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The Art of Constructing Relationships

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Healthcare, Senior Living, Communities of Faith. Pennsylvania is rich in caring communities, communities that are growing and also require the resources and buildings to meet the demand. Arthur Funk & Sons, Inc. Construction Services, is a third generation, family owned and operated company, positioned geographically and with more resources to meet that demand. According to Ken Funk, president of the company that is headquartered in Lebanon, PA, a location that is central to major access routes and cities, the firm specializes in building facilities to meet the demand of these industries. “We are committed to the community where our family and families of our employees live, work, worship and learn,” said Funk. “In fact, a walk around town or the central Pennsylvania area, and you will see our footprint and the impact it has made.”

Ken Funk, a third-generation owner of the company, is a rich source for construction history when it comes to the Arthur Funk & Sons story. “My Grandfather, Arthur, started the company in 1939,” Ken tells me. “We were in the middle of a deep depression at the time. He began with a small crew of carpenters garnered when he purchased the company from his uncle; and they built mostly agricultural buildings . . .barns, corn sheds, anything to do with agriculture.”

Henry Funk, Ken’s father, joined the company after WW2 and that’s when Arthur Funk & Sons started doing more commercial work, paving the path to where it is today. The company, now in its third generation, remains family-owned by Ken and his two brothers, Bob and Dave.

The true character of Arthur Funk & Sons is realized through its core values, which have been defined and built upon for three generations in business. “We listen to our customers to understand their needs, accommodate each customer’s unique goals, collaborate by building a quality team of professionals and subcontractors, and create thoughtful solutions to deliver projects where all involved succeed and thrive,” he said.

To all who work with Arthur Funk & Sons, these values are not merely a whish-wash narrative for reputation or marketing purposes, but rather the true essence of the company, backed by the everyday experience of its clients and employees.

“The feedback from our clients and employees says we’re flexible and we listen well. Our team are problem solvers, who solve problems with little to no conflict, as we try to minimize drama because in construction, there can be lots of it!”

Within its specialty sectors, Arthur Funk & Sons is known to take old buildings and give them a new lease of life. Called Adaptive Reuse, the Encounter Church of Palmyra, PA is a prime example. The Funk team took an old grocery store and converted it to a 38,300 sq ft church that included Fellowship area, welcome Center, Kitchen, Day Care and Worship Space.

“This was a Phased Project, that allowed the church to operate and grow, and at the same time raise the needed funds for the project,” said Funk. “Plus as it was a grocery store, there was plenty of parking and added land available for future growth. We have returned to do more work in part due to the relationship we have built.”

“To Arthur Funk & Sons, building solid relationships is as important as building solid structures.”

The word relationship is one that comes up time and time again throughout the conversation with Ken. It’s evident that to Arthur Funk & Sons, building solid relationships is as important as building solid structures. “We exist because we like to build lasting, long-term, and enduring relationships,” is how Ken puts it. Relationships in every sense are a two-way-street, and so it’s become the case that Arthur Funk & Sons has had prestigious jobs simply handed over to it by clients who place the same high value on relationships that it does. “Some of our competitors are twice our size,” Ken says, “and they can build effectively, but they can’t build relationships.”

A recent experience Ken shared captured the true significance of the relationships that are built between the Funk frontline and clients. “We had a client say to us about a project we’re working on right now, ‘you need to promise us that we get so-and-so on the job’. Then, last night at a church meeting for another project, the building committee chair said, ‘hey, you need to promise I get so-and-so on this…’. And again, another church in Lancaster requested, ‘we will wait as long as it takes to get so and so on the job.’ Three different occasions, three similar situations, demonstrated how we and our clients thrive on and values relationships.”

Of the sectors that Arthur Funk & Sons specialize in, it is the churches that make up the bulk of its portfolio. Ken is passionate about this kind of work, and for good reason. “If you’re doing a project for single owner of business, that one person makes all the decisions,” Ken explains. “But when you’re working with churches, where they have a big attendance at Sunday service, now you have 300 people making decisions, 300 people who have to buy-into the project, and it’s a very different process. The beauty is in witnessing not one but 300 people share enjoyment once the project is complete. That’s where our team stands out.”

Carlisle United Methodist Church
Carlisle United Methodist Church

In keeping with the recurring theme of relationships, many of the company’s church jobs are the product of previous relationships they have built within these communities of faith. Take Carlisle United Methodist Church in Carlisle, PA. “Carlisle UMC was a brand-new church on a new site – you don’t get that too often nowadays. That church came to us because we did some previous work in the town, so we knew the code inspector, the retirement home executive, and an engineer, all of whom sat on the committee. They asked us to come along and help develop plans, create budgets, and eventually build the project.”

Such is the typical series of events that have led to the significant footprint Arthur Funk & Sons now has on the Pennsylvanian church community. This modern business landscape often calls for a huge reliance on and investment in advertising and marketing in order for a company to succeed. It is a credit, then, that 90% of Arthur Funk & Son’s business still comes from word of mouth.

Another example of a project that involved Arthur Funk & Sons reimagining an existing space to make it more cost-efficient and mutually beneficial to all is Lebanon City Hall, which relocated to downtown after 50 years on the outskirts. “The city came to us wanting to move downtown,” Ken tells me of the project. “We worked with the city, a local non-profit foundation, and a local community college that wanted to get rid of their existing space due to costs. We brought all these different entities together—a team– to figure out how to get the townhall back into downtown. The result: the community college sold the building to the city, we came in and renovated, and now the community college occupies the fourth floor through a lease back agreement with the city at a much more economical position than through ownership.” The project, as Ken describes it, was a huge success. “Again, it boils down to our relationship with the city, the non-profit, and the community college combined with our ability build teams to get all these different groups together and heading in the same direction.”

The impact that Arthur Funk & Sons has on its community is plain to see through the projects and relationships that it builds. A little less evident is all the work that happens behind the scenes with local high schools and technical schools in the drive to inspire the future generation of construction workers. One of the many takeaways from my conversation with Ken is that Arthur Funk & Sons impact is one that extends far beyond the reach of healthcare, retirement, and church communities.

“We brought one of our awesome employees in as a general superintendent and asked him to do two things – one was to mentor up and coming employees, and two was to make connections with local high schools so we can hire young, energetic, quality people. This employee now sits on an advisory committee alongside these academic schools and has developed a really great relationship with them. We currently have two co-op students that go to school for half a day and work for us for the other half. About 75% of the time these students become full-time employees. We also get called into these academic schools for career days. This has made a difference to our workforce.”

Moving on from that point, I ask Ken about his goals for Arthur Funk & Sons as it goes forward. His answer is evident of the active investment he and his brothers have in the future and continuity of the company. “Bob, Dave and I believe without question how important it is to keep this thing going,” he says. “Two years ago, we hired the North Group to help us put together a plan to do just that. One of the first things they did was help us form a leadership team which consists of four employees who are totally dedicated to the cause. That’s going to help us distribute some of the decision making, get us through the next transition, and carry us down the road. Our future–It’s going to be fantastic!”

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