2017 Business Leaders of the Year | Construction & Development
The founder of RUSH Construction once referred to his company as a “30-year-old startup.” Much of that vibrancy and innovation can be credited to the company’s president, William Chivers, though he would be the first to deflect it to his team. Founded in 1984, RUSH worked almost exclusively on government and government-related contracts for the first decade of its existence, but due to the cyclical nature of the space industry, Chivers has helped move the company towards a more diverse track.
“We don’t build stuff,” said Chivers. “We build projects that allow rockets to go into space to deliver satellites. We build projects that allow NASA to put men in orbit. We build projects that allow the military to support the first defenders’ fight in overseas wars. That’s what we do. We build facilities that allow people to get well and to improve their health. It’s the way we prefer to look at things. Sticks and bricks are okay, but what we’ve been fortunate enough to do and the markets we’ve been fortunate enough to be in enable us to make a difference. It’s very rewarding to build something and realize you were part of something bigger.”
That strategic perspective is what leadership is all about; it is moving beyond the “what” a business does to the “why.” Chivers has, in a sense, wed RUSH’s dreams and aspirations to the future and the betterment of the community. Like the often-repeated cliché, “build your community, build your business,” RUSH has done that quite literally, building its community and its business for years in north Brevard.
According to Chivers, it was when he realized his daughter, her husband and their children were making Titusville their home that the commitment was galvanized in his mind. Since then he has been a tireless advocate for north Brevard’s post-Space Shuttle resurgence, and his fingerprints are on almost every major initiative that has moved the community forward.
Like another one of our Business Leaders of the Year, he had planned for a career in music, but a summer construction job changed the trajectory of his life. “I still remember my first day,” he recalled. “I was standing in a ditch, wearing a pair of rubber boots with a shovel in my hand and it was 95 degrees. When I got out of that ditch I said to myself, ‘I like this.’ It came so naturally to me. I was good at music, but I had to practice at it really hard. Understanding the scope of construction work seemed to be in my blood. I told my fiancée it’s what I wanted to do.”
Since making that decision, Chivers has grown to become one of the area’s most respected contractors, leading RUSH to projects with Embraer, Parrish Medical and Barnlight Electric, to name a few. Describing the transition they made from government to commercial clients, he said, “You don’t do anything with the government until every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed. Commercial clients will say, ‘Go ahead and get started and we’ll work out the details,’ but that shocks the system. We like to say, ‘We have a thousand rules and a thousand exceptions to the thousand rules.’ If you can’t adapt to your customers, you will die.”
Over the years, Chivers leadership and RUSH’s ability to adapt to an ever-changing market has been pivitol in their success. RUSH leveraged its focus on safety, scheduling, reporting and quality in the government side into the medical market, but it was not that simple. The company was caught in the conundrum of not being awarded medical contracts because it did not have experience in that market, but it could not gain that experience without the contracts. Chivers solved that problem by bringing in someone with specific health care facility construction experience. “We couldn’t gain that credibility,” he said. “We had to hire it.”