Stiles Construction provides personalized service for commercial clients throughout South Florida
Nearly seven decades have passed since Howard Stiles founded a general contracting company in South Florida in 1951 with two employees and a strong set of core values: personalized service, honesty and integrity. These values have served as a touchstone for the firm, Stiles Construction, as it has grown to become a major force in the development of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.
Howard's son, Terry Stiles, joined the company in 1968, and the two added small warehouses to their book of business. Terry was only 24 years old when his father died unexpectedly in 1971. At that time, Stiles Construction had a handful of employees who worked with Terry to take on whatever work they could find to solidify the company's foothold in the local building industry.
According to an article published in the South Florida Business Journal (October 2016), a watershed moment arrived in 1972 when real estate investor Maurice Finkle hired Stiles Construction to build a 35,000-square-foot warehouse. The company's experience in building industrial facilities grew steadily from there.
Building a Place to Live, Work and Play
As South Florida became known as an exciting place for people to live, work and play, Terry recognized the region's strong potential for growth. Over time, he expanded his company's services to include development, architecture, commercial brokerage and property management, as well as asset management, acquisitions and financing services. In addition to Stiles Construction, these expanded services formed the operating divisions of parent company Stiles Corporation, an award-winning, full-service commercial real estate company based in Fort Lauderdale.
Stiles Corporation has developed and constructed more than 48 million square feet of luxury residential communities and office, industrial, retail, automotive, health care/lab, hospitality, entertainment, education, government, public assembly and mixed-use buildings throughout the Southeast.
"About 80% of Stile Construction's business is traditional third-party general contracting and construction management for clients," says Timothy Fiske, Senior Vice President for Stiles Construction. "The remaining 20% of our business volume is for our own or related entities. Most of our construction projects are in South Florida, but we also do work throughout the state." He lists Bank of America Plaza, Las Olas City Centre, 350 and 450 Las Olas Centre, Amaray Las Olas by Windsor and The Main Las Olas as some of the landmark structures that Stiles Construction has built that have helped shape Fort Lauderdale's skyline.
Carrying the Legacy Forward
When Terry died in 2017, his son, Kenneth Stiles, was promoted to the top position at Stiles Corporation. "Although Terry remained active until the end, he and other firm leaders had been developing a transition plan for several years before he passed," Timothy says. "Ken is the CEO for Stiles Corporation and his sisters, Tresa Stiles and Carrie Tidwell, serve on its board of directors. We are a family-owned business, and everyone who is employed by Stiles feels like they are part of an extended family."
This aspect of the company's culture has spurred employees to carry the legacy of the firm's founders forward by continuing to build and nurture strong client relationships. "We got into the car dealership business because Terry had a friendship with Wayne Huizenga, who owned the Miami Dolphins and other Florida sports teams," Timothy says. "When Wayne started AutoNation he asked Terry: 'Do you want to build a car dealership for me?' We hadn't built any, but Terry said 'sure.' We started building car dealerships more than 20 years ago, and we haven't stopped. We got into this market by virtue of a relationship, and we stayed in it because we built more relationships."
"Russ Biffis, our Vice President of Business Development at Stiles Construction, knows more people who own and operate car dealerships throughout the Southeast than anyone else—and he knows them on a personal, first-name basis," says Ian Schwartz, Vice President of Operations for Stiles Construction. "We've done over 100 car dealerships in the past 15 years, and many of these clients work directly with Russ or with Brian Kitain, one of our Project Executives."
This degree of personalized service travels throughout the ranks at Stiles Construction.
"The ideal is when the relationship a firm leader establishes transfers to the people who are building a project," Timothy says. "The more connection points the better. We try to layer these connections, so everybody has the chance to uphold the Stiles tradition and represent us well. The organizations we do business with have their own hierarchy, too. So, while the owner of the car dealership may have a relationship with our project executive, the general manager for the store might have a relationship with the project manager or superintendent."
Ian says empowering employees to connect directly with clients has a positive effect on staff loyalty and morale, too. "Success as a company is great," he notes, "but success on an individual basis is needed to keep good employees. One of our core values states: 'Success is our passion and the path to opportunity for our people.' Stiles Construction has 120 employees. Almost 25 of them have 20-plus years with the company and 46 have been with us more than 10 years. We've also had employees who've left to take a job with a real estate development or property management group who later become our clients. They've left on good terms, kept in touch and then called to hire us as their general contractor."
