For Cisca Construction CEO Frank Balleste, working his way up from apprentice to CEO of his own company wasn’t just a labor of love. It was a driving passion. “I love this business. I cherish it,” says Balleste. “I think about it every second of the day.”
That love began 27 years ago, when apprentice Balleste, the son of Cuban immigrants, found himself pushing a broom on a construction site. After working his way up the ladder, the Miami native realized that his true dream was to work for himself. And so, FGF Construction was born (Balleste later changed the name of the company to Cisca – an ode to his grandmother, Francisca).
One of the main reasons Balleste enjoyed creating the company was his ability to do things differently. The first change he made was to embark on staffing his fledgling company with a roster of plumbers, electricians, painters, carpenters and others who would minimize the need for Balleste to wait on subcontractors. By being able to self-perform the majority of the work, Cisca is able to control the quality, schedule, budgets and job safety for each and every client at all times.
Balleste says that control also allows the Cisca team to give clients a true understanding of time frames and budget. “My motto is always ‘On time, on budget and no B.S.,” he says. And with past and current commercial clients such as Miami Dade College, Department of Labor, Miami-Dade County and Wal-Mart, it seems the motto is paying off.
Today, Balleste has seen his workload return to a more residential focus, a turn of events that he says makes both him and his team happy. “I love it,” he says of residential work (the company does both ground-up work and remodels). “I like dealing with residential clients. You put yourself in their shoes and realize the project is almost like their child. I do it like I’m doing it for myself.”
For Balleste, who works on projects across the country, that means everything from consulting with architects (they have one in-house) to picking paint colors and drapery. “That’s just another piece of the puzzle I can give the client,” he says. “We can sit down and see what the clients’ needs are and go back and forth regarding specific needs of the project. We can bounce ideas off of each other and create solutions to challenges that may come up.”
Listening to and working with clients starts at the very beginning of the Cisca process. After sending one of his carefully vetted project managers to the site, his team gets together to craft a plan. This plan likely involves skilled architects and other members of their team. Once that plan goes through the team process, it ends up on Balleste’s desk, where he gives every estimate the ok before sending it to potential clients. And though it may not always be the cheapest, Balleste is confident it will be the most accurate. “I’m not the cheapest guy and I’m not the most expensive guy, but I’m the guy who’s going to do it right the first time,” says the CEO. “It’s best to pay an honest construction charge once and have it done right.”
Part of doing it right, he says, is hiring the right people. As a result of that belief, all potential employees, no matter what the position, are given a 50-question test at the beginning of the hiring process. Question number one? “Can you read a tape measure?,” says Balleste with a laugh. He also compares the hiring process to “marrying into the team. I want an employee who is happy driving into work, knowing they have an ability to grow within the company and that they like their job.”
Balleste is most proud of what he calls his “punch-out team,” aka a three-man team who comes in to thoroughly inspect each job at the close of construction. “They have a 25- to 30-page list,” he says. “They’re looking at everything from drywall finish, paint millage, carpentry workmanship and overall craftsmanship.”
But not all projects are million-dollar listings. In fact, Balleste says he enjoys the smaller jobs, as they not only remind him of his company’s humble beginnings (“When I was starting out, I would have changed one shower tile if I had to.”) but also often lead to bigger and better things. “We did a bathroom in Pinecrest that four other contractors had attempted and couldn’t complete,” he says. “It took two weeks for our team to correct the issues previous contractors were having and to finalize the renovation. As a result, we received multiple jobs from the appreciative client.”
For now, Balleste is enjoying what he calls “the much more personal” residential projects and spending time with his wife (he married his high school sweetheart) and two children. Says Balleste, “Contractors have a bad name. I like that I’m bringing a different breed of contracting to people now.”
Cisca Construction is located at 7300 N. Kendall Drive, Suite 204, Miami, FL 33156. For more information, call 305.595.2246 or 877.CISCA.48 (877.247-2248); or you can also visit ciscaconstruction.com.