Brasfield & Gorrie has adhered to one biblical principal since 1964: the golden rule.
The result has been that employees rarely leave, and repeat clients and project partners are a cornerstone of the company’s success, said Keith Johnson, East Group president.
“I like people who do what they say they are going to do and who want to be treated like they would treat others,” Johnson said. “It’s not a hard sell to get people to buy into that.”
General contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, which is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, but has 542 employees in metro Atlanta, is the AJC’s Top Workplace 2021 in the large size category.
It has grown from a small firm making less than $1 million in revenue in 1964 into the nation’s largest privately owned general contracting firm, with 3,000 employees and nearly $4 billion in yearly revenue.
The firm has some easily recognizable local projects, including the Georgia Aquarium and Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves.
Credit: Rick Holliday
Credit: Rick Holliday
Miller Gorrie started the company by taking over a sole proprietorship from general contractor Thomas C. Brasfield in 1964. Although Gorrie and Brasfield never worked together, Gorrie kept Brasfield’s name on the company because of his stellar reputation, Johnson said.
Gorrie later shifted from the small commercial and remodeling jobs that Brasfield had done to larger commercial, institutional, healthcare, water and wastewater, and industrial projects.
By 1984, he had expanded and opened full-service offices in Atlanta and Orlando, growing later to 12 offices in eight states.
Johnson said the company likes to bring in interns who are 18-20 and “train them in the Brasfield & Gorrie way.”
“Most of the time we end up hiring those interns,” he said.
That’s a lot easier than hiring someone with 10-15 years of experience from another company who has been molded and shaped in a different culture, Johnson said.
“We believe in building people as much as we do in building projects,” said Johnson, who is himself one of those long-termers, having started with Brasfield & Gorrie in 1992.
He said the same is true for their project partners and clients.
“The large majority of our jobs are with repeat clients,” Johnson said. “We have clients who have been with us the entire time we’ve been in business.”
The company offers employees the standard insurance and retirement benefits, plus an onsite gym and access to a personal development manager with whom they can speak confidentially on most any topic, he said.
“I believe we have built authentic, genuine relationships both internally and externally,” Johnson said.
Employees expressed similar positive thoughts about the company in the latest Top Workplaces survey.
“I love my job because it grows me not only in my career but also in my personal life,” one employee wrote. “I apply the lessons I learn at Brasfield & Gorrie at home in my personal life. I think it builds character.”
Another said she likes working at the company because “no one micromanages you. But you are expected to get your job done and do the right thing.”
LEADER PROFILE: Keith Johnson, East Group president
Hired at Brasfield & Gorrie in 1992
Education: Bachelor’s of science in building construction from Auburn University
Philosophy: Live and work by the golden rule and deliver on work that is promised.
How the company responded to the pandemic
“When it first happened, we immediately formed a COVID-19 response team, made up of several employees at different levels across the company. We literally had daily conference calls for the first six to 12 weeks. You can’t build a building virtually … and since we were deemed an essential business, we had to figure out how to wear masks, work 6 feet apart, and take over precautions. But it was super important for us to continue to work because our teammates count on their jobs. It also was important to the clients and trade contractors … We did have a handful of jobs that went away. But overall, most of the jobs that kind of pressed pause initially cranked back up in a couple in a couple of weeks. And 2020 will end up being better than we expected.”
— Keith Johnson
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