CCC Group – Prepared For Opportunity

CCC Group has 70 years of history behind it, but it is still finding ways to innovate and improve.

It is over 70 years since the foundation of CCC Group in the US in 1947. The firm began as any other small construction company, but over the years the company grew and developed until in 1995 it came to Suriname. At that point, CCC Group already had works in Australia, Brazil, and Jamaica, but in 1995 Suriname was a bold new venture.

“We started working as a maintenance company for Suralco, a subsidiary of ALCOA,” says Julio Kuchnir, International Business Unit Manager for CCC Group.

“The years went by and we started expanding to other sectors. We took on new clients, working on small projects and when the refinery started its expansion, we picked up on work outside of Suralco.”

This diversification would prove to be prescient, as when Suralco shut down operations in 2017, CCC Group was already expanding and offering other kinds of services.

“In terms of industries we work in, everything related to industrial construction, from civil to mechanical, equipment maintenance to equipment rental, commissioning, and mining,” Kuchnir says. “We have a very broad portfolio in terms of industries where we work.”

A Hotbed for Innovation

As it entered new markets and sought out new kinds of customers, CCC Group differentiated itself in a number of ways.

“Well there are several things that I find unique about the company,” Kuchnir says. “One of the first impressions I got when I started working here was that this was the first company I’ve seen where you are evaluated on your merit. What you do is recognised. It’s not a question of ‘I’ve been working here 20 years’ but ‘What you have accomplished in that time?’. To me, that is a great thing because it is something I like to carry with me. It makes people feel appreciated in terms of the work they put in.”

This meritocratic internal organisation also lends itself to superlative safety standards, with policies in place that are far more than the lip service that some companies provide.

“CCC is a company that believes in what they’re saying and this goes for execution, the office environment and everything we carry,” insists Kuchnir. “I’ve seen companies in the past where people are just there to check a box saying they have safety procedures. It is good when you work in a company that believes in what they are saying and they are passionate about safety. This is also something that the clients tell me, that I get very passionate when I am talking about safety. If you don’t believe what you’re saying the people who work with you won’t believe it either.”

All of this is built around a core culture of communication at every level of the company. “I see the communication from the bottom up and top down in the company working in ways that usually I’m not used to seeing,” Kuchnir tells us.

“We put a lot of effort in transmitting information from the CEO down, and from the bottom up. We have several controls in place and reports that show the information to a level of detail that’s really impressive.”

This commitment to doing the best job you can, not just “the way it’s always been done”, and open communication within the company, means CCC Group is a hotbed for innovation.

“One of the things that our work in Suriname accomplished was breaking down those barriers where business can be static or resistant to change,” says Kuchnir. “Inside the company as a whole, the international division is seen as the “research and development” unit, we are always trying new methods, developing new tools, looking into innovations. These are part of our evaluation within the company. We expect every department to be as innovative as possible. I will not say all our innovations are successful, but the ones implemented are very successful.

We developed tools to hear everybody. In terms of culture, particularly in the international division, everyone is heard. We set aside budgets for new ideas and innovations so they can be researched implemented.”

Rising to the Challenge

This creativity and the strong, productive relationships within the company have proved invaluable as CCC Group has encountered a number of challenges in recent years. When facing these challenges, invariably CCC Group has made its priority the people in its team, and the business of its clients.

Perhaps the biggest of these challenges in Suriname was the shutdown of the Suralco plant that CCC had depended on for the majority of its business.

“When that happened, we had to lay off several very good employees and when we started expanding to new markets our first priority was to get the majority of those employees back,” Kuchnir says.

On top of that, of course, everyone has felt the pinch of the pandemic.

“The first step was trying to get everyone safe and develop and install new procedures so that all of our personnel could safely work,” Kuchnir tells us.

“The pandemic had a huge effect on oil prices. With people staying home the oil prices dropped significantly making it very hard for our clients. When that happened, we immediately started going to the clients and trying to help them out by revisiting payment terms for the projects we had ongoing. We were very successful in that only a few projects were put on hold, the main ones were able to continue even with the pandemic.”

Kuchnir gives special mention to CCC’s field personnel, who not only put into practice appropriate safety precautions in the workplace but took those safeguards home, leading to a very successful turnaround for the company.

Finding those people is a critical part of CCC Group’s work, as is empowering them to do the best job they can.

“You’re never going to get the perfect person for the job, but that should not make you scared of hiring people,” Kuchnir reflects.

“You hire people who want to be the best at what they do and give them the tools and means to become that. When conducting interviews one of the main things that I measure or analyse is how willing that person is to put the effort in. How excited are they to get the job? How much do they want to work? How much do they want to contribute? I think that drive is 80% of the worth of the employee.”

CCC Group is permeated by an atmosphere of continuous improvement. Kuchnir is clear he wants everyone to move forward.

“Every person, every company should always be aiming to be better,” he says. “You’re never going to be perfect and that’s a good thing because you can always find ways to improve.”

Kuchnir is banking that this spirit of self-improvement will give CCC Group the edge as greater opportunities are opening up in Suriname.

“Suriname has always been full of opportunities, even before the oil finds,” he points out.

“We know the oil finds will bring in new business and the business will require some extra levels of quality, control, and about four years ago we had already started getting our personnel qualified to meet those demands. I do not believe opportunities fall from the sky. Whatever work we have and will have in the future is the fruit of how prepared you are today.”

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