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Home | SAN ANTONIO | Spotlight | Spotlight - Mark Marlow, CEO; Todd Thomas, President; MK Marlow Company LLC

Spotlight - Mark Marlow, CEO; Todd Thomas, President; MK Marlow Company LLC

image L-R: MK Marlow’s Todd Thomas and Mark Marlow

SAN ANTONIO - When opposites Mark Marlow and Todd Thomas joined forces to form drywall and acoustical company MK Marlow, it turned out to be a perfect partnership.





Mark, share about your background.
Mark: My father was always in construction, so I kind of grew up in the construction trade. He was an estimator/project manager for a general contractor. After I was born in San Antonio, we moved to Beaumont, Houston, Mesquite and Victoria. I started going to his job sites to work when I was 13, sweeping floors, pouring concrete, digging ditches, and welding roofs – pretty much doing what no one else wanted to do. I worked my way up to being a carpenter. I worked summers in construction through junior high, high school and college.
    I went to Texas A&M to study architecture but decided I was not meant to be an architect, and instead, I earned a construction science degree in 1984. The year I graduated, A&M began offering a new double master’s degree in Construction Management and Land Development. I decided it was a good opportunity and I enrolled. During this process, I got a teaching assistant position at the A&M woodshop. One day, a person from a local news station came into the woodshop and asked our supervisor if the woodshop was interested in building the new set for the station. He turned the job down, but my friend John, an architecture major who worked with me, and I chased the guy down and said we would be interested. We gave them a bid, got the job and that was how I started my first company, Design Construct, in 1985.

How did Design Construct lead to MK Marlow?
    Design Construct evolved in so many directions. We moved back to Victoria, worked on strip centers, all types of remodels, some ground up work, and several homes. We were basically a general contractor at that time. We had our own drywall and ceiling crews working for us, so some of the local general contractors asked us to start bidding their drywall and ceiling work. We did, and opened drywall and acoustical ceiling company Acoustics Unlimited in 1989.
    Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to pursue the drywall and acoustical ceiling industry and John wanted to continue with Design Construct as a general con-tractor, so in 1995 we split up. I changed the name to MK Marlow Company and had an office in Victoria for the next 18 years until 2013. In 2009, we opened an office in San Antonio. In 2013, when work slowed down, we consolidated both offices in San Antonio, which was around the time Todd and I met.

Todd, share about your background.

Todd: I was born and raised in Kentucky. I remember visiting my dad when I was younger. He always worked in  construction, and when we got out of school, we would ride the school bus home and see him on job sites. Every time he saw us kids, he would start clowning around. I remember him doing wheelies in the Bobcat. After work, he would take us to the local soda store and buy us candy and drinks. I have so many memories of my dad and construction.
    After I finished high school in Kentucky, I joined the military when I was 17. I thought it was pretty cool when they showed me the video of a paratrooper jumping out of an airplane.
    While I was in the service, my family relocated from Kentucky to Florida. My older brother was working for a drywall contractor, and after I got out, he put me to work; that was in 1991. I started out as a framing apprentice, and worked my way up the ladder from there. I worked in the Central Florida market for about 20 years during the construction boom of Disney, MGM, Universal Studios and Seaworld.
    In that market, they piece work a lot of the work, so on those big jobs I spent years honing that craft; I became a very good framing mechanic. I kept moving up the ranks to an assistant foreman and then a foreman, and earned bigger jobs. On some of those large projects we had onsite job trailers, so I was moved into the office to do payroll, safety and assistant project management work. The company had a good mentoring program, and one of the owners took me under his wing, and for four years he taught me the management side of things. I quickly gained valuable experience and made my way into operations of that company. I parted ways with the company after it was sold, but during my time there I had worked in Tampa with the man who was running Mark’s San Antonio office, and he hired me.

How do your personalities “click?”
Mark: Todd came from a strong drywall background; I did a little of everything. I was more of a general contractor and put my own framing crews together, so I worked from an opposite direction – general construction into drywall. I had dabbled in it in the past, but not to the point where Todd does it. We’re night-and-day different when it comes to our backgrounds.
    We’re opposites [in our business approach, too]. I’m at 50,000 feet and he’s busy thinking about the nuts and bolts. What Todd brought in is what I lacked – detail. I come up with ideas but I’m not good at putting it together. I know putting processes and procedures in place should be done but I don’t like to do it. When we met, it was the perfect fit!
Todd: We also had real discussions about our business philosophies. He made some commitments to me and I made some commitments in return. We sat down six years ago and we haven’t waffled on those commitments. That means a lot.
Mark: We’re super close friends, too. We don’t just work together, we hang out together, but it never seems to get in the way. It works on all levels.

How has MK Marlow evolved?

Mark: We do bigger, high-profile, more intricate projects now. We have a solid chain of command and put good people in place. We run efficiently. Todd has pulled things together and does all of the things I don’t like to do. We’ve tightened up.

What do you enjoy about your work?

Todd: I enjoy that every day there is a new challenge. I enjoy the people and the challenges of everyday business.
Mark: I’m probably 10 years past where Todd is, and when Todd and I started, I basically decided to start slowly selling the company to him. I just kind of burned out after 30 years.
    After Todd joined the company, I became reenergized and now I’m more involved than in the past 10 years. I decided that I wouldn’t know what the heck I would do if I didn’t do this! With Todd running the day-to-day operations, it has freed me up to do what I enjoy more.

How do you spend your free time?

Mark: We both have ranches, and raise exotic animals and white tail deer. We are both huge hunters and enjoy traveling. We do the same things, but we don’t always get to do them together.
Todd: I would echo Mark here. I enjoy time at my ranch. It relaxes me to get out there and do manual labor. When we do have a chance to hunt together, that’s always a ton of fun.

Do you have personal goals?
Mark: I just had elbow surgery, and I want to play golf! If something should evolve, it should be my golf game!
Todd: There are some things I would like to get into, but between work right now and my other interests, I’m pretty busy.

What are your plans for the business?
Mark: We want to do what we do better. At some point, Todd and I are not going to want to be here as much. We don’t necessarily have that next person in line; they’re not that easy to find.
Todd: We’re striving to be the best drywall contractor in South Texas; that’s our goal. We recently started a residential drywall company, Marlow Thomas Residential. We’ve done a couple of condo projects in South Texas, particularly Port Aransas. It’s been exciting, and we’re having conversations about what potential there may be for us on the residential side of the business.
    MK Marlow Company LLC is a drywall and acoustical subcontractor. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net