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For Brinker, Stronger Together is a Way of Life

We often hear the adage that “the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts,” and that’s certainly true in the commercial construction industry. After all, the foundation, framing and materials used in a building are just disparate components until brought together – an apt analogy for the Brinker family of companies.

“Stronger together” is more than just a slogan for Brinker, a Detroit-based family of five companies that provides the complete range of commercial construction services: L.S. Brinker, a general contracting and construction management company; Brinker Team Construction, which provides exterior carpentry and interior finishings; Universal Glass & Metals, a full-service glass and glazing subcontractor; City Carpet and Flooring, which specializes in flooring installation; and Edgewood Electric, which provides a wide range of turn-key electrical services.

This concept of “stronger together” is symbolic of the shared culture, collective strength, steadfast reputation, commitment to quality, integrity and – most of all – an approach to building strong relationships that arose from the melding of these five companies under one powerhouse umbrella.

Restructuring offers a fresh perspective

Sometimes a company restructure involves just a metaphorical “fresh coat of paint,” but in this case, the company committed to a transformative overhaul that entailed building from the inside out: restructuring, professionalizing by adding core services and forming an executive leadership team. "The impetus was clear," says Larry Brinker, Jr., who spent a decade working and learning within the company with his father, Larry, Sr., started in 1989 as a small carpentry business and steadily expanded.

As Brinker Jr. transitioned into his current role as CEO and President, he noticed that each company was accountable for itself, whereas he wanted a collaborative perspective, where they would think about the health of the company, clients and associates collectively. “Rather than each company focusing exclusively on its own P&Ls, we think ‘group first.’ Bringing us all together at one table allows us to share our expertise, processes--and in some cases, customers--and be more agile.”

Each company already had a strong reputation and client base, but because only two of them had the name “Brinker” in them, it wasn’t always apparent they were affiliated. “Coming together meant we could take the positive experiences of each customer base and expand it to our group as a whole,” Brinker Jr. says.

A focus on client success

That has paid dividends for numerous clients, with the Detroit Pistons Performance Center as an excellent example. During the preconstruction phase, the design was coming in significantly over the target budget, posing the potential for a stall that could have taken months to resolve. However, with all of the Brinker companies working together with the architect and owner, they were able to walk out of a productive day-long meeting with a plan that met the owner’s budget and without compromising the design intent. By all areas of expertise working together early on during the design period, crews were subsequently more efficient and effective once in the field.

“Ultimately the project came in at budget and on time, which couldn’t have happened if we didn't have our full team at the table up front,” Brinker Jr. explains. “We were able to drive a better outcome for everyone involved, demonstrating how working together as a group is not only beneficial to us, but for our clients as well.”

While the Pistons project represents a marquee accomplishment, they are proud of the extensive mark they’ve made on downtown Detroit, which has experienced an enormous amount of development over the past decade. “We have touched at least 75% to 80% of those projects with one of our companies. It’s so exciting for us to leave our legacy on the revitalization of this great city,” Brinker Jr. says.

Associates thriving under one umbrella

Brinker Jr. looks at his employees as an extension of the family and is proud of how the “inside-out” approach has helped bolster retention. Making them comfortable was one piece of the puzzle, which led to an office renovation that created a space that was more collaborative and modern, with such amenities as a golf simulator and complimentary food and beverages.

However, feeling like part of a family requires far more than shiny new digs. Brinker is especially proud of how the company gives associates ample opportunity for mobility. It’s a deeply rooted value, based in the fact that Brinker Sr. started his impressive entrepreneurial journey as a carpenter apprentice, working his way up to eventually own all five companies.

Today, three of its lead executives who run day-to-day operations for Brinker companies began in the field as tradesmen – an electrician and two carpenters. “We take pride in the fact that we've been able to promote people out of the field who have a wealth of knowledge and experience and then provide them with the training necessary to run our businesses. They can make better decisions, having actually done the work themselves,” Brinker Jr. says.

He himself has walked the same journey, holding multiple positions throughout the company as he rose through the ranks. “When I took over the helm, I had a different level of understanding of the work based on my hands-on experience,” he says.

Shared values provide an ideal fit with Old National Bank

A solid banking relationship opens doors, and the Brinker companies recently went through the process of choosing a new partner. “We landed with Old National Bank because you want a bank partner that believes in you and wants to see you grow; one that is committed to really being the partner they say they want to be,” he says.

That’s what they’ve found in Old National Bank, but that’s not all. Old National Bank and Brinker have also aligned on fundamental values that include a dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion and a commitment to serving their communities. Old National Bank doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk,” Brinker, Jr. says.

Rick Hampson, Old National Bank’s Metro Detroit Market President, believes they are such a good fit because of their shared focus on culture and philanthropy. “We ourselves have recently undergone a merger, and our vision is to be ‘better together,’ reflecting Brinker’s motto of ‘stronger together,’” Hampson says. “Our similar journeys mean we share a common insight that has been an asset to our relationship.”

Would you like to find out how Old National Bank can help your company achieve similar success? Find out more about our business services portfolio and talk to a business banker today.

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