Montgomery Martin Plans for the Future

Meagan Nichols    Reporter   Memphis Business Journal

What do Shelby Farm’s Heart of the Park, the Tennessee Brewery, The Chisca on Main and the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid projects all have in common? Montgomery Martin.

Martin, founder and CEO of Memphis-based Montgomery Martin Contractors (MMC), has built and continues to build some of the city’s most notable structures. But, one of his most recent projects was constructed with his company’s future in mind – a succession plan.

The succession plan was set in motion a few months ago when senior members of the company — Richard T. Meena, vice president; Jeff Emerson, vice president; Randy Bratton, vice president; and Joel Thomas, vice president and chief financial officer — bought into the company as part of an ownership transfer, essentially creating an internally funded employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

“There was an initial percentage set up in the buy-in, and then, as the years go by, they will gain more and more ownership. The idea [is that] over a prescribed period of time, I will have sold the whole company to them and possibly others in the business,” Martin said. “I don’t have any family in the business, so my family — so to speak — is these guys and I am passing it on. ... These are people who were handpicked and have really helped form who the company is.”

Those senior members now join Martin and his wife, Laura, as owners of the LLC started in 1995.

“I am grateful for this and all of the opportunities that Montgomery Martin, the man and the company, have provided to me over the years,” said CFO Thomas. “It is unbelievably exciting to help further define Montgomery Martin’s legacy in our industry, as well as provide leadership and ownership opportunities for the next generation and future generations to come at MMC.”

A native Memphian, Martin grew up in the business. His father, David Martin, was an architect-turned-contractor and, following graduation from Auburn University in 1978, Martin went to work for his dad at a company that became Martin Cole Dando and Robertson (MCDR). Martin remained at the company for 17 years before starting MMC.

“I always thought it makes a statement when you’ve got your name in the name of the company, because it backs up that you are not trying to hide behind anything," Martin said.

With a staff that consisted only of Martin, a superintendent and an accountant, MMC was born. The company’s first project was speculative office space in Lenox Park.

Fast forward more than two decades and MMC has become a placemaking powerhouse. It has a portfolio that spans all sectors of commercial real estate and an employee base that has grown to about 125 full-time staffers.

“I truly love Memphis for a lot of reasons, and it is just deep in me that I want it to be better,” Martin said. “As a builder, I am in the right place to help.”

While Martin has spent the last two years planning for the future, he won’t be hanging up his hardhat any time soon. The company equity will be transferred from Martin and his wife to the new owners over the next 10 to15 years. However, the exact amount of time for the transfer will be based on the company’s financial results.

During their recent strategic planning process and ownership transfer, Martin and his team also took a close look at client satisfaction, the organizational capacity of the company and business development — and all the ways that those three areas could be made stronger.

“What we have discovered ... is that we didn’t create an MMC way and go after it. We discovered who we already were and that was a big deal,” Martin said. “You don’t talk about it much, you just kind of know it. I get emotional talking about it. ... Identifying who you are and putting it in writing is a sort of self-discovery process of who God made you to be, and that is what we are doing right now.”

To see the article in this week's Business Journal, click here