As a child in Portugal, Paul Santos spent hours at a time watching the activity at a large construction site near his hometown. “There was so much going on, it looked really exciting, especially the heavy equipment,” Paul recalled. “I decided then and there that I would work in construction when I grew up, and it became a dream of mine to own my own company.”
It was a dream that, thanks to a lot of hard work, has become reality. Today, Paul and his brother, George, are co-owners of S. Brothers Construction (S stands for Santos), a highly diversified contracting firm based in Manalapan Township, N.J.
S. Brothers has had substantial success since opening its doors in 1993, but it hasn’t come easily. Paul and George arrived in the United States in 1989 with their family. Paul was just 15, so he attended high school for a time. George was 19 and went to work in construction. After about a year and half, Paul joined him in the work force. “My family needed financial help so I quit school and went to work,” Paul said. “I regret that I didn’t finish high school, but I did what I had to do. Family comes first.”
After working a few years, Paul and George took a vacation back to Portugal. On the plane ride, they decided it was time to strike out on their own. “We were working for another company, but times were tight in the early 1990s and sometimes we didn’t get paid,” Paul noted. “We decided we didn’t have much to lose and might as well go into business for ourselves. I was barely 19 and George was just 23. Looking back, we were young and naive, but we were willing to work hard and do whatever it took to succeed.”
In the beginning, S. Brothers Construction consisted entirely of Paul and George doing small concrete jobs, such as sidewalks, front steps and driveways, by hand. Eventually, their father Antonio lent them some money to keep the company going and joined them in the business.
Today, S. Brothers employs about 36 people, but the company remains very much a family affair. In addition to Paul, who does the estimating, and George, who oversees field activities (Antonio recently retired), their sister Grace Raimundo runs the office. Grace’s husband Paul Raimundo and another brother-in-law, Roy Margarito, are working superintendents.
Beyond family, the company relies on experienced and talented employees. “We have employees who’ve been in the business 20 years or more,” said Paul. “They know what they’re doing and share our commitment to doing quality work.”
Doing Jobs Right, the First Time
S. Brothers specializes in road construction, and also does earth and pipe work.
“We like to do everything on a job — keep it all in-house,” said Paul. “If we’re in control, then we can make sure the project is done right the first time, which is a point of emphasis for us. We study a job and take our time planning it before starting work. We want to be certain we know what we’re doing so we can do it efficiently, both for us and for the customer.
“We’re proud of what we do and what we’ve accomplished,” he added. “We believe in doing things the right way, so that when we’re finished, everybody’s happy. I love to look at jobs we did in the past to see how they’re holding up. If George and I are together at such a time, I might pat him on the back and say, ’You know what bro’, we did it.’ I love this industry, not only because we make our living at it but also because I think what we do is worthwhile to the community at large.”
Productive, Longlasting Equipment
Back when Paul was watching that construction site in Portugal, much of the equipment at work there was Komatsu. Today, Komatsu equipment from Binder Machinery and Territory Manager Dominick Vecchiarelli represents most of S. Brothers’ fleet.
“We have many Komatsu pieces, the newest of which are two compact excavators, a PC78 and a PC27,” said Paul. “They’re small machines but they’re so versatile they’ve really helped us improve our productivity. The PC78 can get into a lot of places, but it’s still powerful enough to do some fairly heavy work like pipelaying. And the PC27 is great for doing water services and things that we used to have to do by hand. Both machines have made us faster.
“We maintain our equipment very well and plan to keep it for up to 10 years,” he added. “That’s one of the reasons we like Komatsu. It’s durable equipment that holds up well over time. We have Komatsus with 12,000 hours that still run great. And Binder and Dominic are great to work with. The support they’ve provided through the years has been excellent.”
On the paving side, S. Brothers owns a Wirtgen W2000 milling machine and is anticipating buying a Vögele paver.
Paul said S. Brothers should do about $18 million this year, and is still growing.
“Our goal is to expand. George and I are still young and we have children who we hope will want to come into the business. We’ve built something to be proud of and we’d like to see it carry on after we’re retired.”
This story was reprinted from Building With Binder, September 2008.