FWD Construction - Anchorage, Alaska

Brenton Giliam, Tommy Hopp and Erik Wilcox are co-owners of FWD Construction, a Deckorators® Certified Pro Elite and premier deck builder based based in Anchorage, Alaska.They service Anchorage and the surrounding areas. They specialize in crafting exceptional decks and outdoor living spaces. Their passion lies in nurturing a team of young, motivated builders who continually push the boundaries of what FWD Construction can achieve.

A: BRENTON: I started working in construction at 19 and had a passion for it. I worked on various projects, including kitchens, bathrooms, decks and more. My main interest was in decks, and the goal was to eventually start a decking company. So, when I was 19, I created a business plan outlining a four-year path. Initially, we planned to offer a wide range of services, gradually specializing in decks by year three. I had always envisioned Tommy joining the company, and four years later, around age 23, I began pitching the idea to him.

After a year of discussions and analyzing the numbers, Tommy agreed to join. Initially, we set modest goals, thinking that building 20 decks a year would be good. However, we exceeded our expectations and, with the help of the increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to drop all other services by year three and focus solely on deck construction.

I've known Erik for about eight years. Three years ago, as we were looking to expand the company, I talked to Erik about joining. I knew he and his family ran a hardworking lawn mowing and landscaping business, and he was studying construction management at BYU. I spent months convincing him, and two years ago, he joined us.

Erik's dedication was immediately evident. He treated the company as his own and worked tirelessly to improve it. After his first year, we invited Erik to become an owner, one of the best decisions we've made. His incredible work ethic and knack for finding efficient solutions have been invaluable. Additionally, he has a strong rapport with employees, fostering a positive work culture.


A: TOMMY & BRENTON: We specialize in decks for several reasons. First, decks are unique, as they represent the largest outdoor project for homeowners. They offer an exciting space for entertainment and family gatherings, something people plan for extensively. Deck building is also relatively simple to grasp, making it an accessible specialization. Moreover, we find immense joy in building decks, considering them the most enjoyable construction option. In Alaska, it's essential to work outdoors during the summer, making deck construction a perfect fit for our business.

From a business perspective, specializing in decks allows us to excel in one area rather than spreading ourselves thin across various construction types. We aim to be the best at what we do, and we believe we've achieved that status in deck building in Alaska. Our goal is to extend our expertise to the lower 48 states and continue delivering exceptional work there.


A: TOMMY, BRENTON & ERIK: Operating a business in Alaska presents several unique challenges. First, the frost depth in Alaska is over four feet, compared to around 12 inches in Washington. This makes construction more complex, requiring us to account for frost heaving and its potential impact on decks.

Alaska also presents seasonal work limitations due to its harsh weather conditions, resulting in a constrained construction season. Additionally, the market in Alaska is limited because of the short summer, so people are less inclined to invest heavily in outdoor living spaces compared to regions with longer warm seasons like California. Moreover, Alaska's extreme temperature differentials, ranging from hot summers to frigid winters, pose structural challenges. We must build decks with materials and methods that account for expansion and contraction, as well as the potential for frost heave. Earthquakes are also a consideration, so we build structures to a higher structural standard.

Another challenge is the moisture, with frequent rain and snow in Alaska. Materials need to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture and the wear and tear that comes with it.

On the flip side, owning a decking business in Alaska is advantageous because people highly value the four to five months of summer they have and want their outdoor spaces to be enjoyable during that time. We've developed techniques to address frost heave challenges and ensure the stability of our structures.


A: TOMMY, BRENTON & ERIK: Our youthfulness in the construction industry brings both advantages and challenges. Some view our lack of experience as a disadvantage, but we see it differently. Being young offers us unique advantages, such as a fresh perspective and the energy to innovate. We bring new ideas, innovative processes, and technology into our company, improving the client experience and overall management.

Creating a vibrant and inclusive work culture is also a priority for us, setting us apart from traditional construction companies. While there are challenges, like potential perceptions of inexperience, we've developed training programs to mold young hires into skilled builders. As young business owners, we've had to learn various aspects of business management through trial and error. We emphasize continuous improvement and quickly learn from our mistakes, constantly seeking better ways to operate and serve our clients.

Additionally, our youthfulness allows us to attract young, passionate employees who are eager to learn and excel in their roles. We provide them with the opportunity to grow and create a positive work environment. Overall, the benefits of being young in the industry, such as innovation and the ability to mold a young workforce, outweigh the challenges we face due to our age.


A: TOMMY, BRENTON & ERIK: We discovered Deckorators through social media and influencers within the construction industry. Observing experienced contractors using this product on platforms like Instagram and YouTube piqued our interest. Upon further investigation, we found that Deckorators offered numerous benefits, such as minimal imperfections, excellent texture, color options and suitability for various climates. The quality of the product and the positive experiences of using it encouraged us to give it a try.

Our initial experience with Deckorators Voyage decking left a lasting impression. The straightness and overall quality of the boards were impressive. We saw Deckorators as a high-end product and took great care in its installation, ensuring that screws were perfectly aligned and color-matched. As a result, we decided to exclusively use Deckorators Voyage Decking for our high-end decks, providing our clients with a superior product that was easier to install and offered better quality. Our decision was influenced by the product's attributes and our commitment to delivering the best to our clients.


A: TOMMY, BRENTON & ERIK: We aim to solidify our position as the best deck builders not only in Anchorage but in all of Alaska. Our focus is on enhancing the client experience, aiming for FWD Construction to be synonymous with the best contracting experience possible. We also have ambitions to expand our operations beyond Alaska and build decks in various parts of the United States. Our goal is to create a nationwide brand known for its dedication to clients and top-quality products.

Internally, we are committed to continuous improvement. We strive to make each year better than the last, set higher goals, and create a company that runs efficiently and effectively. Our vision includes training our employees to be self-sufficient in building and providing them with valuable life skills such as problem-solving, communication, and discipline. Ultimately, we see FWD Construction as a platform for developing not only exceptional builders but also outstanding individuals who respect others and contribute positively to society.