MAXI-CON2 (www.maxi-con2.com; 301-931-3206), a construction contractor in Beltsville, Maryland, is turning into an impressive do-over for Julie Elliott. After climbing the ranks in a construction company from administrative assistant to division manager, she found herself downsized in 2007. So, utilizing her skills in project management and small business support, Elliott started anew—this time as president and CEO of her own business. In 2009, the specialized subcontracting firm that provides services such as interior insulation as well as the installment of air barrier systems, curtainwall, and slab edge safing to commercial clients, boasted $12 million in revenues. Her company is now on track to bring in $15 million in 2010.
Using all $26,000 of her savings, Elliott launched MAXI-CON2 in her mother’s spare bedroom. But the 46-year-old didn’t pinch pennies when it came to getting expert advice. While acquiring a general contracting license, she hired an attorney who specialized in commercial construction to help manage contract requirements and a CPA who had experience working with construction companies to handle the books.
Elliott knew from experience that larger businesses often had difficulty finding financially capable smaller companies to partner with. She developed a blueprint for a mentor-protégé relationship—a strategic partnership of sorts between a seasoned company and a less-experienced one—and shared it with her business mentor, Component Assembly Systems Inc., a 46-year-old full-service commercial dry wall and carpentry company based in Pelham, New York. CAS was interested, but to make it a formal relationship the two went through a program sponsored by Turner Construction Co., one of the nation’s largest construction management firms. “This is a good launching pad for us,” says Elliott. “It’s a successful model but of course it doesn’t remove the unknowns for a small business.” But what the formal relationship does offer MAXI-CON2 is the ability to meet the bonding (insurance) requirements for large projects.
Today, the five-person firm, now with 21 contractors in the field, works out of 1000 square feet of office space. Another thing that has helped Elliott make her mark in construction is the addition last year of her 24-year-old son, Paul, as senior vice president. While it took the mother and son awhile to relate as business partners, Paul says, “We complement each other well. My mother often knows what needs to be communicated, and I’m the one who knows how to say it.”
With nearly $3 million in self-performed work under their belt, MAXI-CON2’s greatest achievement to date has been two contracts totalling $17 million to work on a new community hospital at the Fort Belvoir Army base in Virginia. And while on that job, they secured additional work from three firms, giving them projects outside of their mentor-protégé relationship that will take them well into 2011. “There’s something that you can’t buy with money and that’s what this job gave us: it elevated our value and gave us credibility,” says Elliott. “What would’ve taken years to do we’ve been able to do in two years.”
—Additional reporting by Tennille M. Robinson