Approaching Projects with an Owner's Mindset
Another distinguishing attribute of the way Stiles Construction does business, Timothy says, is that its teams approach each project with an "owner's mindset."
"Since we are the owners, managers and end-users of some of the projects we build, we have a deep understanding of how the decisions made on paper affect those who work in, visit, operate and maintain buildings," he explains. "We know if a project's budget doesn't work, the project doesn't get built. If we don't make the right choices, a building will be last in the market and it won't lease up. We take all this into consideration and base our recommendations on what provides lasting value over the entire life of the building. We are honest and try to help our clients make the best choices in relation to the intended use of their buildings."
This owner's mindset also influences how Stiles Construction's team approaches sustainability. "Being part of Stiles Corporation helps us to view construction projects from all the starting points as opposed to companies who serve solely as the general contractor," Timothy says. "We understand that the way a building is situated on a site, its location in relation to public transportation, and operations and maintenance considerations are as important as the construction materials and methods for determining whether a building is sustainable."
Ian uses Stiles Construction's work on The Main Las Olas project to illustrate this point. "We brought our building engineer to the early planning meetings for the office tower, which is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification," he says. "This is because, ultimately, he'd be in charge of maintaining and operating this building. So, for example, if the plans called for installing a motor that would require routine maintenance, he'd make sure there was sufficient access to this motor. He also provided insights about first costs versus long-term costs associated with building systems."
Rendering a Vision Real
The Main Las Olas project has special significance for Stiles Construction's team because it was the brainchild of Terry Stiles, who lived to see the job awarded but passed away before construction began.
"Terry developed several projects right downtown, which are all within walking distance of each other," Timothy says. The Main Las Olas is the biggest of them all. It is a 1.4 million-square-foot, mixed-use community that has a Class A office tower and high-end residences, retail stores and restaurants. It occupies an entire city block." Stiles Corporation provided the construction, development, realty and property management services and partnered with Shorenstein Properties LLC and Broward College to bring the project to fruition.
Connecting with the Community
The relationships that Stiles Construction has built with its clients and employees extend beyond the bounds of each job site. "This is our backyard," Timothy says. "This is where we live. When your last name is part of the company's name, it is indicative of the role you play in your community."
"We build houses with Habitat for Humanity, read to children at Jack & Jill Children's Center, and participate in walks to raise funds for the American Heart Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation," Ian says. "Terry's wife, Jamie Taylor Stiles, is on the board of the Humane Society of Broward County and that helped us get involved. Over the last 15 years we've raised $500,000 for this organization. If an employee or client has a charity they want us to become involved with, everyone's willing to learn more."
He continues: "I personally appreciate the opportunities Stiles has provided for me—and my family—to give back to the community. I have pictures of my kids when they were young at a Juvenile Diabetes Walk and now my son is turning 30 and my daughter is 26." Ian also serves as Chair of the City of Coral Springs Planning and Zoning Board and is a leader for The Generals Club program, a group within the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County that helps young adults learn about the construction industry.
"Not every kid is going to go to college," Ian says. "We show members of The Generals Club that they can make a good living working in the trades. We bring them to job sites at different stages in the process so they can see when the rough carpentry and electrical work or painting and tiling etc. are being done. It provides a great deal of satisfaction to help others in ways that can change their lives."
Learning From Each Other
Ian says Stiles Construction has had unique opportunities to connect directly with the community where a building project is located. "Half of the site for The Main Las Olas is owned by Broward College, which has a location right across the street. We offer internships to some of their students. We hired one of these interns, Jonathan Jailal, full-time as an Assistant Project Engineer after he graduated from Broward. He excels at working with technology and teaches our project managers and superintendents how to use our equipment. Here's a 21-year-old kid showing guys who've been in the industry forever how technology can help them do their jobs more efficiently."
Continuing to Play a Transformative Role
In the 69 years since Howard Stiles first started a general contracting company, the City of Fort Lauderdale has evolved to become a vibrant place to live, work and play, as well as a desired destination for tourists from across the United States and abroad.
"Stiles is proud to have played a role in this transformation and to be recognized as an industry leader in the South Florida construction market," Timothy says.