Video: Maryland Contractor Looks Back on 45 Years in Construction

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After 45 years, Thomas Iacoboni has pretty much seen it all in the construction industry.

He started working for his grandfather’s construction company when he was 15. He later worked for a family construction business and then struck out on his own to form Iacoboni Site Specialists in Rosedale, Maryland, in 1991.

He’s weathered recessions, a pandemic and many changes in the industry. At 60, he still loves coming in to work every day and has no intentions of retiring anytime soon. “I intend to stay here and die with my boots on,” he says.

Iacoboni Site Specialists has become a fixture in Baltimore and surrounding areas ­– a one-stop-shop, from site work to paving and everything in between. The company has annual revenue of $14 million to $15 million and 85 employees.

Iacoboni is also one of Equipment World’s 12 finalists for the 2022 Contractor of the Year award.

In the video above, Iacaboni tells how he and his company got to where it is today and offers up some advice for contractors hoping to succeed in business.

The Contractor of the Year program recognizes contractors who display the highest standards of business acumen, equipment management expertise, attention to safety and community involvement. Each year, 12 finalists receive an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to participate in roundtable discussions and an awards ceremony.

The 2023 program will coincide with ConExpo-Con/Agg, North America’s largest construction trade show.

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Thomas Iacoboni (00:05):

So when I started in business, it was my grandfather's company. I was about 15 years old and working summers. I started as a mechanic helper one year. Then the next year I was a dump truck driver. The following year I was the loader operator. When we started the company with my father, I was in the estimating room learning to do takeoff.


I went out my own with my brother-in-law as my minority owner, so I was the majority owner in this company, and we started Iacoboni Site Specialists, and that was in 1991. We started with six guys, went out to various banks, could not get a loan. Finally, I got an SBA loan. We started just doing utility connections and utility work. And as the economy grew, because 1991 was a recession, and we went from six guys to 165 guys, eventually. We expanded pretty rapidly.


Right from the start, we were blowing out our projections. We were making a lot more money than we thought we were making, which allowed us to grow a lot faster than we thought we were able to grow, and we grew. We grew fast.


We started laying pipe. As the economy grew, we started adding more utility crews, and then eventually we added a grading crew, and then we added a clearing crew. We added a paving crew, and we just kept expanding more in this into what we do in site work. Now, we're a full-scale site work contractor. We do it all.


Yeah, there was one project when we first went into business. It was the Gudelsky Building in Baltimore City. It was a large job for us being such a small company at the time, but we had a lot of money on the job and it allowed us to grow the company just through the profits. That was a Whiting-Turner job. Whiting-Turner's a huge company and gave us a good reputation with them, and it allowed us or foot the door, bid other jobs with them. And we could go back to other large contractors and say, we did this job, and yes, that was a stepping stone.


We primarily stay in the commercial development work, so we work a lot with the same general contractors and we have a rapport with the general contractor that we work with. So they know that we're going to treat them fair on extra work orders and if there are any problems that we'll work with them. Sometimes we don't like how it's resolved, but the general contractor knows that even if we don't like it, we'll sometimes bite the bullet, take it, and figure that they'll work with us on the next job. And we seem to have a repeat business with a lot of the general contractors we work with. So they seem to like working with us. We have a lot of repeat customers, but if there's a job in our neighborhood or in our neck of the woods or a type of job that we see and it's a new guy, we'll go after that one also.


I love what I do. I love coming into work every day, handling the challenges. The 2008, 2009, I hated it. It was doom and gloom every day. You had to make decisions that you did not want to make. It was a tough time to be in business. I mean, everybody was bidding to the bottom. You knew you were taking jobs, you knew you were going to lose money on them. It was not a good time to be in business. That's the only time in my entire career that I did not enjoy what I was doing. And eventually, when it did come back, there wasn't anybody in the industry anymore. And when it came back, it came back with a vengeance. And we had some of the best years we've ever had in 2011, 2012, 2013, some of the best years we've ever had because there wasn't anybody else out there to do the work.


The big thing is cash is king. Now, I remember when I first went in business, if we would've had one major account not pay us, it would've killed us. Cash is not a problem anymore, but I remember the days when it was a problem and you had to watch your receivables very, very closely. Stay in close contact with the general contractors. And the other thing is treat your customers fairly. You're not going to win every battle, and you don't want to win every battle because you want the guy you're working for to feel like they've, they come out ahead once in a while.


I'm 60 years old. I intend to stay here and die with my boots on. I love what I do. I love coming into work. I love the challenges. I love everything about this. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I don't want to retire. I don't want to sit home. I don't want to be on the beach every day. I like coming in the work and doing what I do.