How Renovo's Approach is Changing the Game

In many ways, the 2020s is a watershed decade for the construction industry, a time when many go-to contracting firms are seeing a change in leadership and in the makeup of their workforces.

Bringing an entirely new mindset to the industry is Renovo Construction, the general contractor started by DLC. Renovo has embraced DLC’s owner-operator mindset, a unique combination of construction expertise and commercial real estate experience, a stable supply of work in the retail sector and a willingness to listen to its workforce.

“DLC is our partner and we encourage the idea that we should be the contractor for the new tenant, not just because it signed the lease with us, but because of our experience and particular knowledge of retail building,” said Peyton Thomas, Vice President of Construction at Renovo, and a retail construction professional with decades of experience. The firm offers services including preconstruction and deal planning, site development and redevelopment, construction management and engineering.

But the young company also needed some reinvention in light of the challenges of COVID-19 and the post-pandemic era, which have significantly impacted the construction industry.

Challenges Ahead

In the months and years following the lockdowns, many contractors and subcontractors who were already nearing retirement opted to leave the industry — and the next generation has not followed them into the business. That has resulted in a shortage of skilled labor that affects the real estate business even now.

“There is definitely a lack of professionals out there. Some senior executives and even companies left the industry,” Thomas observed. “There is a lack of new talent coming into the business.”

Thomas also wanted to bring a new culture to construction, an entrepreneurial spirit that fits right in with DLC and Renovo, which recruited him in December 2022.

“Our philosophy is to be entrepreneurial in spirit,” Thomas said. “Adam Ifshin, our Founder and CEO, and Jillian Klein, our Senior Vice President of People, have empowered us to explore, which is part of the culture of the entire company, so I can build Renovo.”

A Focus on People

Renovo is an example of DLC’s focus on its people. The company had launched in 2020 when DLC sought the input of the team on growing the business — expecting a handful of volunteers, it found 36 teammates coming together in groups to brainstorm. One group presented the idea of creating a construction arm to bring another revenue stream and help with DLC’s ongoing pipeline of projects, and the initiative was brought to life.

It took some time to shape the recruitment strategy, and DLC’s flexibility to see a problem and pivot to fix it was critical as it restructured Renovo.

“We are very agile. The beauty about DLC/Renovo is that there aren’t multiple levels of approval if you need to make a change,” Klein said. “We can walk into our CEO’s office and be transparent about reworking the strategy.”

That led them to Thomas, whose interest in building a company from the ground up made him the right person at the right time.

“That’s a unique situation in this environment. I have a direct line to the CEO,” Thomas said. “He takes a strong interest in Renovo and what we do, and we can leverage all of DLC’s power and strength.”

A Shifting Mindset - and a Growing Team

Thomas immediately began shifting the mindset from pure construction management to general contracting, creating new efficiencies and bringing in new people as the roles were solidified. Renovo now has 11 employees, seven of them recruited by Thomas in the last 18 months And will be bringing on additional teammates as we continue to grow the business.

“The right type of person for Renovo is interested in coming into a company in its infancy and growing that company,” Klein said.

Renovo currently will average six to eight projects at a time, and is focusing on building its site superintendent team, especially critical as DLC’s portfolio expands beyond the East Coast. A major part of that growth Steve Vroman, who was brought in as director of field operations.

“Having his expertise as changed the game for us,” Thomas said.

The Focus on Retail

Another differentiator for Renovo is its unique understanding of and focus on retail construction, with its specific needs and deadlines. If the fit-out of an office is delayed a month, it’s aggravating — miss a retail deadline and an entire year of sales can be disrupted.

“There is a business that is dependent on our business,” Thomas said. “As a general contractor, we’re there to make sure everyone has done their jobs. In retail, that’s especially important. For example, the retailer needs to open the store before Black Friday – otherwise you’re losing thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

In addition, because retail leases mostly are shorter than in other sectors, Renovo offers its team something few construction professionals can claim — a consistent pipeline of projects, and a true team atmosphere.

Keeping the Team Together

The construction industry is notorious for sporadic work, with little opportunity to create cohesive teams or even personal bonds. When a job is done, the team disbands and looks for other work. Not at Renovo. Most of its work has been captive work for DLC at open-air shopping centers across the country, which allows the team to stay together. And the company’s portfolio growth and active leasing team means there’s always a new store to oversee. That closeness extends into after-hours.

“On top of doing construction work, we have cultural initiatives to create bonds. We host Camp DLC where we fly every teammate in, with a significant other, put them up at a hotel for the night and host a day of activities, including a cocktail hour and barbecue at the CEO’s country club,” Klein said. “They just get to enjoy the day and we get to meet our teammates family members.”

As Renovo grows, the focus for now is on hiring experienced professionals. But once that team is in place, Thomas plans on bringing new blood and ideas into the industry.

“We do want to teach them, and train them,” Thomas said. “We’re not there yet. But we are looking to create a program, that can expose newcomers to all aspects of construction, from the superintendent side, to estimating to project management.”

But the quality he looks for is one that’s in himself and that pervades DLC’s culture — an entrepreneurial spirit.

“From Day 1 when I met Jillian, the talk was about entrepreneurship. It’s a foundation of DLC,” Thomas said. “That’s what inspires me, and we push that foundation.”