founder and president of PG Arnold Construction LLC, decided to take a risk and create a company that combines the best practices from his past employers.

He started the Boulder-based PG Arnold Construction in his basement, but the business quickly built up from its foundation. The company is a Class A licensed commercial general contractor, mostly serving Boulder and Denver in both business and residential spaces. Six years after its start, PG Arnold has surpassed other Boulder companies’ growth.

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