Nibbi Bros' Larry Nibbi Reflects On 50 Years In The Industry
Larry Nibbi, CEO of Nibbi Brothers General Contractors, has seen many changes in his 50 years in the industry.
We caught up with Larry recently to talk about his approach to business relationships and how much technology has changed since he stepped into his father's business all those years ago.
Larry's father, Marino, started Nibbi Brothers in 1950. He and Larry's uncle ran the company for a few years before his uncle went on to other things. Larry's brother, Sergio, joined the company in the late '50s, and Larry joined in the mid-'60s after graduating from high school.
Working during the day and attending college at night, Larry got a boots-on-the-ground education on running the business. His father, a master cabinet maker and carpenter, had five employees at the time and preferred to spend his time in the field. Larry started to manage the office, make deliveries, visit job sites and do anything that needed to be done.
That's Larry, left, and Sergio below in the office in their early days with the business.
After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a degree in business administration (with an emphasis in accounting), Larry began helping his brother work on bids.
The company started to get public works projects around the Bay Area, and Larry would assemble the voluminous paperwork that went with the bids. “I was the guy on the adding machine,” he tells us, “adding up all the numbers to the very last moment when the bid was due.”
When Larry started, everything was added up on a calculator and payroll was done by hand, as was accounts payable. Now, computerized payroll systems lead to direct payment without ever writing out a check.
The big changes haven't been in construction (“We still build projects one piece of wood on top of another,” he says), but in the technology used to run the business. Larry recalls receiving a sales pitch for a fax machine. “He wanted to sell us this great new tool,” Larry tells us. They would be able to get bids over the machine, rather than taking them over the phone.
Larry's question: How many other people have these? He chose to wait until more than just a few people had them, since there was no point in having a fax machine if no one else had one.
When their father retired in 1973, Larry and Sergio took over the company and expanded, taking on more public works projects and more private work. They worked on their first ground-up building during that time. The brothers divided the work and kept going and growing. Larry's above in the offices the company moved into about a year ago.
Several years ago, Sergio's sons, Bob and Mike, joined the firm and later bought the company with a few key employees. Larry doesn't have a financial interest in the company at this point, though he remains CEO.
Despite the changes, Larry's approach to business, learned from his father, hasn't changed. There's a strong sense of community involvement and a desire to give back. Everyone in the business has a charity or local organization they're involved in. For Larry, the one closest to his heart is the San Francisco Boys and Girls Club.
He's also a devout baseball fan and part owner of the San Francisco Giants (he was showing his Giants pride, above, when he met then-President Bill Clinton in 2000). When the team was going to leave in 1992, the mayor approached Larry about how to save the team. Larry joined an investor group to keep them in San Francisco. He makes as many games as possible (around half, he estimates), bringing family, clients and friends.