With hard work, perseverance, and his own two hands, Glen Yates has built Colt Builders, a successful construction company with several locations across the United States. But his vision is about much more than physical structures—it’s about building up people and improving communities.
“Mondays are really no different than a Saturday or Sunday,” says Glen Yates, President and CEO at Colt Builders, a wood-frame construction and development company headquartered in Murray. “At my job, I am always working—and I am never working. I don’t feel what I do is work at all, and that’s a good feeling.”
Born and educated in Canada, Yates received a construction engineering diploma during the ’90s when Canada’s economy was horrible. “I couldn’t get a good construction job and ended up working in some guy’s basement for $7 an hour,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even put gas in my car.”
From Framer to CEO
Frustrated, Yates decided to “wait out” the Canadian economy, and driven by the need for adventure, he traveled to Australia and lived there for a year. “I then heard about a company that needed wood framers to work in the United States to build retirement homes all over the U.S. I was 21, and I began working for them doing the most menial tasks, including putting in anchor bolts in basements—which is really the worst job on a framing site,” he says. “The foreman on the job told me the only way I could get out of doing basement work was to work for free on Saturdays. I started showing up on Saturdays. I worked my way up from laboring in the basement to eventually running sites and project managing.” Yates earned opportunities to travel to job sites in Hawaii, Georgia, Iowa, and Florida and ended up settling in New England.
“In 2007, I was given the opportunity to open up a framing division in the Washington D.C. area,” he says. But soon, the 2008 recession hit. “The timing was not so great, but we pulled it off somehow.”
The wave of that recession did create another business opportunity that was unforeseen and was only made possible by the great recession. Unbeknownst to Glen, Colt Builders had its own journey over the years, and the four owners were greatly dissatisfied with where they were at. Yates had the opportunity to buy out some of the shareholders at Colt Builders. “This was a chance of a lifetime, so I mortgaged the farm, bought out three of the shareholders, and I became the majority owner of Colt Builders in 2011,” he says.
Colt Builders specializes in building large wood frame buildings, which includes senior living, apartments, townhouses, and student housing. “We believe in building up structures, people, and communities,” Yates says.
As President of Colt Builders, Yates seized the opportunity to grow the business and brought in additional construction contracts. “In 2011, we had about 10 employees and did $1.7 million in business. Today, we have 450 employees and work with over 1,000 subcontractors generating $250 million in revenue,” he says. Besides framing, Yates and the Colt Builders team are also involved in developing projects in Utah and around the country. Colt has locations in Austin, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Sacramento, California; Frederick, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Warwick, Rhode Island.
With Colt’s business expanding throughout the U.S., Yates admits that he decided to keep the corporate headquarters in Utah for a couple reasons. One, because one of the original shareholders and the accounting office were already based in Utah, and two, because Yates loves Utah. In 2017, Yates moved with his wife and two children from Frederick, Maryland, to Sandy. “I love everything Utah has and the lifestyle it has to offer. I grew up skiing, and this place is so beautiful,” he says. Yates enjoys anything outdoors, whether it’s out in the ocean kiteboarding, riding his Harley, hiking, waterskiing, or running marathons.
Overcoming Pandemic Challenges
According to Yates, the business has faced new challenges due to the pandemic, including daily management and staying open while protecting employees’ health. “We were a business that was deemed essential, and we follow all of the new protocols that have been set to keep our employees healthy,” he says. “We have had to figure out ways to keep everyone safe and working during the challenging and ever-evolving guidelines. Of course, everybody was a bit scared of the uncertainty, but we kept working.”
Another big challenge that has come from the pandemic is the availability and pricing of wood. “Wood prices have gone up two and a half to three times what it was a year ago,” says Yates. “It is 100 percent a supply and demand issue. The wood mills shut down because of the pandemic.”
There were no people cutting wood or shipping wood. Plus, Yates explains, every do-it-yourselfer homeowner who had free time on their hands started working on projects like building a deck or finishing a basement. As a result, retail stores like Home Depot could not keep wood in stock either. “We can see the supply and demand of wood start to come back to balance. Hopefully, later in 2021 we can get back to normal,” he says.
A Strong Foundation
The foundation for Yate’s strong work ethic and vision for Colt Builders started, ironically, in the many basement foundations where he worked during the early days of his construction career. Since then, he has built around him a company of integrity and excellence where he continues to develop and inspire his team of professionals. “I love what I do—just surrounding myself with great people,” he says. “I love seeing them mature and become better and grow into greater positions and do great things. And when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work at all.”
For more information, visit coltbuilders.com or read about them in the special issue we created for them below.