MBE/WBE Company Spotlight

MBE/WBE Company Spotlight

RWIV

Construction LLC

Most companies understand that one of the perils of hir- ing good people is the possibility that they may be train- ing a future competitor. Robert Chambers III says that Massaro Corporation seemed to hire him with that pos- sibility in mind.

“We talked often about what success would look like. Ste- ven [Massaro] always said this is a long-term thing. This isn’t a short-term fad,” Chambers recalls. “He said we can control what we can control by hiring good people for our company and teaching them the business, you may be one of our competitors down

Rob Chambers

I had come from that background working as the first African-American director for Three Rivers Rowing,” he explains. “My job was to recruit mi- norities because of Title IX. I had that background but I knew very little about construction. They taught me the business from the ground up.”

Chambers spent time in the field on projects as small as $1 million and worked on projects as large as $36 million during his first year. He looks back on that year now and feels it was a test of his commitment to the business, to see if he was interested in adding value to the projects on which he worked. Massaro brought him into estimating to learn how to read drawings and do takeoffs. Chambers got the opportunity to sit in on meetings with subcontrac- tors, vendors, architects and owners, which gave him the chance to hear the concerns of all sides of a con- struction project.

the road. I took it seriously when Steven said it because I knew it was heartfelt. Now he says he didn’t think it would be this soon.

“I’m far from a competitor but after a five-and-a-half years I de- cided to take that leap of faith because I was constantly hearing about the lack of minorities out there and I saw it myself. I felt like that was something I was molded to do.”

Rob Chambers looks at his up- bringing and can see how his path may have been set. His mother was a social worker but operated a catering business part-time. His father was a full-time entre- preneur, owning a restaurant. His own work background, however, provided less practical experience for his business.

“When Massaro hired me they talked about the issue of diversity or lack of diversity in this industry.

“…I decided to take that leap of faith because I was constantly hearing about the lack of minorities out there and I saw it myself. I felt like that was something I was molded to do.”

BreakingGround November/December 2014 49

“I kind of came from a family business. I’m a man of faith so I prayed about it and talked to a couple good friends,” he says. “I had a couple good people around me who felt like I could do it. I put a plan together. I had some money saved up in my 401-K. My car was paid off. I just took a chance.”

He says he hit his stride in business development and was able to help Massaro build a relationship that led to major projects at Penn State because of their commit- ment to diversity. He also pushed himself to sell work where being a minority wasn’t a factor.

By October 2011, Chambers was feeling a pull to stretch himself further.

“I kind of came from a family business. I’m a man of faith so I prayed about it and talked to a couple good friends,” he says. “I had a couple good people around me who felt like I could do it. I put a plan together. I had some money saved up in my 401-K. My car was paid off. I just took a chance.”

Chambers founded RWIV Construction to do construc- tion management services, small carpentry and general contracting work. He had a passion to work with non- profit organizations and to leverage his relationships with institutions like Penn State. He was prepared for lean times but was less prepared to have immediate op- portunities.

“What some of the bigger guys told me was don’t grow too fast but when I first started I felt like I had so many oppor- tunities. My phone was ringing off the hook,” he shares. “I got the Ben & Jerry’s [on Penn Ave- nue] contract and then another big contract and it was almost too much. We got through that and I’m glad we did it but we definitely had to learn from the experience.”

One of the big lessons he learned was about managing his capacity.

“One of the challenges I face is that when you’re a small business – take minority out of it – you just don’t have the

resources that the big companies do and it becomes dif- ficult to manage your time, not spreading yourself too thin,” Chambers says. “Managing that part of it can be very challenging because you’re wearing multiple hats. We welcome that challenge.”

RWIV has found a sweet spot managing construction of smaller projects in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. The company has also found success in carving out smaller packages of large projects. That kind of agreement is what RWIV currently is working on with Mascaro on a $40 million project at Penn State and as part of a team that includes Chambers’ former employer to pursue some of the opportunities at the Penguins’ development of the 28-acre Mellon Arena site.

As he starts his fourth year in business, Chambers feels he has gotten over the hump of the start up phase and learned from the growing pains. He maintains a small of- fice in Homewood and State College, and has a staff of between four and six, depending on workload. He says he has been contacted by Carnegie Mellon about work and wants to expand his presence in State College. He

wants to stay connected to the community in Pittsburgh as part of his business.

“I like to get in and work with nonprofits that have never done a construction project. When they do a project it may be the only one they ever do,” he says. “They have a need but have never been through the con- struction process. I like to think I can help them save time and money because I know the pro- cess and know who the players are.” BG

Company FaCts

RWIV Construction LLC

7355 Frankstown Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15208
T: 412/727-1386
M: 412/616-3749 Robert W. Chambers III, CEO Robert@rwivconstruction.com www.rwivconstruction.com

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