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Rochester Top 100: Nichols focuses on building relationships

Nichols Construction Team gets 80 percent of its revenues from negotiating contracts with clients rather than bidding in the open market, said President and CEO John Nichols, left, with Ric Carley, Jim Burm and Clay Carpenter. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)


Nichols Construction Team focuses on three key areas: doing business the right way, forming relationships with clients and differentiating its service offerings.

“That’s been the strategy for our success,” said John Nichols, president and CEO.

The full-service construction company was incorporated in 1983 by founding partners Nichols; his father, James, who passed away in 2005; and John’s brother, Bradford, who is retired. John Nichols now runs the firm with three partners: Clay Carpenter, chief financial officer; Ric Carley, chief operating officer; and Jim Burm, director of project management.

The firm gets roughly 80 percent of its revenues from negotiating contracts with clients rather than bidding in the open market, Nichols said.

“It gives us the opportunity to form relationships based on our record,” he said.

The approach often leads to more work from clients, Carley added.

“Once we finish a project, clients come back. It’s a huge part of our continued success.”

Nichols Construction Team has 23 full-time employees, and Nichols sees that number increasing by 15 to 25 percent over the next six months. Sales are expected to grow, too, as Nichols expects a 45 percent increase this year, driven by growth in several industries.

Some of the firm’s existing customers in the optics industry are growing, and Nichols Construction Team has helped them expand, he said.

A lot of growth also is coming from work in the human service and private education markets, he added. The company has built projects for the Harley School, Trinity Montessori School, Webster Montessori School and PUC Achieve Charter School.

The majority of the company’s jobs are in Greater Rochester, but the Nichols Construction Team does work from Seneca County to the Southern Tier.

“We are a small company with large-company capabilities,” Nichols said.

The company’s challenges mirror those of other firms in the construction and development industry in New York, which, Nichols said, continue to be over-burdened with high worker’s compensation costs and the Scaffold Law. The 1885 law required employers on building sites to ensure the safety of laborers working above the ground; many believe it is antiquated and in need of reform. Other challenges include ever-increasing regulations and open-ended regulatory fees and inspection costs, he added.

The firm tries to stay ahead of industry regulations, working with state agencies and contracting companies as well as educating clients on what is happening in the market, Burm said.

Nichols is optimistic about continued growth for the business.

“We see continued opportunity in the emerging technology, optics and private education markets,” he said. “We have become heavily engaged in the charter school movement and will experience significant growth there.”

The business changed its direction around 2000 as work in the industrial arena slowed. The firm shifted its focus to the human services arena, which then grew to the higher education market.

Today, however, Nichols is seeing another uptick in the industry, driven by smaller firms that were created after the area’s large manufacturers began to downsize.

“We had never done work for Kodak,” Nichols said. “But today, we do work for a lot of companies that were spun out of it.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2015 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 4. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

Nichols Construction Team
Full-service construction company
Year founded: 1983
Top executive: John Nichols, president and CEO
Current employment: 23
2014 ranking: 81
Headquarters: Henrietta
Website: nicholsteam.com


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