Changing Course Leads to Opportunity

(Photo courtesy of Travis Young, Austin Walsh Studio)

Brandy McCombs’ entrepreneurial journey is one of not only pursuing opportunity, but also proactively seeking change. It’s clear that she doesn’t shy away from something she’s never done.

When she makes up her mind—whether it’s about changing careers, changing cities or starting a new division in her company—no one is going to stop her.

“It’s just the way entrepreneurs are,” she said.

McCombs is the founder of International Builders and Consultants (IBC), a general contracting, interior finish construction and traffic controls company she founded in 2008 in Florida, just before the Great Recession laid the construction industry bare.

Ohio to Florida to Missouri

Her journey has taken her from a small Ohio town to stints in restaurant management in Florida, and most recently to entrepreneurial success right here in Kansas City.

Her entrepreneurial aspirations started at a young age. Watching her father operate his own auto parts store and her grandfather run the only gas station in town filled McCombs with pride. It was something she knew she wanted to replicate.

McCombs didn’t jump immediately into business ownership, however. She started in the restaurant industry in Ohio and worked her way into management. She thought she would eventually own her own restaurant. Looking for additional opportunities in the industry, McCombs moved to Florida, where she became the restaurant manager of Sundial Beach Resort on Sanibel Island.

Feeling restless after several years and tired of working every holiday, McCombs took a management position in the service department of an air conditioning installation company in Fort Myers. She enjoyed the work and learned a great deal, but she was eager to be out in the field. So, in 2005 she went to work as a superintendent for a general contractor that specialized in high-rise condominiums. That’s when she realized
she had found her business niche.

Building Her Own Business

After a few years, McCombs struck out on her own, forming IBC in 2008. That’s exactly when the Florida economy took a nosedive.

“Work dried up overnight. My choices were to stay in Florida and pick another profession again, go back to Ohio, or move my business,” she said.

Not one to accept failure, McCombs researched other parts of the country where construction was faring better and landed in Kansas City.

“I did my research, put my finger on the map and decided Kansas City was where I was going. So here I am, making memories,” she said.

Leaving Her Mark

Since relocating to Kansas City, IBC has become a “household” name for its quality craftsmanship as trim carpenters working for various general contractors. IBC has worked on high-profile local projects such as the Hollywood Casino, Country Club Bank, Children’s Mercy Hospital, LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Sea Life Aquarium, the Kansas Speedway, the Jackson County Courthouse Clock Tower and the Kansas
City Streetcar.

In 2014 McCombs discovered a business opportunity that would require adding a separate division to IBC. As she’d done throughout her career, she didn’t hesitate to pursue it.

“I had an opportunity to bid on traffic control when the streetcar was coming into town,” said McCombs. “I thought to myself, ‘How hard can that be?’ So I did some research and studied it, and I got my certifications and actually went to school. I bid on it, and now my traffic control division is growing faster than anything I ever imagined.”

The new division does flagging and traffic control for various projects, including 24-hour emergency service such as when streets must be closed due to flooding. The Kansas City Street Car was the first job.  Since then, IBC has received contracts with KCP&L, Missouri Gas Energy, Burns & McDonnell, Mark One Electric Company and several other local companies, allowing the company to grow its fleet to 12 in just over a year. McCombs predicts up to 300 percent growth in the traffic division in 2017.

She recently added a new location at 1213 West 8th Street to house the traffic division.

“We have purchased this additional building due to the demand for our traffic control services. We are the only local contractor that supplies union flagging services, and we are the only local certified WBE in the scope of work,” said McCombs.

McCombs is a visionary—she says her brain is always working and people in her office think she’s crazy. She knows it takes a team to put her ideas to work. Over the years, she’s learned several lessons about assembling, training and keeping a great team together:

  • Monitor employees to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Do complete background checks  before hiring.
  • Hire slow and fire fast.

McCombs networks constantly, and she advises others to take advantage of the connections that can be easily made in Kansas City.

“One thing about Kansas City I love is even though it’s a big city, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s so supportive,” she said.