As Frank Bodami looks back at the first ten years of Total Wrecking’s relatively short but stratospheric rise in the industrial demolition industry, it becomes clearer and clearer that it’s been as much a personal journey for him as a professional one. After all, Total Wrecking’s inception in 2013 was hardly the start of Frank’s demo career; he looks at it as the culmination of a lifetime of experiences.
“The bigger, the better” is the biggest industry misconception he’s sought to correct with Total Wrecking. Power plant and building owners tend to assume that larger companies are inherently more reliable, wrongly assuming Total Wrecking may not have the depth of experience required to handle the most complex projects in the nation. His company, however, flies in the face of that theory. Combining concierge-like customer service with a deep respect for family and community, Frank has proven that an industry with a reputation for bidding to the bottom is long overdue for disruption.
In other workplace cultures, it’s perhaps become a minor cliche to look at your colleagues as family members, but that steadfast belief is what Frank largely credits with the company’s growth and success over the last decades, with only greater expansion and improvement on the horizon.
Total Wrecking’s unique culture and approach is too multifaceted to list out in a single sentence, but a few of the biggest touchpoints are an earnest spirit of collaboration, support, and ongoing education; the importance of transparency and open communication in avoiding conflicts and misunderstandings; employees given feedback and opportunities to improve their performance; and a unique understanding that his customers represent partnership that extend far beyond transactions.
ORIGINS AND FOUNDATION
It takes a team to build an entity as large as Total Wrecking. When word began spreading that Frank had a bold new vision for an industrial demolition company, several former colleagues reached out to express their belief in his leadership and a willingness to work without pay to help get the business off the ground.
Inspired by their faith and dedication, Bodami began the new venture from zero with no external funding. Fortunately Frank was later able to secure a line of credit from a bank and a bonding company, providing the necessary financial backing to not only get off the ground but to begin operations.
Frank’s vision was twofold: to create an environment where his team could flourish and pursue their passions, and to build a dynasty within the demolition industry known for its honest, high-quality work and a strict dedication to safety. This commitment to both people and performance has been a cornerstone of Total Wrecking & Environmental’s ethos and a huge contributor to its exponential growth and success over the past decade.
Armed with a robust business plan and deep industrial knowledge from his team, the company bid for small, industrial projects in Buffalo and secured $1.5 million in its first year. With that, they were officially off the ground.
ETHOS AND CULTURE
Access, accountability, and integrity.
Inspired by the book “The Speed of Trust”, Frank cannot emphasize the importance of trust, honesty, and confident decision-making in his daily operations enough. Every decision is guided by a tripartite question – is it right for the client, is it right for the community, and is it right for the company?
These principles also extend to their relationships with partners in the development industry, where the ’30-Second Trust’ rule allows for fast, informed, and reliable decisions.
Operationally, Total Wrecking & Environmental has managed to distinguish itself through their dedication to value engineering, particularly in the environmental field. They work with clients to isolate different levels of contamination, minimize costs, and offer transparent, fair, and honest solutions. Frank understands first-hand what a massive differentiator that is in an industry known for companies who often exploit issues arising on projects. He once heard a competitor’s say that “there’s opportunity in chaos,” a concept that couldn’t be farther from the heart and soul of Total Wrecking’s culture.
Instead, Frank and his team of experts minimize clients’ problems, holding fast to their core values of transparency, honesty, and integrity. A happier client base has organically led to ongoing and repeat business.
Clients trust them, at least in large part, because of how clearly they convey a willingness to do the right thing and take the higher road that most demolition companies won’t. Every single job has hitches and unforeseen issues, but how they manage these situations is precisely what sets them apart. Exceptional problem management skills are crucial to the job.
Total Wrecking’s core pillars of safety and integrity originate from top management and permeate throughout the entire organization. These values are constant and everyday, not opportunistic, or dependent on circumstances.
THE TOTAL FAMILY
Frank’s wife Sandy, or as we like to call her, the “real boss, introduced a fourth pillar that’s embedded in Total Wrecking & Environmental’s philosophy: family. Despite the size of the company, now with 120 employees and counting, everyone is considered part of the ‘Total family.’ This workplace idea is often preached but rarely practiced, but under the Bodamis’ leadership, it’s a palpable commitment.
This family approach extends beyond rhetoric. Total Wrecking provides sincere care for its employees in tangible ways, like financially supporting staff through extended illnesses and organizing events like safety summits. Frank believes employees who are fully valued and supported will reciprocate with loyalty and hard work, essential ingredients for any company’s success.
All employees, regardless of their role or position, can reach out to the top management, including Frank, directly. Although there is an established chain of command, this open-door policy allows everyone to be heard and offers employees a sense of security knowing that they can bring any concerns directly to Frank if they feel something is going wrong.
The very first project for Frank Bodami and Total Wrecking & Environmental was at the Riviera Theatre in Buffalo, NY, which signified their initial foothold in the industry and established a lasting relationship with the theatre’s director. This inaugural project was a small-scale industrial demolition project that marked Total Wrecking’s first earnings, a humble but earnest starting point for Frank’s ambitious start-up.
