Just as the sun is barely climbing over the horizon, Sean Truesdale arrives at the basketball court. Lacing up his shoes, Sean glances out the gym window to see the sun’s golden rays slicing through the sky. He rhythmically bounces the burnt orange basketball across the newly polished gym floor until the clock reaches 6:30am.
David Becker meanders down the tree-lined roads of Portola Valley. A bitter sensation fills his mouth as he sips his dark roast Peet’s coffee. His gaze shifts from the steering wheel of his Ford Raptor to the endless skyline of redwood trees blanketed with fog. At this pace he’ll arrive at Buck’s Restaurant early for his 7 o’clock breakfast meeting with Sean.
Seated across from each other in a red leather booth, Sean and David begin discussing Truebeck, the company they founded in 2007 that grew into one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most successful general contractors. Covering everything from general business issues and strategies to personal life updates, the two co-founders of Truebeck reflect on the company’s history and then create future plans to make each week better than the last.
Before David was even old enough to lift a hammer, his father worked as a residential contractor. Along with redesigning and building homes, David’s father also enjoyed woodworking around the house. This caught David’s eye as he decided to help his father with these projects and later pursue an education in construction. He took woodshop classes and even a drafting class where he designed his first house and floor plans. These experiences gave David a taste of the construction industry and helped him pinpoint his interests in civil engineering and construction management.
Sean found his way into the construction world through his educational interests. He enjoyed math but also had an interest in architecture. This led him to study architectural engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During college, Sean explored the various careers that came along with architectural engineering and mathematics, and that led him to decide to pursue civil engineering. Further, two elements of the construction industry grabbed Sean’s interest: the social interaction and technical work. Both of these facets of the industry became areas of Sean’s career that he enjoyed most.
After gathering experience and developing a connection with the construction industry, Sean and David wanted to take their passion to the next level. After working 15 years for a large general contractor and then at a smaller company with a more narrow focus, David outlined a vision for Truebeck. “I wanted to be part of a high-quality professional general contractor in the Bay Area focused on technical projects with a group of talented [co-workers], smart business people, and friends.”
Sean described the type of company he aspired to be a part of. “I felt that I could contribute to [an organization] that was committed to excellent client service, focused on adding value to every project, and a company that wouldn’t be afraid to evolve as technology evolved in the industry.”
These initial hopes and aspirations, along with a powerful passion for construction, led Sean and David to transform their vision into a reality. In 2007, they founded the successful company known today as Truebeck Construction.
Expectations and Goals
The first few years of Truebeck were focused on survival. Being a new company, Sean and David had to prove why Truebeck was the best technical contracting business. They focused on working and performing in a way that not only met but exceeded all the client’s goals for budget, quality, and service. This mindset later translated into one of Truebeck’s core values: “Project first. Every time. No excuses.” This value is often misunderstood; it means that the project goals come first, before what might be advantageous for Truebeck, a trade partner, or the client exclusively. It does not mean that the project is more important than our team’s personal life, family, or health.
In 2007, Truebeck proved it could live up to its promises when building their first ground-up project for John Muir Health. “I remember a lot of the bigger firms being a little bit afraid of that job. It had an OSHPD component to it and there were five or six make ready phases of work leading up to the construction of the building,” Sean described.
The building Truebeck was hired to construct was a hybrid parking garage, surgery center, and blood lab. There were a lot of technical challenges, for example, the building was right next to the emergency department of the hospital and the helipad emergency landing flight path was directly through the construction site. Instead of shying away from the complexity of the project, Truebeck stepped up to the challenge. The team worked effectively by finding the right trade partners, developing the right schedule, and staying within budget. “With the team’s passion for building, there was no challenge that was too hard. I could feel the energy about halfway through that job. I knew we were going to finish on time or ahead of schedule,” Sean stated.
Truebeck ended up successfully finishing the John Muir project ahead of schedule. This experience was eye-opening for Sean and David as they realized the capabilities of Truebeck and how influential they could become.
In terms of size, Sean and David set a goal that in ten years Truebeck would reach $500 million in revenue. Truebeck met that initial goal even before the ten-year mark. Both impressed by the speed of the company’s growth, Sean and David realized they wanted to create Truebeck to be a company that was not only successful but a leader in the industry.
