Karim Allana is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Allana Buick & Bers (ABB), a construction firm that performs several billion dollars in new construction projects and remedial construction jobs worth more than $100 million annually across the United States.
Mr. Allana is a civil engineer and sustainable construction expert with more than 40 years of experience in the industry. He holds active engineering licenses in California, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon. With specialties in building enclosure (waterproofing, roofing, and exterior façade, he has worked on several dozen major new and remedial U.S. construction projects.
Mr. Allana is proud of his humble start in the building enclosure specialty. While working toward his Civil Engineering degree at Santa Clara University, he worked as a general laborer at Precision Roofing, a San Jose-based roofing company. After graduating from Santa Clara University, he was recruited by Turner Construction Company (a major construction contractor with coast-to-coast operations) to work on ground-up new construction projects. He then returned to Precision Roofing as an operations manager In 1985 before striking out on his own and founding ABB in 1987.
As the operational leader at ABB, Mr. Allana is responsible for the company’s overall strategic direction as well as day-to-day administration for its 225-person workforce. He personally oversees client relationships across numerous sectors, including institutional (K-12 and higher education), local and federal government, industrial, healthcare, insurance, and multifamily residential. Under his leadership, the ABB team has earned notable industry accolades, including two IIBEC awards for documented excellence and “best firm to work for” by Zweig White.
Mr. Allana has served as an expert witness in nearly 1,000 construction defect cases and is recognized as a leading resource for forensic building failure investigations. He devotes a significant amount of time to developing and presenting technical seminars and learning modules for construction professionals, architects, and engineers. His work in this area focuses on reducing construction risk, extending building lifespans and life expectancy, and improving energy efficiency.
Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Allana remains deeply involved in ABB’s reconstruction and new construction projects, personally supervising all aspects of its work and leading its efforts on engineering design, construction management, design-build construction, condition assessments, energy efficiency upgrades, and renewable energy system deployments. Over the years, he has developed a reputation for tactical expertise in complex project management as well as intra- and inter-team conflict resolution on time-sensitive jobs with tight deadlines.
Mr. Allana is an active member of the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC), the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), the International Code Council (ICC), and the Community Associations Institute (CAI). He is a Registered Roof Consultant (RRC) and a Registered Waterproofing Consultant (RWC).
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
Every workday is packed with appointments ranging from phone conferences to client site visits. I often travel to the various 22 office locations. I work both remotely and at our in-person office.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have meetings set up with my key reports, directors of marketing, HR, finance, etc. I communicate those ideas to them and guide them to fruition.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
I have an executive assistant who organizes my time effectively. Every single working hour is organized in advance, and I execute the plan.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to learn to delegate, prioritize key items, dream big, and hire great people.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
Focus on sales, growth, production, and revenue and not on expenses.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
I delegate. I think it’s important to get a personal assistant to free yourself up to focus on the big picture. Don’t get lost in the minutia.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I take my dog out for a walk. I also leave weekends free to relax and let go of work. I’m also a big believer in vacations and travel.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
I would say it’s growth by increasing the breadth of services. The same clients who already knew us and liked us gave us more work because we focused on offering more services as opposed to getting more clients.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
I started a company that sold roof drains. It wasn’t well thought out, and it failed. It also ruined a relationship with a good friend.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
You should always put the clients’ needs first rather than focusing on your own liability. Too many people focus on disclosures, CYA, and do not give straight-up advice if it is risky. You should clearly let clients know of the risk factors and let them decide if they should take the risk.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I started using Webex, Teams, and Zoom as a productivity tool more than a year before Covid. I am able to save a lot of time and expense by meeting people virtually to review construction projects.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
The best $100 I spent was overtipping serving staff for being great at their work.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
A book called “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I really enjoyed the television series “Succession.”
- Create a work environment where staff can voice disagreement and passionately present their point of view of why they disagree with you. When employees or businesses or partners disagree with you about what is best for the company, that kind of healthy dialogue can be very healthy.
- Spend at least 10 minutes each day and think about a new sales idea or a new business idea.
- Learn to turn off work after you come home or go on vacation.
- Don’t get distracted by reading and responding to work-related emails or calls.
- Relax fully and recharge each day, especially when on vacation.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.