Thomas Design Builders LTD: Keeping the Customers Happy

Thomas Design Builders Ltd. (TDB) has been providing Manitoba with quality design-build services since 1980. The crux of the business is repeat customers, and TDB has achieved such a high rate by standing by its five-part commitment to the client. These company pillars include honest fair pricing, quality workmanship, meeting construction schedules, encouraging customer involvement to the benefit of the project, and providing innovative solutions to meet budgets and customer expectations.

Jeff Miller, president of the firm, grew up on construction sites working for his father since the age of 12. He began at TDB in 2002 and has turned the operation into a family business. Both his brother and father work for the company, and through the three of them TDB ensures the project owner will have their expectations met, and hopefully exceeded.

Focusing on Client Involvement

TDB is based out of Winnipeg, and serves much of western Canada. “We serve mostly in Manitoba, but we’ll go into Alberta and Saskatchewan if that’s what the customer wants,” says Miller, highlighting the firm’s commitment to pleasing the client. The company generates between $15 million to $20 million a year, employing around 20 workers.

“Our niche would definitely be design-build services,” Miller says. While cable of operating through the bid-spec process, TDB prefers applying single-source responsibility service to many facets of the construction market, including commercial, industrial, recreation and residential. The company uses its team of design professionals, engineers, drafting personnel and on-site supervisors to allow one price, one contract, and one company to handle the assembly of a comprehensive team. At the core of this delivery method is an understanding of efficient, advanced management skills, and an ability to identify and retain premium partners in all aspects of construction to guarantee honest, fair pricing and quality workmanship completed within budget and schedule.

“We need to have a very good relationship with our set network of suppliers for all this to happen. They perform 90 percent of the work, so they’re very important to the business,” Miller says.

TDB's flexible project management also allows customers the opportunity for more hands-on involvement in design and budget decisions throughout the project. TDB's skill and experience stretches across the spectrum of building types – including steel, wood, concrete, masonry and pre-engineered buildings – and the company works closely with the client to identify the specific requirements best suits for each project and to provide accurate price estimating.

Once these aspects are identified, TDB tenders aspects to the best subcontractors for each facet of the job, integrating them all into TDB's contract administration. Some additional tools the company provides to keep prices within budget and keep the customers up to date include cost-effective computer-generated architectural renderings and conceptual site plan drawings.

TDB has done all types of work for Manitoba and the surrounding regions, including restaurants, ice arenas, community centres, hotels, and warehouses. “On May 21, 2011, we helped open the first Marriot-Fairfield in Winnipeg, a six-story building,” says Miller, recounting some examples of recent projects. “We also just finished up a four-plex movie theater that fits about 515 people, and we added a 30-room addition to a Days Inn in Winkler.” Some restaurants TDB has worked on include a Tim Horton’s, Burger King and KFC.

One especially notable project to the company’s name is its work for Granny’s Poultry – a Manitoba-based, highly successful poultry cooperative. TDB was instrumental in the construction of Granny’s 36,000-square foot, state-of- the-art hatchery and head office facility in Winnipeg. In addition, the company has worked on a number of recreation facilities, such as the Dauphin Credit Union Place, Garden City Soccer Complex, West Kildonan Curling Rink, Windsor Community Club and the Buhler Hall, which is a 465-seat auditorium specifically designed for natural acoustical sound performances.

And these intricate, high-profile projects have opened the door to future opportunities. “We have some projects lined up right now as well. We’re looking at a hotel for the airport, another one in Dakota Hotel. We are current working on new facilities for Rosedale Group, Inland Audio, and Lindenwood Community Centre,” Miller says.

Fortunate to be in Manitoba

TBD has performed some great work for Manitoba, delivering innovative solutions through a COR certified safety program, but the company faces challenges as it heads into the future. “One of our biggest challenges right now is that it’s harder to find new clients. We’re trying, but they’re just not there,” Miller says. In addition he says it’s growing increasingly difficult to find a new crop of talented young workers that are humble and open to learning the ropes. “Everyone out there seems to be under skilled and overpaid. It’s a new generation coming up and they all expect to be making $100,000.”

However, Miller feels fortunate to have the employees he does, and to have TDB located where it is. “The economy has been tough, but here in Manitoba we don’t boom and bust. It’s continuous with not too much of a slowdown in the construction industry,” he says.

“At the end of the day what keeps our company successful is our ability to keep our employees happy, and that we continue to grow,” he continues. “Profits will come as a result. To do this we need to make sure we continue to have great customer service, help the clients in any way they can, and always keep them happy for choosing Thomas Design.”

With its dedication to a positive office environment, and a focus on total customer satisfaction, Thomas Design Builders LTD will continue to build on the three decades of experience that have benefitted both the firm and its surrounding communities.