Len Neufeld of MERIT Manitoba’s Three Way Builders talks construction with George Affleck.
When Len began working as a framing carpenter in high school, he never imagined he’d one day be running his own commercial construction company. Len and his brothers worked for a framing carpentry company in 1978, and by the time he turned twenty, he decided to quit his job and start his own business.
Back then, Len’s business Three Way Builders had been a subcontracting business, mainly framing houses. Working out of Northern Manitoba, Len and his business partner began gaining a lot of jobs, giving him experience in concrete framing, roofing, exterior, finishing, and drywall, and doing so on a subcontract basis. After having multiple business partners, Len decided to buy his partner out in 1987 to switch up the business model to more general contracting and design-building.
“So, by the time I went, changed my model to change to general contractor, I already had experience in coordinating everything,” Len says.
Len and his wife went on to own the company one hundred percent by this time, which meant starting over and finding new jobs. It also meant being very hands-on and being able to build his business to stand out from the competition.
“There are a lot of design-build contractors, but there are relatively few, at least in our area, that have in-house design capabilities. So, early on, I actually hired somebody who could do project management, but he was also a designer,” Len says.
Focusing on doing the preliminary work with their clients in-house has streamlined the process, and Len says it has helped narrow down the communication gap between the client and the design team, making Three Way Builders an even more efficient company.
“So, we’re coordinating our own people, not coordinating an outside entity. So, that makes a big difference,” Len explains; his team uses a combination of outsources when his men are busy. Still, their preferred aspect is having their own design team and construction management, so no side architect is required.
When asked how Len manages to find jobs for his team and what makes an ideal client for Three Way Builders, he says, “we design and build buildings. But in the process of that, it’s not so much an ideal client. It’s the fun in doing it.” He focuses more on not building a building but on what he will see happening in the building.
Now more than forty years later, Len has gained a partner; his son-in-law bought into the business after being with the company for nine years and has now become his partner. Len is confident that Three Way Builders will continue to grow because he feels strongly for his people and their skills. Len is hopeful about where the construction industry is headed and is excited for it to keep moving forward.