Another notable project was the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) job in Florida, a monumental 8-figure job in the late 2010’s that remains their largest to date. Given the scale and complexity of the project, this gargantuan undertaking provided them with significant notoriety and helped solidify their position in the industry.
Beyond their professional achievements, however, Frank and his team take even more pride in their community outreach and philanthropic endeavors. Witnessing the heartfelt and emotional response of a recipient of their U.S. veteran fundraising efforts deeply moved Frank and encouraged him to make greater efforts to give back more and more.
On a more personal level, Frank was also deeply humbled to receive a ‘rank coin’ from the head of Western New York Heroes. This exclusive token is traditionally reserved for military personnel, but the head of the organization felt compelled to acknowledge the exemplary support that Total Wrecking & Environmental has provided to the military community.
No worthwhile journey is ever without its hurdles.
One of the main challenges for Total Wrecking & Environmental from the outset has been proving their capabilities in an industry dominated by larger companies.
Despite the high volumes of his larger competitors, Frank understands that this doesn’t necessarily translate to quality service or accessibility, a lesson he’s tried hard to preach for the last 10 years. Frank worked hard to demonstrate that although Total Wrecking was relatively new, their deeply experienced team had been working in the industry for 40 + years. They weren’t just the same team with a new name; they were better, smarter, unburdened by the problems of their past partnership, and ready to tackle the future.
Total Wrecking & Environmental is fully committed to placing their best teams on all projects, ensuring top quality and comprehensive safety on every job. Frank’s bid strategy is also far more selective than most of his competitors – he only bid on jobs he is confident they can manage safely and effectively, a stark deviation from other companies that often overextend their resources and open the door to accidents and injuries.
Hiring and retaining the right personnel was another initial challenge, like most companies both inside and outside of the demolition space. Over time, as their people-centric approach became a more widely known cornerstone of their brand, this obstacle also slowly faded. That said, despite having a loyal core group from the outset, sourcing the best talent remains an ongoing issue in an industry with a massive workforce labor issue, particularly in recent years.
One of the more unique approaches that Frank has introduced is the “lessons learned” methodology. Here, the Total Wrecking team documents any and every mistake or problem, analyzes what went wrong, and pinpoints precisely how to prevent it in the future. Taking this a step further, Frank’s larger goal is to create a platform to share these findings industry-wide to improve safety and efficiency efforts industry-wide. A safe space where companies can share their lessons without revealing sensitive information could significantly help train younger professionals while preventing injuries.
This “lessons learned” concept is even more relevant given the ongoing workforce issue throughout every corner of construction. Documenting and sharing these lessons can help train future professionals and safeguard knowledge continuity along the way.
By sharing these lessons, businesses are not just fostering a more informed workforce but also potentially saving lives by preventing accidents or fatalities.
Despite the potential benefits, Frank understands the industry’s general reluctance to share such information due to fears about reputation or legal concerns. Nevertheless, he advocates for a culture of openness, hoping to change this mindset for the betterment of the industry as a whole. At trade shows and beyond, Frank is committed to leading conversations about this topic with demolition peers to encourage a more open and collaborative culture for all.
THE TOTAL FUTURE
To stay at the top of the demolition game, Total Wrecking & Environmental continually upgrades equipment and explores innovative jobsite tools to ensure they’re working at peak operational efficiency. Frank and team actively collaborate with vendors to develop wholly unique attachments for machinery and enable seamless tool transitions to improve safety and productivity. Just this year they invested in a new fleet of CAT excavators and equipment, in addition to regularly attending trade shows to learn about and incorporate cutting-edge demolition techniques.
Participation in trade shows and conventions, in fact, is one of Frank’s biggest keys to maintaining active engagement in a people-centric industry. Among many other benefits, attendance provides opportunities to share ideas with peers and learn from them, which in turn contributes to healthier operational developments and thought leadership throughout the industry.
When Frank Bodami reflects on the last 10 years, the ongoing themes of his vision are the importance of controlled growth, fostering an immutable safety culture, and remaining dedicated to constant training. He aspires for his team to reach a level of proficiency where safety becomes second nature, where diligence and protection always take precedence over the pursuit of perfection.
It’s exactly why the company remains actively engaged in employee training, including OSHA 10 and construction courses, a commitment lacking in many other companies. Training seminars extend beyond baseline requirements and go the extra mile to include CPR, leadership, and active shooter training to ensure employee safety even outside of work.
He believes in educating clients about their capabilities and affirming that they are the best demolition and environmental company in the country, plain and simple. The growth of Total Wrecking and Environmental has been historically tied to its commitment to safety and the unique ability to attract the best and brightest minds in the industry, an approach Frank only plans on further fostering.
Aiming to stay at the cutting edge, the company has proactively invested in new technology, prioritized safety education, and maintained a strong presence in trade shows and industry associations. The deeply-embedded “lessons learned” approach he created to avoid repeating past mistakes and improve operations is a practice he hopes to spread around the nation. Central to the company is a dedication to integrity and collaboration, where employees, clients, and even competitors are viewed as partners.
That’s why ten years from now, while maintaining a thriving, safety-obsessed, forward-thinking company culture and close-knit relationships, Frank and team anticipate Total Wrecking and Environmental being covering an even larger (and more successful) footprint than ever.