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Columbia Business Monthly

#13 - Harper General Contractors

Dec 19, 2018 10:31AM ● By Kathleen Maris
Year Founded: 1950
Founders: John Harper and John Harper, Jr.
Headquarters location: Greenville
Number of other locations: 5
Number of employees (start of 2018): 204 
Number of employees (present): 241

Harper General Contractors is a nearly 70-year-old full-service general contracting firm based in Greenville, with offices located in Spartanburg, Asheville, Charlotte, and the South Carolina coast. With project capabilities up to $100 million, Harper serves clients across multiple project types that include industrial, office, education, environmental systems, municipal, retail, and healthcare markets throughout the Southeast.

What are the keys to your company’s rapid growth?
David Wise (President): We enjoy the blessing of an incredibly strong foundation built over the past 68 years. We can now engage and empower a strong team of professionals to build up our clients, our communities, and each other to advance our team into the future. People make the difference, and we have people who possess a strong character and competency in performing their responsibilities.
 
What are your firm’s biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them? 
Firstly, maintaining our culture and the overall health of our organization as we grow in number and geographically. We believe that it is having the right people and our culture that drives our success. We will be vigilant in communicating our mission and our guiding principles, and we are working to improve the on-boarding process for new teammates. 

Secondly, managing risk as we grow by promoting adherence to proven processes and systems enabling for positive control in running the business. Thirdly, the reduction in skilled tradespeople creating a significant strain in this robust market.
 
What trends and innovations do you see down the line for your industry? 
We continue to see building information modeling growing in the design and construction industry. BIM modeling is beginning to create an environment where prefabrication of materials and systems can be performed in a shop rather than on site. We see this trend continuing, and it can provide some relief to the issues of declining tradespeople.
 
What word of advice, if any, has shaped your career and who gave it or where did you read it?
I have gravitated to a quote from Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, who said, “It is not about getting bigger. It is about getting better. If we get better, then our customers will demand that we get bigger.”
 
What are you doing to make sure your company sticks around for the long haul? 
As the leader of Harper, my primary responsibility is to promote the overall wellbeing of our team and to create an environment where the right people are in the right place doing the right things. My teammates and I must continue to recognize that our people are our most valuable resource, empowering them to be both satisfied and successful with Harper.
  
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your professional career?
To really listen more and have a more open mind.
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