Detroit News: Southfield family builds on generations

November 10, 2011

Aaron Rosenhaus says the best thing he did for his family’s business was to get a job at another company.

The experience provides a different perspective the 27-year-old Rosenhaus plans to tap since he earlier this year became chief operating officer at Uniland Corp., a Southfield family-owned-and-operated building management, development and consulting company. It gave the Michigan State University graduate insights into areas deserving further expansion for the company his great-grandfather founded 85 years ago.

Call it the Un-Brain Drain. The Rosenhaus family hopes the addition of the first member of the fourth generation at Uniland marks the beginning of a trend with young professionals moving back to their home state to help rejuvenate the economy.

“We’re excited about moving forward,” said Uniland CEO Rex Rosenhaus, Aaron’s father. “My grandfather founded this company on the eve of the Great Depression, and now it’s my turn to continue his and my father’s legacy with Aaron’s help.”

In its residential construction work, Uniland is tracking new home starts this year to increase 75 percent in southeastern Michigan. Overall, through its construction, property management, consulting, energy consumption solutions, Uniland is on track to increase revenue 12 percent this year.

Having a work force with multiple generations, whether it is through a family or otherwise, can be beneficial if handled correctly, said Kim Huggins, a generational expert and president of K HR Solutions in Harleysville, Pa.

“Celebrating the differences of the generations in the workplace is the first step to understanding how to build a diverse and strong team. Each generation has a unique communication style and preference, as well as strengths that they bring to the table,” Huggins said. “Part of building a productive team is understanding the communication preferences of each generation as well as what motivates them.”

Rosenhaus previously worked for one of the top 10 commercial contractors in the country. He served on the health care construction team, where he supervised subcontractors building multiple projects. He also managed budgets topping $300 million in his nearly five years there.

That job helped Rosenhaus grow as a businessman, construction professional and a young person, he said. As he worked on sites in California and in Texas with Armadillo Homes, a statewide production homebuilder, he said he had to prove himself and his skills on every project.

Plus, Rosenhaus gained experience in the health care field, an area where Uniland Corp. is growing. He hopes to extend the company’s reach into medical offices, urgent-care centers, senior-citizen housing and more.

“The opportunity to return to the state in which I grew up and bring youth and energy to an already successful family company is just truly amazing for me,” Rosenhaus said. “I could see (the local economy) was improving. It was a good time to come back.”

Rosenhaus said he chose to work at McCarthy Building Companies in part because it was in Southern California, where work was still going strong, and it specialized in health care.

“It was the most challenging type or sector within the construction industry I could get into. I wanted to be busy; I wanted to be challenged,” Rosenhaus said.

And the projects he worked on had an impact on his professional outlook; that is something he hopes will differentiate Uniland from its competition.

“At one point, I worked on a children’s hospital, and there’s a higher level of aesthetics to the spaces there,” Rosenhaus said. “We understood and used the aesthetic environment as another tool in patient care. If we can use such features as a painted ceiling to look like the sky to calm a patient or have fun graphics on the walls in the patient areas to keep a fun light mood, this in turn can positively affect a patients or their loved ones moods during a usually stressful time.”