A Chat with Geoffrey Marshall
Geoffrey Marshall leads 3lite in America
After 27 years as VP and General Manager of Turner Construction and 5 years as President of TA Group, Geoffrey joins the 3lite team as Partner, USA. We chat with him about why he joined 3lite and his goals for the partnership.
Q: Tell us about your career path and achievements?
A: I had several expectations when I look back at my career. I wanted a career that provided for continuous learning experiences, opportunities and significant challenges. I wanted growth opportunities and additional responsibilities and most important the opportunity to build friendships and lifelong relationships. One of my first boss’s favorite expressions was “to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive”. I have always appreciated his advice.
I have achieved these expectations and each opportunity provided the groundwork for the next. Prior to getting into the construction business I worked in New York City in the magazine publishing business. This was, of course, way before the internet and the New York publishing business was exciting and competitive. Knowing your readers and clearly communicating this to your clients and advertising agencies was critical. Turning your clients into repeat advertisers was critical for profitability and continued growth. This was an excellent experience and served for a strong foundation as I moved into the general contracting industry.
I started in construction with Turner Construction’s Connecticut office, one of Turner’s 35 offices at the time. For the next 27 years I had the opportunity to work with Turner, the largest general contractor in the US. Our biggest challenge was becoming recognized as a local builder in a market where there were many well established local construction companies. We achieved this by developing and maintaining our local knowledge and combining this with Turner’s well established national resources. I am most proud that a substantial number of client relationships we developed several decades ago continue to use Turner for their construction projects. They have always provided the important referrals and recommendations to new clients.
From Connecticut I was promoted to Turner’s national marketing and sales department in New York. This provided the opportunity to work with individuals from each of Turner’s 35 offices. We initiated specialized national sales groups that focused on specific markets, such as, sports, pharmaceutical, aviation and healthcare. These sales groups were fundamental in establishing Turner as the number 1 builder in each of these markets.
Other opportunities at Turner included being the general manager of the Richmond, Raleigh and Baltimore offices prior to relocating to Istanbul to lead our efforts in Eastern and Western Europe.
In 2013, I made the decision to join TACA one of the leading general contractors in Turkey. TACA was quickly getting established as an international general contractor and this opportunity offered me the challenge of utilizing everything I had learned throughout my career. I was able to establish new firms in Qatar, the UAE and the US and it was a very exciting time.
The most exciting achievements has been the establishment and expansion of new offices. The challenges of hiring and training new staff, setting up financial control systems, securing new clients and developing new relationships has been extremely rewarding.
Q: You’ve lived both in the US and internationally, what differences are key in doing business?
A: Making the transition from living and operating domestically in the US and moving to Istanbul and the international market had challenges. Business customs in Istanbul and the rest of Eastern Europe were fairly westernized. The UAE, Qatar and Saudi definitely had its differences. Early on, it was suggested I read “Don’t They Know It’s Friday” and it was a good read on the realities of doing business in these regions. Not only proper conduct but also the variety of lessons on waiting for meetings that might not happen or at least be delayed many times. Watch the movie “A Hologram for the King” and you will understand how I often felt.
Initially, there were challenges in contractual issues such as learning to work with the terms and conditions of FIDIC versus AIA documents (the standard in the US), banking and accounting regulations and human resource issues. Fortunately, English was widely utilized which was a great help to me as we moved from country to country building new relationships.
Q: What brought you to 3lite?
A: My initial introduction to 3lite was in meeting with Vladimir and Milan in New York earlier this year. Vladimir and I had first met in 2011 when Vladimir joined the Turner team and the Crown Plaza project in Belgrade. The business plan for global sourcing and 3lite’s entry into the US market was intriguing and we recognized the benefits that 3lite’s international resources would provide to clients in the US looking for global sourcing solutions. Our existing relationship and prior experience working with Turner played an important role in my coming to 3lite.
Q: As a partner at 3lite, what do you focus on?
A: My immediate focus with 3lite is to establish relationships with US firms who have an interest in optimizing their procurement strategy with the global sourcing of construction materials, particularly when it comes to interiors, facades and select MEP. This will primarily be in the residential and hospitality markets, equally with developers and general contractors.
It will be very important to listen to our prospects and understand their individual requirements, prior experiences and lack of experience with global procurement. One of our biggest benefits is the strategic location of our staff in Europe and Eastern Asia. We will focus on educating each of our future clients on these benefits.
Q: What markets are you targeting in the US?
A: The initial focus will be on the residential and hospitality markets. This will typically include the higher-end condominium and apartment projects that potentially have 100 or more units. In the hospitality market we will initially focus on smaller boutique hotels or hotel operators that have a portfolio of smaller hotels.
Q: What is the competitive edge 3lite has in the US market?
A: 3lite has the significant advantage of having staff located throughout Europe, Southeast Asia and the US. These staff have the procurement, design, budgeting, scheduling and operations experience that will avoid the typical global procurement problems.
In several conversations with US firms, they have had a variety of challenges with their global procurement efforts. The one common reason is that they were working with a US based procurement company and did not have a foreign presence and relied entirely on the honesty and integrity of a variety of different global manufacturers. This inevitability ended up creating many challenges that impacted the project quality, schedule and budget.
Our focus will generally be targeted at Developers and Contractors that are looking to incorporate high-end finishes and latest solutions at the most competitive global rates, with a high level of risk control. As our team is located in the areas of our supply chain, including full time presence in Italy, Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia, we have an incredible opportunity to control the quality of production and mitigate risks before they leave the factory.
Q: What do you think will be the next “big thing” in the construction business?
A: The construction industry is going to continue to see the global advancement and acceptance of technology throughout the entire industry. In 2012 Turner assembled the leaders of many Eastern Europe companies in Istanbul for a two day seminar introducing Building Information Modeling (BIM). At the time, we felt BIM would be advancing more quickly such as how it did in the US. It has taken a bit longer but now BIM technology is being implemented on more and more global construction projects.
Along with BIM is the continued growth of Project Management Software. These real time project management tools will improve the fundamentals of budgeting, scheduling, quality and safety on every project.
Virtual reality technology will also be more utilized as all stakeholders collaborate more effectively on each project.
3lite will benefit from these advancements in technology. As we collaborate with every project stakeholder we will share accurate information in real time. Our global sourcing technologies will set an industry standard as we provide global building materials on US construction projects.
Q: How do you envision 3lite in the US market in 5 years?
A: 3lite will maintain our primary goal of providing outstanding service to a reasonable number of clients. With our growing and experienced staff we will provide design, estimating, budget control, scheduling and logistics services that fully integrate and support our core business of global procurement. With this strategy we will have slow and steady growth always recognizing that we must service our clients with our available resources.
We will continue to utilize the new technologies of BIM, Virtual Reality and Project Management Software as we collaborate with our clients.
I envision that we will provide additional resources from the US enabling 3lite to collectively service our clients nearly 24 hours a day. There will be an excellent potential for our staff to spend time in the US as we develop and train our new employees.