A Strong Culture Drives Quality

Hill & Wilkinson
Written by Leon Bracey

Since 1968, Hill & Wilkinson has evolved. Once a small family business and now a leader in its field, the firm provides a full range of contracting services across multiple sectors, with a particular focus on a service model called “Process-Driven Design and Construction” in which each client’s unique process dictates the specific way the company approaches projects.
Headquartered near Dallas in Richardson, Texas, H&W takes on everything from maintenance work to design-build projects. The company is dedicated to executing each project to the strictest of standards and the highest quality. As the company has grown, Hill & Wilkinson continues to adhere to its underlying philosophy and its core values of respect, quality, safety, training, fun, citizenship and commitment to the communities it serves.

Founder Luther Hill started the company in 1968 and soon became known for building large projects with a small business mindset. Greg Wilkinson and Fritz McKinstry carried on Mr. Hill’s legacy when they purchased the company in 1985. Today, CEO Paul Driscoll leads the company, and H&W has expanded to include offices in Central and East Texas.

Presently, the firm employs over 250 people and has a diverse portfolio of construction projects in the commercial, healthcare, institutional and manufacturing sectors. H&W also offers design-build, construction management and general contracting services such as pre-construction, Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Integrated Project Delivery, construction management, and facility commissioning.

Recently, Executive Vice President, Jacob Riney, and Culture & Communications Manager, Tiffany Sifford, spoke with Business in Focus to share more about Hill & Wilkinson’s many accomplishments and developments.

“We have always tried to pursue market diversification,” says Riney. “That approach has given our company a lot of stability in hard economic times and provided a lot of opportunity for people.”

The firm has built up an impressive portfolio of projects in the healthcare sector, ranging from full-service regional replacement hospitals to specialty surgery centers, rehabilitation hospitals, long-term acute care centers, skilled nursing facilities, imaging suites, medical office buildings, and doctor’s offices. The Baylor Surgical Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas is one example of H&W’s quality work in this field. A joint venture between Baylor Healthcare System and United Surgical Partners International, this 80,000 square foot facility includes ten operating rooms, two procedure rooms and 40 beds, while the full-service diagnostic department includes MRI, CT scan, X-Ray / radiography and fluoroscopy modalities to support the facility.

In addition to the company’s adaptability across market sectors, Mr. Riney and Ms. Sifford proudly attribute H&W’s ongoing success to its overall company culture – and this positive workplace culture is no secret to the broader industry. Indeed, the company has been recognized by the Dallas Morning News as one the Top 100 Places to Work in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro Area for the sixth consecutive year. The firm also made the Best Places to Work list in the Dallas Business Journal for the ninth year in a row.

“It’s an honor to have people seeking us out wanting to work here,” Sifford says. “They find us from the ‘best places to work’ lists and see the awards we’ve received. We work very hard to maintain our culture, and as we grow, we pay even more attention to it.”

“We are known for our fun-loving approach to business – we work hard and we play hard,” Riney agrees. “We have fun events all the time and have parties for pretty much any event. The socializing and tight-knit feel gives us lots of time to interact and talk to one another. Our approach to business and people is what has helped us grow. We have a foundation of treating people how we would want to be treated, and if people are happy and treated well, you’ll get the best out of them.”

Adhering to the core values of the company is another way H&W has continued to build on its success. “We have a set of values that hang on the walls, but more than that, you see them in action and people feel them every day,” shares Riney. “Our clients consistently come back to us because we treat them like a part of our family. As a result, we have a high level of repeat business from clients; we wouldn’t be where we are without them. Not only do we deliver a quality product, but the relationships are strong and we make the process as fun and smooth as possible for them. We are always keeping a watchful eye on how we treat clients and our employees.”

Sifford credits the leadership of the company as being another driver behind H&W’s successful culture. “There is a hands-on quality to our leadership,” she says. “They are always accessible, and people know them well. That’s a critical piece of our culture – a leadership team that genuinely cares about its people and listens to concerns. It starts with our CEO who we see lead-by-example every day.”

H&W also emphasizes a culture of wellness, and in fact, the Dallas Business Journal named the company the #1 ‘Healthiest Employer’ for mid-size companies in 2012, 2013 and 2014. “Our culture of wellness is woven into every aspect,” Sifford says. “It’s not uncommon to see people hanging out in workout clothes, playing basketball or running by your desk.”

To be sure, H&W has benefited from the population boom in Texas, as a lot of new construction projects are coming to fruition, and Riney explains that the company’s diverse skill set has enabled it to deal well with tough economic times. “We certainly haven’t been unfazed by the economy, but with diversification, one market takes a hit while another keeps us going. We have been blessed to be in the North Texas market and have done well despite the challenges.” The volume of construction work Texas-wide has increased quite a bit as of late, so hard costs across the board – such as paying subcontractors and suppliers – have risen by at least 10 percent. “Certain materials such as concrete are becoming scarce – and may be facing possible shortage,” explains Riney.

The Hill & Wilkinson team regularly takes on extensive projects for academic institutions, and the majority of these projects are delivered using the construction management at risk (CM at Risk) method.

For the University of Texas at Dallas, H&W built the fourth phase of the school’s Student Housing Living / Learning Center as well as a dining facility to accommodate growing housing needs, the fifth building they have completed on the campus. The 316,000 square foot building accommodates freshmen students with a total of 600 beds. The HKS design comprises two five-story, wood-framed housing wings on a concrete podium linked by a circular common lounge and amenity area with a curtain wall exterior. Additional works included a multipurpose space that can be used for classrooms, a breakfast and snack bar, lounging and study areas, outdoor athletic areas, a gaming area, laundry, and associated site improvements. The adjacent central dining facility serves all five residence halls on campus and can accommodate 800 students at a time. Connected to the dining facility is a 25,000 square foot gymnasium and fitness area. This project is seeking LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

As Hill & Wilkinson begins to prepare for its 50th anniversary coming up in 2018, the company is poised for growth in the state of Texas, and Riney believes that a mindful approach to that growth is best. “Our long term goal right now is to continue slow and steady growth and plan better for how we grow – rather than let the market drive it,” he says.

By staying true to its core values, Sifford says that H&W has high hopes for continued success and making a difference in the marketplace. As she says, “We believe that our culture and how we treat people is at the center of everything.”



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