Success, What a Rush! William Chivers and RUSH Construction

RUSH Construction, Inc., specializes in taking on the kinds of projects their competitors won’t touch. Yet its reputation has been built on never failing to deliver a project on time, plus the Titusville-based, employee-owned company, also is one of only two companies based in Florida to be named a Certified Green Contractor by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Inc. RUSH has also logged more than two million man- hours without any lost time due to injury and received numerous safety awards, including the highest safety recognition by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ABC.

Although the company has celebrated over 30 years in business, it is a fresh approach RUSH uses to continually reinvent itself as the industry evolves. Founder and Chairman Eduardo Rabel jokingly refers to RUSH as a “30-year-old startup” that has continued to grow over each year.

Founded in 1984, RUSH worked exclusively with the U.S. Air Force and Martin Marietta (which later became Lockheed Martin) for the first eight to ten years of its existence. In 1997 William Chivers, now the President and CEO, joined the team.

Chivers, who had planned to be a music teacher, found himself when he went to work for the summer on a construction site in his early twenties. He recalls how later, “I met Ed (Eduardo Rabel) who wanted to grow RUSH, and next to marrying my wife, it was the best decision I ever made.”

The Health Care Opportunity

When governmental work was on the decline, RUSH made a three year forced march into the health care arena, as they found their systems and processes, which were geared towards government contracts, translated well into the medical sector. However, they found commercial customers were quite different from the federal government. “You don’t do anything with the government until every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed. Commercial clients however will say, ‘Go ahead and get started and we’ll work out the details;’ that shocks the system. We like to say, ‘We have a thousand rules and a thousand exceptions to the thousand rules.’ If you can’t adapt to your customers you will die,” Chivers said.

RUSH saw their focus on safety, schedule, reporting and quality in the government side were attributes they could leverage into the medical market. What broke the, ‘We’ll give you contracts if you can demonstrate experience,’ ‘But we can’t get experience without a contract,’ in medical, was bringing in someone with insider experience, which was Al Forbes. Chivers explained, “We realized we couldn’t gain that credibility, we had to hire it.”

Since then they have done a diagnostic and urgent care center for Parrish Medical; for Health First they did the new MRI addition at Palm Bay Hospital and just finished Central Park at Parrish Medical. They see healthcare delivery moving from the large centralized facilities to smaller community based centers; which is more their sweet spot, along with medical offices and hospital renovation space.

More Than Building

Chivers recalled a company staff meeting where he asked employees what RUSH Construction, Inc. actually did. When the stock answer was simply that the company “built stuff,” he gave them a different perspective to consider.

“We don’t build stuff,” Chivers said. “We build projects that allow rockets to put satellites into orbit and for NASA to put men into space. We build projects that allow the military to support the first defenders fight in overseas wars. That’s what we do. We build facilities that allow people to get well, and to improve their health.”

He continued, “It’s kind of the way we prefer to look at things. Sticks and bricks are okay, but the stuff we’ve been fortunate enough to do and the markets we’ve been fortunate enough to be in … we make a difference. It’s very rewarding to build something and realize you were part of something bigger than just the sticks and bricks.”

Describing his company’s success, when construction companies were running aground, “There is no magic potion that is a substitute for hard work. We were a very successful government contractor for 20 years. We recognized the need to diversify, but the phone kept ringing and life was good. Then overnight our business was slashed, but we were very blessed; we met Al Forbes who had great professional history in the medical construction arena. I wish I could say that was because we were so clever and we had all this foresight; we simply seized an opportunity and worked hard, with the simple commitment to do the right thing, even when it hurt.”

Building Community

Though the cliché is familiar, build your community, build your business, many companies take this to heart and wed their dreams and aspirations to the future and the betterment of their city. RUSH Construction has done that quite literally, as Chivers has been a tireless advocate for north Brevard’s post Space Shuttle resurgence.

“When you talk about this community you hit my hot button,” Chivers said smiling. “I was born in Rockledge, graduated from Cocoa High, went to what is now Eastern Florida State College and moved to Titusville 25 years ago. I’m a jealous advocate for the area. Being at the mercy of the space industry, it has been boom and bust. The area will look different in 12-24 months; new businesses are coming in and we are involved with many of them.”

Chivers is referring to the fact that the Brazilian aeronautical company Embraer is building their Aero Seating Technology facility, one of RUSH’s projects. Blue Origin is building a $200+ million design, fabricating and processing facility at Exploration Park. Paragon Plastics is moving here and Lockheed Martin purchased Astrotech Space Operations. One project he is really proud of is Brix Distillery of Playalinda Brewing.

Strategic Support

Another factor in RUSH’s success according to Chivers has been his participation in a CEO peer group. “I’ve been in the group for thirteen years, with members from San Antonio, Chicago, Willmar MN and ourselves in Titusville. When we formed the group, we committed to get together two times a year, along with a monthly conference call. Our meeting location rotates and we said we wouldn’t allow weather to be a factor in getting together, until it was time to meet in Willmar, Minnesota in February,” he said smiling.

“We are all members of ABC, the Association of Builders and Contractors and I heard our national president speak about how one of the greatest things that happened to his company was him joining a peer group. There is accountability and support; for instance, we bid on a church project in central Florida and there were aspects we didn’t know quite how to price. Well my friend in San Antonio has done countless churches and he had all the answers I needed in hours.”

This was one of the factors that led to RUSH’s recognition as a 2015 GrowFL Company to Watch. Speaking of the experience Chivers said, “It was an arduous process, but being recognized by a statewide organization and to celebrate at the Hard Rock at Universal Studios was a real honor. We really believe it will result in some incredible opportunities.”