10 Years Strong
The Texan founders of SABRE COMMERCIAL–John Cyrier, Matt Lutz and Todd Reimers–talk about starting a company at the height of the recession, putting people first, and the next chapter.
Sabre Commercial is a general contracting firm born and raised in Austin, working mainly in the healthcare, higher education, biotech and corporate sectors. The company has its headquarters in East Austin with a second location in San Marcos. Building places where people work and learn, where they heal and worship and gather as a community, gives Sabre a tangible connection to our neighborhoods and a stake in our region.
You started Sabre in 2008, a year before the height of the recession. How did you succeed?
JC: We started the company mainly from necessity. It was a scary time and we didn’t know what the future would bring. Matt and I briefly spoke about starting a company in 2007, when I left the Houston-based GC where I had worked since college. We had done a couple development deals and knew we worked well together. And Todd was a great fit, had the same values and a strong construction background. Larry Foster was our first hire and first superintendent, and he’s still with Sabre.
TR: Back then it was just the four of us. Matt did the accounting and business administration, and the three of us worked the jobsites. Our first project was the Oak Hill Plaza remodel. Then we got the Veteran’s Affairs Financial Services project.
JC: The VA job came up first, but took a while to get going. Matt and I got a call about an opportunity at the Met Center from a previous client needing some preliminary pricing and scheduling. The project started small, but ended up being a three-phase, multi-million-dollar project that helped us through the lean years to 2011. Ten years in, we’ve successfully completed more than 700 projects, over 80% with repeat clients.
Sabre was on the ABJ Best Places to Work list several times and was named a 2017 Top Work Place by the Austin American Statesman. What’s your secret?
TR: We wanted to start a construction company with a different approach, with an emphasis on treating our clients, our team members and trade partners with equal respect. We’ve spent countless hours defining what we wanted Sabre to become. The focus on a team approach with all our stakeholders has allowed Sabre to thrive and build a positive culture.
ML: I have always thought of us as “the Good Guy Team.” We care about each other. We care about the subcontractors. We care about the clients. In terms of leadership style, we’ve always been on the same page: treat your employees well and act with integrity.
Sabre is well established in the healthcare, higher education, corporate and biotech sectors. What’s next?
ML: We’ve built some great projects over the past ten years and look forward to continuing our forward momentum. We’re making some exciting changes. We’ve promoted John Kovar to COO, to ensure our operations stay in line with our strategic goals. You’re also going to see some great things from Todd as he pursues new client opportunities as Chief Business Development Officer. In the short term, we’re looking at how to improve and refine our processes and find new ways to make our project teams and projects excel and flourish.
JC: It all goes back to our mission, which is to create better lives. We’ve made our mark building places that impact the Texans in our region. That’s the construction side. But it’s also our employees’ impact on their communities, their growing families, their local giving, and all of us trying to make every day a little better for someone else. The most fulfilling part for me is seeing the positive impact we’ve collectively made on Central Texas communities.