How a Successful Construction Company has Lasted for Nearly a 100 years

Phil Puccio

Started in 1927 as a plumbing and heating company, Trotter & Morgan Group of Companies, has achieved phenomenal success in a highly competitive industry. Today, the Calgary-based construction company has grown to projects that include hospitals and airports. It’s also forayed into mechanical, sheet metal, and electrical work for both the commercial and industrial sectors. Moreover, the company has expanded internationally with offices in the U.S.

Founded by WB Trotter and Howard Morton, the company’s journey illustrates its strong entrepreneurial orientation and its commitment to building strong and long-lasting relationships. Some of Trotter & Morton’s employees have been with the company for 40 years.

“These relationships are key to everything we do and they live between us and our customers, our suppliers, our subcontractors and all of our employees,” said Steve Salt, Trotter & Morton’s Chief Financial Officer. “Every decision we make at Trotter & Morton is built with a long term mindset and ensuring we are nurturing and building off of our key relationships.” 

In the last 25 years, the company has experienced rapid growth, in large part due to encouraging its employees to foster new ideas and rewarding them when they do.

“Our organic growth is driven from our employees’ entrepreneurship in starting new service offerings and creating new companies,” explained Salt. 

A Trotter & Morton plumbing apprenticeship contract dated April 19, 1930.

A New Relationship With Technology

No stranger to unforeseen crises, when the global pandemic hit Trotter & Morton adapted swiftly to a new normal which meant working in ways it hadn’t before. 

“We were using some field productivity tools before Covid,” recalled Joanne Huckle, Trotter & Morton’s Director of Technology and Information Systems. “Changes happened fast during the Spring of 2020. When everything started, instead of just using project management tools, we had to use all the tools and make a huge change.”

This included Procore’s Daily Log Tool.

“Before, the superintendent or foreman would have a notebook and would write stuff down. Then, if the notebook got lost, you’d essentially lose all that information,” explained Trotter & Morton General Manager Chris Ell.

Keeping an eye on the bottom line

One of the biggest challenges brought on by the pandemic was not being able to connect on a personal level with clients. 

“Developing new geographical areas to secure work has been another big one and not being able to put boots on the ground prior to bidding or tendering on a project…has been a very big struggle as well,” said Craig Maclellan, Vice President at Trotter & Morton.

Economic activity in construction might not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, according to Procore’s Unlocking the ROI of Construction in Technology. In an industry already experiencing tight margins, operations will have to be as efficient as possible.

Ell said project managers are using technology to keep an eye on the finances through every step of the process, seamlessly comparing change events to the budget and converting them to committed costs. Procore gives them the ability to forecast resource availability, for instance, worker power and financial profit or loss, which offers real-time transparency.

Project managers, who need to keep close tabs on the project’s budget, no longer have to log into a separate accounting system to see the numbers, Huckle said. Instead, everything is visible in Procore, making it easy to keep track of financials from the field in real time.

Putting Safety First

At Trotter and Morton, safety is one of its core values and has been for many decades. The company has tracked its safety stats since 1945.

“Safety is just part of our profit. We put safety first, and everybody goes home safe at the end of every day,” said Maclellan.

The company doesn’t silo safety into a specific area of work. Instead, it’s built into the standard and required aspects of the workflow in Procore, where it’s visible to everybody—including clients. 

“If clients have any special requirements, it is very easy to work with them. By using the Procore tool, if they want to see it, we can enable it,” Huckle said.

The live documents are changeable. As soon as changes are made, they’re immediately visible to workers on the jobsite where they can be implemented and tracked. The real time insights  quickly provide essential information to not only the field but also to clients.

Trotter & Morton’s stellar safety track record not only keeps its workers safe it’s also good for business. 

“For us and the type of projects that we go after, that is the larger upscale projects, you don’t get an invitation to tender if you don’t have a long-term health and safety program and stats to back it up,” said Maclellan. 

Moving Forward with Technology  

Companies like Trotter & Morton that made investments in new technologies before the pandemic were able to quickly see the value. Others have begun technology initiatives that may not have been on the radar before the crisis, which is helping spur the adoption rate of numerous technologies faster than usual.

“I don’t see us going back to the way we were post-Covid,” Ell said. “While our decision to use Procore was not made because of Covid, we have moved things along quicker than we otherwise would have.”

Amid the industry’s labour shortage, staying relevant and remaining competitive remain especially essential. Technology is helping do that.

The newest generation of workers takes to technology right out of the gate, simplifying the paperwork and communication aspects of the supervisors’ jobs, freeing them up to more active tasks. 

“Now, the project manager can focus more on actually getting the physical tasks done on-site, directing the crew appropriately and moving forward,” Maclellan said.  

A crisis of the magnitude of Covid-19 will no doubt have ripple effects, some of which will not be known for many years. For Trotter & Morton, successfully riding out the dramatic highs and lows for nearly a century has taught it to keep moving forward.

“I fully believe technology is going to be playing a much larger part in the construction industry. Whether that’s project management or 3D modeling software,” said Maclellan. “Anything that’s technology-related that’s going to save time on-site and improve safety, that’s where you’ll see construction headed.”

Trotter & Morton will no doubt be leading the way.

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