RLH Construction LLC – Lexus of Orlando

RLH construction picRLH met the needs of its clients as it built a new Lexus dealership in Orlando, Fla.
By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Some leaders surround themselves with people who agree with everything they do, but that is not the way CEO Richard Haines leads RLH Construction LLC. “[He] doesn’t assume that he’s right all the time or has the best way to do everything,” Vice President of Construction Operations Brandon Conaway says.

“He’s always looking to get input from the people he surrounds himself with,” Conaway continues, adding that this has nurtured a close environment at RLH. “[It feels] very much like a family oriented office, as far as bringing people together and making them feel like a family.”

Based in Oviedo, Fla., RLH offers general contracting, design/build, construction management, project estimating and value engineering services. The company started operations in 1991 and specializes in automotive, multi-unit and commercial projects. 

“It’s one of the top companies in Florida, especially in central Florida,” Conaway says, noting that RLH completes work across the Southeast, from Tennessee and Georgia to North and South Carolina. “We will go farther for things we have a very good shot of getting.”

RLH earns the majority of its work through referrals and relationships, which has helped the company quadruple its size since 2014. This has allowed it to avoid suffering significant impacts “when the economy goes down,” he says. “That’s attributed mostly to Richard and his relationships in the community.”

At the Corner

RLH recently completed a new Lexus of Orlando location in Orlando, Fla. “That project was getting started around the time that some major highway renovations started in Orlando,” Conaway recalls, adding that the project was situated at the corner of two major highways in the city, the I-4 and the Turnpike. 

The company started construction on the dealership in October 2016 and turned over the completed location to its owners in December 2017. “They opened for business on January 5,” he says, adding that the project, which consists of a two-story structure that covers 182,000 square feet, had a budget exceeding $38 million.RLH box

The exterior of the dealership includes a 30-foot glass wall around most of the building, along with pre-finished metal and concrete. The interior, he adds, features high-end finishes that can be seen in the showroom through the glass wall.

“We spent a lot of money putting down exterior paver tile that looks like tile outside,” he adds, noting that this matches the finishes inside the building and its ceilings. “We’ve also got a highly upgraded lighting fixture package.”

Making Changes

One of the challenges on the Lexus project for RLH was that the building’s finishes were designed as the company built the project. However, “There was nothing in the project that wasn’t changed in some way over the course of construction,” Conaway recalls.

Although the original budget for the Lexus dealership was $38 million, “We had about close to $10 million in changes over the course of the project,” he says. “We were able to still get the construction done in that 14-month period.”

RLH also maintained a high safety rate by employing two superintendents on site. In addition, the company performed daily safety walks, inspections and created weekly reports.  

Employees also “were watching safety and having safety meetings every week with everyone on site,” he recalls. “We had no significant incidents of any kind.”

In addition, Conaway says, the Lexus location was a good learning experience for RLH. It taught the company more about developing client relationships and giving them what they are looking for. “It’s not what’s in the drawings originally a lot of times,” he admits.

“During the process, it became extremely important to figure out what the client is looking for and getting them to that,” he says. “There was nothing on the project that didn’t change in some way.”

These changes, he notes, would result from RLH’s constant communication with the owner, as well as reviews of the finishes and how the space would be utilized. “That was probably the main thing that impacted how this project went,” he says.

The Right Balance

RLH has seen changes in its industry, particularly in the automotive market. Recently, “There weren’t a lot of new dealerships being built but a lot of renovations,” Conaway says.

“We have quite a bit of automotive work going on right now,” he continues, adding that he believes the company will inevitably see a slowdown in this sector. But the company’s presence in multiple markets will help it cope.

“We do a little bit of everything,” Conaway says, noting that its current work includes a new school campus for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, office buildings and additional work for churches. 

RLH ensures that it has a good mix of each market on its plate. “We try to balance that out so we’re not impacted by one particular area being impacted,” he says. “We also definitely watch the market trends so we know what to focus on.”



Strong Connections

Conaway joined RLH five years ago. Previously, he worked as a carpenter for six years after earning an associate of technology in building construction degree at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis. 

After moving to Florida, he began managing commercial work at RLH. Today, when he interviews applicants at the company, “What I tell people is that people work hard and play hard together [here],” he says.

It also has a very open, team-oriented environment. “Everyone is available and willing to answer anyone’s question regardless of what it is,” he says. “That’s my favorite part of this company.

“We’ll have gatherings at the office and just kind of relax and talk and hang out,” he says. “We just keep that sense of community together and not make people feel like they’re on an island and keep everyone connected.”

Conaway sees a strong future for RLH. “I don’t see any reason to think that [we’ll see] any major hurdles in the future,” he says. “We spend a lot of time focusing on our procedures and how to continue to operate as a small business.”

Keeping its culture is an important focus for RLH going forward, so it avoids becoming “an uncomfortable, stuffy, rigid and sterile environment that no one wants to interact with,” he says. “[We want to] make sure that we bring on people that are like minded and looking for that kind of environment, and making sure we support the team members.”


RLH Pride

RLH Construction LLC has won recognition for its work, which has been included being named one of the “Golden 100: Central Florida’s Largest Privately Held Companies” by Orlando Business Journal for six years. In addition, the publication named the company in the top 25 of “Central Florida’s Largest Construction Companies” for five years in a row.

The company also won an award in 2015 from the Orlando Business Journal for “Central Florida’s Largest Construction Projects Completed.” “We have a lot of projects to be proud of,” Vice President of Construction Operations Brandon Conaway declares.

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