Iron Construction, a leading Bay Area construction company, is nearing its 18-year mark. In this time, it has completed over 2,350 projects, of which more than 580 are from repeat customers. Iron Construction’s success is attributable to its mission of giving each client a unique space perfectly tailored to their needs in order to achieve the goal of total customer satisfaction.
Claudia Folzman, a CREW Silicon Valley member and past president, is a principal and co-founder of Iron Construction. Her interest in construction was sparked while she was a student at San Diego State University. (Interestingly, she started out as an accounting major but changed after taking an aptitude test that indicated she would do well in engineering.)
After Claudia graduated with a degree in civil engineering, her construction knowledge and experience grew exponentially. She first worked for Turner Construction for nine years, filling a variety of roles—from field engineer, cost engineer, and purchasing agent to assistant superintendent and project engineer. Claudia then moved to DPR Construction, Inc., a national builder, holding positions as estimator and project manager.
While Claudia enjoyed her time at DPR, the size of the company did not lend itself to further growth opportunities. Twelve years into her career, her passion for leadership and professional growth inspired her to start Iron Construction in August 2001, in partnership with Dave Edgar. Claudia’s vision was to have a business where she could maintain control over projects, be a good builder, and be known for integrity and trustworthiness—all of which continue to lead the vision of the company today.
The name Iron Construction was chosen by Claudia and Dave as a play on their last names’ initials (F and E), as Fe is the symbol for iron. How appropriate the use of the word “iron” has become in describing the company, as both are bright, flexible, and strong.
The flexibility and endurance of Iron Construction was tested early on. The company was formed right at the time of the dot-com bust and just before 9/11. The principals sacrificed seven months without a paycheck during this period. The company weathered the storm, winning a $1.2 million construction deal for a restaurant business and working on residential and small commercial jobs.
In the beginning, word of mouth brought in some business, but many potential clients were wary of giving projects to a new and unknown company. Undaunted, Claudia bid on project after project, focusing on start-ups and top-ten clients in identified industries, trying to win their trust. Iron Construction’s strong drive quickly attracted a solid customer base.
Claudia laughs when telling the story about her first project with Carr America Realty. She bid on Carr America Realty/Equity Office Properties projects for three years before finally winning a $28,000 project for a small tenant improvement—which came with a $17,000 insurance requirement! Though the project was not going to bring in any profit, she was determined to build the relationship, and so took on the job full steam. It turned into millions of dollars on new projects with Carr America Realty, and generated new business with many others.
Iron Construction is now known not only as an exceptional builder but as a trusted one, focused on commercial interior work for stand-alone and multitenant and multistory properties, and for life science and high-tech manufacturing. Claudia says she never could have predicted such a feat in a million years.
The bright image cultivated by Iron Construction is also practiced internally. The company is team oriented, family based, authentic, and fun.
When asked what advice she would give to others seeking to grow professionally, she replies, “Be open to different ideas and do not regret the decisions you make because you would not be where you are today without everything that occurred before today.” Claudia explains that she herself has been on one hell of a ride, and would not change anything.
About the Author
Ginger Sotelo is a law partner at Pahl & McCay, a full-service corporate, business, and litigation law firm dedicated to client service, with a philosophy of developing close, supportive relationships with clients.