CEO Dialogue, Geoff Smith – April 2021

Geoff Smith is the President & CEO of EllisDon, an employee-owned construction services and technology company that has grown exponentially since its inception 70 years ago. With more than 5,000 salaried and hourly employees across fifteen national and international offices, EllisDon has become a leader in every facet of the construction industry.

Geoff also serves as the Chair of OG100 and recently spoke to our members about the trajectory of EllisDon’s growth and how the company stays future-focused.

Over the years Geoff realized that EllisDon is not in the building business, but rather the services business. The trades lead the constructing, EllisDon manages it to ensure the job gets done. The company has expanded to provide cohesive project management “Cradle-to-Grave” services, resulting in improved control over their projects and new streams of income. Geoff attributes this evolution to his team’s commitment to being fast, fluid and flexible. The importance of adapting quickly will continue to increase, and not just in the construction industry. To survive, service providers need to stay slightly ahead of their client needs and know what’s required of them before they are asked.

Sustainability: There is a lot of current discussion regarding the evolution of sustainability guidelines, and the demands and changes that will come down fast and furious on the construction industry. It’s not just about the way we build; it goes beyond the concrete and steel and will require big changes in a complicated supply chain. All areas of construction and manufacturing, from design to procurement, will need to evolve significantly, including measuring carbon emissions.
Software: As with most industries, construction is being largely disrupted by the software industry. Design software, merges with construction software, which merges with management software, and is turning buildings from physical shelters into living experiences. Creating their own project management system at EllisDon was a large leap, but the data economy is booming and the construction industry is no exception.

Maintaining communications and culture across a global company requires a lot of energy and commitment. From internal social media, to employee tours and articles, it’s necessary to keep your global team connected to your culture and strategy. Local partners are crucial when going global and you have to go where you’re wanted. You can only chase a job for so long before acknowledging that in certain markets the industrial or cultural barriers are too profound or prohibitive to create positive results. However, the Canadian brand goes a long way when crossing borders and gives EllisDon the advantage and opportunity to sell their honesty and transparency. While being honest can have short term costs, EllisDon has built itself internationally on its reputation on being fully transparent and getting the job done.