Celebrating decades in business is a rare feat for any company, but reaching 95 years seems nearly impossible.
However, R.C. Stevens Construction Co. in Winter Garden is celebrating the milestone as a commercial and industrial construction company in the area and beyond.
For 37 years, Tim Keating — the sole owner since 2007 — has been with R.C. Stevens, and although he’s not related to founder Ray Stevens, the relationship between his family and Stevens’ is deep. That’s why he considers himself as extended family.
“I consider myself third generation, and my son works with us now, so (if) everything goes according to plan, he’ll be involved with it — maybe a fourth generation,” Keating said. “It does mean a lot … being a closely held family-type company is special; we’re not a corporate behemoth by any means.”
SORT OF A FAMILY TRADITION
The company was founded in 1926 by Raymond C. Stevens, a pioneer in the design-build construction process — and best friend to Keating’s grandfather.
Back then, Stevens’ hobby was building sailboats, and Keating’s grandfather — who worked at a paint and glass shop — gave Stevens credit so he could get the proper paint for his boats. From there, a relationship formed, and Keating’s grandfather eventually founded Keating Glass on Division Street in Orlando.
Before his father died when Keating was only 7, he passed along a few words of advice to a young boy who thought he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“He always told me, ‘You can do better,’ because I just assumed I was going into the glazing business,” Keating said. “And then I ended up starting my career here in ’84.”
When Keating first started at the company, Allyn Stevens — Ray Stevens’ son — referred to Keating as the “boy contractor,” because of Keating’s boyish face, and he spent most of his time estimating and project managing in the four-person office.
Keating and David Smith bought the company from Allyn Stevens in 1996. Keating later bought Smith’s stock in 2007.
Throughout the years, much has changed for the company — especially as it related to the technology used and the speed in which things could be processed. Keating recalled how big of a deal it was when the company purchased its first computer in the early 1980s.
“Back then, we didn’t have computers; everything was done on a ledger book, so I remember buying computers, and I remember making computers,” Keating said. “I remember the first one we bought was a Tandy Computer that had the two floppy drives that you bought from RadioShack. For companies, it was still a big step to computerize everything.”
With the technology came a more simplified process that required less paper and more digital files.
In the beginning, an architect gave a client two sets of plans, which then had to be given out to all of the subcontractors so they could do their work. It was a logistics nightmare, Keating said. Now, plans can be sent easily by email to subcontractors for their takeoffs and quotes.
Additionally, safety measures also have improved. At R.C. Stevens, that has helped the company achieve diamond designation year over year on the ABC STEP Safety Management System, a benchmark survey that measures safety processes and policies on 25 key components.
With big projects going on — including the Exchange in downtown Winter Garden — there’s a lot going on at R.C. Stevens. And after 95 years, there’s a lot that has gone right, but Keating attributes the company’s success to one specific trait.
“You’re all about making a buck, but at the same time there is more to it than that — there’s the relationships that you build,” Keating said. “I believe the Stevenses, and now the Keatings — and R.C. Stevens as a company, as a whole — build relationships.”