Truebeck is One of A Kind
The unique technical approach Truebeck brings to each project originated from Sean and David’s previous job experience. Before Truebeck, they both worked at larger technical companies that had specific building processes and procedures. Sean and David brought their past experience working on technically complex projects and then created processes and procedures to make Truebeck a leader in the construction industry. This new approach impressed many of their first clients, one being UC Davis in 2008. At the time, certain technologies weren’t considered economical, but Truebeck wanted to prove that up-and-coming technology could enhance the construction process. For the project, the team utilized 3D modeling to create a prototype of the building. At the time, other construction companies weren’t using such technology for projects of a similar size. Because of Sean and David’s belief in technology, the UC Davis project became the highest scoring LEED Platinum facility in the world at the time and the first LEED Platinum project in the University of California college system. This feat could never be accomplished had it not been for Truebeck’s innovative approach.
David and I were always focused on doing great work and finding a better way to do it. We weren’t afraid to be innovative in the way we were doing things. – Sean Truesdale
Transparency and communication was another way Sean and David wanted Truebeck to stand out from other construction companies. This meant communicating not only to clients but to the team about the company’s health and direction. David describes that “With Truebeck you’re getting the technical expertise of a larger company but we’re giving you the personal touch of a small family-owned business.”
Embracing challenges and always looking for ways to improve remained one of Truebeck’s core values. During the company’s rebrand in 2016, this mindset became the driving force behind Truebeck’s work and the company’s slogan: “Raise The Bar”.
Many of Truebeck’s company values, created during the 2016 rebrand, related to sports vocabulary. For example, “We win as a team and high five a lot,” and “Don’t do what’s easy. Do what’s right. And hustle.”
Sports became a part of Truebeck’s culture because both Sean and David devoted a lot of time to playing and coaching. They both recognized that being part of a company is similar to being part of a team where everyone works cohesively towards a goal.
For Sean, sports were integral to his childhood. He played just about every sport but enjoyed baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis, and water polo the most. From these team sports, Sean gained valuable experiences and learned valuable lessons that would later translate into his leadership style at Truebeck. Sean outlined a few of these key lessons. “I learned to follow directions, put in extra work, deal with high-pressure situations, and be a good teammate. I also learned how to manage challenging situations like reasoning with upset coaches, teammates, or officials and making tough moments a positive experience.”
Similar to Sean, David played multiple sports such as baseball and football and also coached his daughter’s softball teams. As a player David learned self-discipline, how to listen to the coach, how to work hard, and how to support his teammates. As a coach, David learned that “A large part of a player’s success is effort, attitude, and hard work. It’s not necessarily god-given talent.”
Growth Beyond Belief
In 2013, Truebeck quickly transitioned from its core of life science and healthcare projects to developing complex corporate campuses including Apple and Facebook. The rapid and significant growth of the company continued to surprise Sean and David. “I never imagined we would be where we are at today, a billion-dollar revenue company,” David exclaimed. Truebeck consistently grew at a rate of about 30 percent a year and constantly achieved the goals the leadership team set.
Goal-setting meetings occur every few years and during the meeting, the leadership team creates a plan for the next three to five years while also reflecting back on previous accomplishments. At one particular meeting in 2018, Sean realized how large and limitless Truebeck really was. “We got the entire leadership team together to outline what success looks like in five years. I was reflecting on the goals we set up and thought ‘you see those goals we just wrote up there, whoever would’ve thought that’s what we would be talking about.’ That was also the time I recognized that Truebeck was close to hitting the billion-dollar-a-year revenue mark,” Sean said.
Truebeck Continues to Raise The Bar
Today, Truebeck is a billion-dollar company working on a variety of projects, ranging from life science and healthcare to corporate office and education. Moving forward, Sean and David hope for Truebeck to focus on quality rather than quantity to produce the best work possible.
Sean and I don’t have an aspiration to take over the world. Our goals are more about doing the best work that we can and providing the most opportunities that we can for our team members. – David Becker
Externally, Sean and David hope for Truebeck to maintain the prestige of being one of the highest level general contractors in the Bay Area. They also hope to continue growing across the West Coast.
Internally, Sean and David hope to continue improving their processes from a business standpoint to help everyone on the team be the best that they can be. They also want to ensure that Trubeck is a diverse and inclusive environment people feel proud to work in. Most of all, Sean and David hope that Truebeck maintains its passion for innovating and continues to challenge itself to do better because Truebeck is always “Raising The Bar.”