Connecticut entrepreneur Jim Giuliano founded Construction Solutions Group (CSG) in September 2014. The company specializes in owner’s project management services, working on behalf of public and private clients during the planning, design, and construction phases of projects as an extension of their team to ensure that work is completed in accordance with defined budget, schedule, and overall objectives.
Jim shared his entrepreneurial experience with Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price.
NAN PRICE: Is this your first startup, or do you have entrepreneurial experience?
JIM GIULIANO: Entrepreneurialism runs in my family. My father and two older brothers started a masonry contracting business in the 1970s where I worked during summers and school breaks.
My journey as an entrepreneur began when a former coworker and I started purchased a concrete company in the early 2000s. It’s actually still being run; my partner bought me out.
While was working at the Capital Region Education Council (CREC), the entrepreneur bug hit me again. I had an opportunity to begin consulting and I couldn’t say no. Soon after I founded Construction Solutions Group.
NAN: Have you always wanted to start your own company as opposed to working for someone else?
JIM: Yes. I’ve always had that “I can do it better” feeling. But it can be extremely nerve-racking going out on your own, especially when you have children and a family depending on you. I had the confidence that I’d be able to do this—and be able to grow it—and fortunately, that vision is coming to fruition.
NAN: How has your background helped you develop the business concept for CSG?
JIM: I spent a majority of my career working for construction management companies. My work at CREC helped me gain owner’s representative expertise—and experience from the owner’s perspective.
What sets CSG apart is our experience and our approach. A lot of our clients are municipalities, so they obviously have to be budget and schedule conscious. Many of their projects are being partially reimbursed by the State of Connecticut. Once they get an approval for a project, for example passing a referendum, we drill down to help them understand the associated responsibilities and financing strategies.
NAN: How you are building your clientele?
JIM: We have a great network of people in the industry. We’re constantly in communication with architectural and construction management firms. The industry kind of helps itself, too. Everyone communicates, so we end up hearing about projects that way.
Also, we get people coming to us. It’s a combination of word-of-mouth and outreach from potential clients. I jokingly say CSG is a marketing company that does program management for private clients and municipalities.
NAN: Speaking of marketing, you and I connected through Lindsey Mathieu, Founder of Golden Egg Concepts, which specializes in marketing and business development for architecture, engineering, and construction companies.
JIM: Right! Since I’ve started this business, I’ve been much more conscious about utilizing other small businesses and startups. We try to use local businesses with everything we do, because we understand how difficult it can be when you’re a smaller business or just starting out.
Golden Egg does all our marketing. Lindsey and I met through a friend. She was the first person I spoke with before I started the business. I met with her and told her what I needed. Because I knew that for this business to take off, we had to get our name out there.
And we had to look professional and established. As a new company, that’s reflected in your reading materials, your brochures, your website. That was extremely important, especially because that makes an impression. I didn’t want to look like a startup.
NAN: Is the fact that you are located in Connecticut important for your company?
JIM: It is. Our central location in West Hartford allows us to geographically cover all parts of Connecticut. We have clients literally in all corners of the state—and we’re actually starting to expand up into Western Massachusetts, which is equally easy to reach. I think it helps when you’re networked within your community and able to have personal connections with people who can potentially help you out.
I grew up in Hartford and I’d like to eventually move our business right downtown. That is a goal of mine.
NAN: Any other future goals?
JIM: At some point, when the opportunity presents itself, we’d like to expand our client base beyond Connecticut. We’re continuing to grow our team and that includes hiring an additional employee, maybe even two.
NAN: Let’s talk about funding—that’s usually a challenge for most startups, especially in the early stages.
JIM: I’m trying to avoid outside funding, if possible. So far, thankfully, we have no debt. I aim to keep it that way—being conservative, and only taking out what I need. I put the rest back into the business—we have to reinvest in CSG to continue to grow and survive.
We do a lot of projections and anticipate different scenarios. There are projects we’re contracted for, projects we know are going to be coming up soon, and we occasionally get a call about a project we weren’t expecting.
NAN: Any other startup challenges you’ve encountered?
JIM: You’ve got to understand how taxes and insurance are going to affect your business. If you’re going to have employees, you need to know how worker’s compensation works. You’ve got to understand how general liability works. Because the more money you make, the more money they want. You’ve got to keep in mind.
That’s why we do projections and constantly update our financial plans. If we get this project, how does that impact our yearly revenue, and how is that going to affect our workload?
NAN: Tell us about your team and who’s involved with CSG.
JIM: CSG is a strategic collaboration of professionals. We have a great team. A colleague of mine joined as CSG’s first “official” employee and is going to be a partner with me. Altogether, we’re up to a staff of five employees.
We work very closely with Lindsey and her team at Golden Egg. I also enlist the services of associates on an as-needed basis for their expertise and experience as retired business officials. This is a win-win, because I’m not committed fully to them and they don’t want to be fully committed for that matter. We apply their invaluable insight when we need it. When our workload increases they are there to help us out.
NAN: Looking back, have you had any moments where you think: I wish we had done that differently?
JIM: Our first year we won a considerable amount of work and then ended up getting bogged down in actually doing the work. For that reason, we weren’t out marketing ourselves or focusing on new opportunities to fill the pipeline. It was a tough second year because of that.
When our third year came along, things broke open for us. We learned a valuable lesson. Our motto is we can’t repeat the same mistakes. When you’re busy, you still need to be focused on lining up new projects.
NAN: Any advice for other entrepreneurs?
JIM: You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. It’s going to be scary. You have to put the fear aside and just go get it done.
If you have an idea, make sure you have a good plan in place. It’s more than just starting up. It’s about creating a business plan for this year—then updating it for the next year, then the following. Longevity is the goal.
And it’s more than just having a plan. You have to constantly look back and ask yourself: How have we done? What do we need to do to expand our business or increase sales? And, if we haven’t done something right, what do we need to do to correct it? You must always plan—but you need to be flexible too.
It’s been a lot of fun setting goals and achieving them. We don’t stop. We always set the bar higher.
Learn more about Construction Solutions Group