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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Sonny Horton, President, BCS Concrete Structures LLC

Spotlight - Sonny Horton, President, BCS Concrete Structures LLC

image L-R: BCS Concrete Structures’ Joel Garcia and Sonny Horton

AUSTIN - Although it took a little convincing, Sonny Horton is happy he listened to his good-friend-turned-busi-ness-partner Joel Garcia and established BCS Concrete Structures. Thirteen years later, the company has grown to nearly 300 employees and is headed toward other exciting growth as well.





    Although it took a little convincing, Sonny Horton is happy he listened to his good-friend-turned-business-partner Joel Garcia and established BCS Concrete Structures. Thirteen years later, the company has grown to nearly 300 employees and is headed toward other exciting growth as well.

Share a little about your background and how you began working in the construction industry.
    I am what I like to call a “third-generation carpenter.” It’s basically all I know in life, and I love what I do. I used to work for my dad when I was a kid for 50 cents an hour. I cleaned up around job sites – a little construction for a little guy! As I got older, I did roofs, installing shingles with my brother. I always thought I wanted to be in law enforcement but, as I got into high school, I realized those guys didn’t make as much money as people in construction do.
    I worked for my dad for a little bit and for a couple of general contractors around Houston and then I joined the carpenters’ local union in Conroe and went through the apprenticeship school. From there, I lived in Willis, TX, and worked a lot of commercial jobs in and around the north and downtown Houston areas. In 1984, when the economy went down in Houston, I went to the Austin area, but still worked union jobs for about 2 years. I worked for a drywall company for 5 years and then went to work for a general contractor; they hired me as a superintendent, and when I left 16 years later, I was operations manager. After that, I started BCS with my business partner Joel Garcia in 2005.

What prompted you to start your own construction company?
    Several things, actually. I had an opportunity to restore the exterior of the State capitol as a superintendent, and the last big job I did for the general contractor was that I built Frost Bank Tower in downtown Austin. About the time I finished that, I was tired of that kind of work; it just didn’t seem challenging anymore.
    I also had always had my eye on starting my own business. The other part of it was I was just tired of making everybody else money. I thought of two different paths in starting a business, whether it would be in the drywall industry or the concrete industry, and I liked the concrete industry much more.

How did you meet Joel?
    I met Joel on a job. I was building the LBJ Student Center at what was then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, and I met Joel, who was an equipment operator/carpenter. We hired him and I just became good friends with him. We worked together on every project for 10 years or more before we started the company.

Whose idea was it to start the company?
    We talked about it for probably 3 years before we actually did it, and he was always more eager to start it than I was! I was a little apprehensive, stepping out like that.
So Joel finally talked you into it. What was that first year like?
    It was good. We had a job lined up before we left the general contractor’s employment. Joel was on the job running the field our first year, and I did bookkeeping, estimating – the whole nine yards. The very first thing we did where we actually made some money was a tennis court in someone’s backyard. I’ll never forget, it was for $5000 even, and we’ve grown ever since then. Counting myself, starting Day One, there were six of us. Last year, I think our staff was 285.

What have you learned in the past 13 years?

    On the construction side, I had a pretty good idea what I was doing, but as far as all of the intricate moving parts of actually owning a business, I pretty much learned on the fly. It has absolutely been fun doing it. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I was challenged again and I felt like I wasn’t challenged before we started the business.

Do you think Joel has learned these past 13 years as well?
    Immensely. He runs the operations and he and I oversee estimating together. One of the things I didn’t realize when he and I decided to be partners is that he is absolutely the perfect partner. We’ve never had a cross word. Just for me to learn what a great business mind he has and has developed since 2005 has just been incredible.

What do you enjoy about your work?
    I enjoy the challenge of growing the company but growing it smart. Our gross volume last year was $30 million. We’ve brought more people on board, and we’ve actually turned down a few jobs that weren’t really in our wheelhouse to where we would actually excel, or they were out of town.

Who have been your mentors?
    George Allen of DCA Construction has always been able to present a different view to me that made me stop and think. In management, he’s been a great influence to me. Tony Ridout, who is our CPA, has been a great business coach to me since the second year in business. We’ve become friends in the last 12 years, and we get along so well.

What did you learn from your father and grandfather about running a company?
    I learned how to treat people right and take care of employees. The employees are the ones who are actually out there. I tell everybody here that the guys in the field are our No. 1 salesmen.
    One of my philosophies when I started was that I was going to hire good people for every position. I don’t believe in micromanaging anybody, I believe in paying them well and giving them the responsibilities and the authority to perform that job. I have a great crew. We call it “The BCS Family” and we preach that and they love that and agree. I have a woman who works in the front office, and she told me, “This is exactly what you told me it would be like when you hired me, that I would be coming into a family, and this is family.”

    Tell me about your family outside of work.

    I have been married to my wife for 5 years. My oldest daughter is a landscape architect in Dallas; she has her own small firm, Tyson Gardens, doing high-end residential and design and install. My second daughter is a director at Houston Herman Memorial Hospital with 250 or so employees under her. My oldest son, Ben Horton, is a project manager who works for us [at BCS]; he went to college, then the Marine Corp, fought in Iraq, came back and wanted to do the construction thing. I have two more children who are still at home; a daughter who is 16 and a son who is 14.

What do you do for enjoyment outside of work?
    I love to hunt and fish. I like to deer hunt and quail hunt; those are my two favorites. I have a Browning Citori 28 gauge that I absolutely love to quail hunt with. Joel and I own a lease with two other close friends in South Texas out of La Pryor. We have horses and Joel has horses.
    With fishing, I like to bay fish for trout and redfish. Joel and I both like to fish; I have a place in Rockport, which we are almost complete in rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey.
    I would like to do more traveling with my wife. We love traveling everywhere. We’ve been doing a lot of traveling to New Mexico and Colorado and Wyoming. We’ve traveled east and to Mexico, and we have the Caribbean and Europe on our bucket list.

Professionally, what immediate goals are you making?
    We’ve totally outgrown this office. We bought seven acres on the toll road next to Mustang Ridge city hall, and we are going to build a 10,000sf
tilt-wall office building. The shop we have planned is 7,500sf. We are hoping to break ground in April, and are shooting to be completed in October or November.
    We are also actually considering setting up branches in Houston and San Antonio. We have worked in Houston, San Antonio, Waco and Temple. A general contractor that we do business with asked us to go there and do something. We’ve done a Whole Foods for White Construction there and several Whole Foods in Austin. We have two more Whole Foods that are coming up.

Do you think you will be president of BCS until you retire? Will you pass it on? What are your plans?

    It is down the line, but as of right now, I enjoy what I do, I enjoy getting up and coming to work every day and the people that I have working for me. Joel and I have both worked hard to get the business going to where it’s at.
    BCS Concrete Structures is a turnkey concrete subcontractor in Buda. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net