Concepts in Millwork started operations in Colorado Springs with three employees 35 years ago last Wednesday. Today the commercial millwork company employs 80.
Concepts in Millwork CEO Bob Silcott began a counter-top manufacturing business in his hometown of Denver decades ago. He sold the business in 1980 and, as part of a non-compete clause, set up a new shop 60 miles away in Colorado Springs, according to Silcott’s daughter Stephanie Robinson, also the company’s financial controller.
“He commuted from Denver for two or three years,” said Scott Robinson, the company’s president and Silcott’s son-in-law. Silcott would eventually move his business, then called Concepts in Plastic Laminates, to a shop near Circle Drive and Interstate 25 before constructing a permanent manufacturing hub just east of Powers Boulevard.
Today, from its 30,000-square-foot facility, the company fabricates, delivers and installs architectural millwork for commercial projects using more than $1 million in wood fabrication equipment.
Through change, same focus
Locally, Concepts in Plastic Laminates began manufacturing and installing countertops for its only client at the time, a Denver-based construction brokerage company that coordinated projects with general contractors. Eventually, Concepts in Millwork added cabinet manufacturing to its catalogue of services and the model began to transition toward increased commercial projects.
By 1988, most contracts involved woodworking, and by 1989 ownership changed its name to reflect that. The company now employs its own estimators, project managers, millworkers and engineers as well as sales, marketing, installation and finishing teams. Clients now include the fields of government, education and health care.
“It has evolved in the 35 years,” Scott Robinson said. “The types of projects and their size and volume have increased considerably, but who we are and what we’re about hasn’t changed. The focus has remained the same.”
That focus is on quality and the workers who ensure it, he said, adding their craftsmanship has earned them contracts to include the El Paso County judicial complex, the Pepsi Center, Invesco Field at Mile High, the Lane Center at UCCS and the Pentagon for renovations following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For that project, Concepts in Millwork bid through a Greeley general contractor that was selected for rebuilding.
“That was one we did pursue even though it was clear across the country,” Scott said. “We wouldn’t normally do that, but at the time, you wanted to do what you could to help.”
The Concepts in Millwork crew self-installed that project, and its workers were on-site for 31/2 years.
The company has earned recognition from peers, including the Jack Mincher People’s Choice ACE Award given by the Associated General Contractors of Colorado for a project with Renaissance Hotels in Denver. Concepts in Millwork currently is under contract for the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center remodel, and a recent completed contract was for Western Union’s Denver headquarters.
“That was a very unique project. We were heavily involved in design,” Scott said. “That’s not typical. They involved us early on and we worked with the designer and helped with constructability. [The project manager] had a vision and we were able to help her with it. [The finished product] turned out awesome.”
Out of the woods
“When I started in 1990, there might have been 20 employees,” Scott Robinson said. “We grew as our customers’ needs grew. We weren’t working with a business model that said we had to grow ‘X’ percent per year. We have been conscious of growth, but we never want more than we are comfortable we can handle.”
Scott said the company has used hard times to assess operations and improve its model. Revenues, for the first time in company history, went backward in 2009 — and 18 people were laid off. That was a third of its workforce.
“That was a lesson I learned from my grandfather. [Layoffs were] something he wasn’t able to do, and it cost him his business,” Scott said. “I think it was better to ride out the hard times and still have a business for those people to come back to.”
According to Stephanie, the recession was hard, but 1996 “was way harder.” For 16 years Concepts in Millwork had been working solely with its Denver-based broker and, as that company’s management changed, so did philosophies, Stephanie said. The two businesses parted ways and “overnight,” Concepts in Millwork was without work.
“It was the most difficult and scary time,” Scott said. “But it was the best thing that could have happened. We had to reinvent ourselves in a quick hurry. Prior to 1996 we’d been providing product for one client. They packaged construction projects, did the selling and the installation.”
Scott said Concepts in Millwork has since integrated all of those aspects into its business model to mitigate another existential threat. Business gradually increased throughout the 2000s and, Scott said their business volume has doubled within the past five years.
“[The years] 2012, ’13 and ’14 we’ve seen big jumps,” he said, adding 2014 brought the added bonus of increased revenues without adding employees. He said “efficiencies” were responsible for last year’s fiscal growth. “[Hard times] forced us to focus on our costs and what it was taking to get things done. The bright side of that process, as difficult and scary as it is — it did make us stronger. … We had to go sell ourselves. We had to create an installation arm. Previously, we just had to build it and ship it.”
Concepts in Millwork expanded its physical space on Tuskegee Place in 2013 to keep pace with its client roster, but Scott vows to never forget the company’s tough patches or humble beginnings. He points to a group photo of employees and their families adorning the wall of the company’s lobby and explains that generations have helped to build the company over three and a half decades.
“It’s amazing to think back when Stephanie’s father started this business with just three folks,” he said. “I mean, this is still a small business, but it’s a big deal to us. I’m proud of it and I want everyone to be.”
Concepts in Millwork
Address: 1490 Tuskegee Place
Contact: 570-7353; conceptsinmillwork.com