If someone is about to work with Moss & Associates chairman and CEO Bob Moss for the first time, they should be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Within five minutes, asserts Fort Lauderdale-based developer Ed Smoker, a longtime client and friend, the 71-year-old Moss will be moving in one direction or another.
“He’s just a bundle of energy,” he says.
Indeed, it might be easy to assume that after working nearly a half-century in the construction business, with a stint leading Centex Construction, one of the nation’s largest firms, then building another construction management firm from the ground up, Moss might be content to devote the majority of his days to boating, fishing or simply staring at the ocean.
Instead, says another client, Andy Mitchell, Moss can regularly be found walking projects, taking notes and talking with field staff.
“He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” Mitchell says. “He’s amazingly active and conscientious about what’s going on.”
Son Chad Moss—who with brother, Scott, joined Bob in founding Moss & Associates in 2004, and now serves as executive vice president—cites a strong impetus for his father’s near-constant motion.
“He knows that there are always challenges in business, and if you don’t do something about them, they can become bigger problems,” he explains. “If something needs to be worked out, he wants to get on it.”
Active is but one of many adjectives friends and associates use to characterize Moss, recipient of ENR Southeast’s Legacy Award for his decades of service to the region’s construction industry. Others include loyal, honest, ethical and considerate as well as commitment, confidence and vision.
“Bob doesn’t waffle,” says Mitchell. “If you call about something and he decides it’s worth doing, he’s ready to go the next day.”
For his own part, Moss considers opportunities to build lasting, productive relationships for the good of the community among the most rewarding aspects of his career. He recalls formalizing a deal with south Florida entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga to build a $200-million arena for the Florida Panthers with a simple handshake.
“We were underway for a few months before there was an actual contract,” Moss recalls. “When you have that level of trust and understanding with someone, you can do business that way.”
Bruce Moldow, Moss & Associates chief legal and financial officer, notes that one of Bob Moss’ core values is to end a project better friends with a client than when the job got started.
“He makes the industry better because he wants everyone to have that same kind of relationship,” Moldow says.
A Real Charlotte Start-Up
Moss traces his interest in construction to his youth in Charlotte, where his father owned a small business that specialized in house add-ons and renovations. Eager to tag along during summers, the teenaged Moss was initially put in charge of keeping the jobsite clean and organizing tools. He eventually graduated to hanging doors and installing wood flooring.
“I enjoyed learning to be a craftsman,” Moss recalls.
His home-grown construction education ended abruptly at age 16, with the unexpected passing of his father. Though he had held several part-time jobs through high school, when he attended Central Piedmont College, he was determined to get back to a business he had grown to love. With a civil construction degree in hand, Moss landed a position with Charlotte’s J.A. Jones Construction and was assigned to help with a local shopping center project.
Before long, married and starting a family, Moss’ horizons broadened in a big way, as J.A. Jones offered him the opportunity to lead an assignment in Puerto Rico. That assignment would eventually lead to others, and the Moss family would be on the move for the next several years, with Bob overseeing long-term projects as far west as Hanford, Wash.
A chance meeting with a former colleague turned into a leadership role at Rogers Construction in Nashville—the firm was subsequently acquired by Dallas-based Centex in 1986. Moss was then offered the opportunity to run another Centex holding, Florida-based Rooney Construction.
“I’m 39 years old and a CEO,” Moss recalls with a laugh. “But I loved Florida and jumped at the chance.”
Over the next 14 years, Centex Rooney played key roles in high-profile projects across the peninsula, including building 10 Walt Disney World resorts totaling 22,000 rooms. Centex management soon began encouraging Moss to apply his leadership skills company-wide. He agreed in 2000, stipulating that he be able to remain based in Florida and be permitted to fly privately to reach Centex’s far-flung jobsites.
The industry’s national stage was a natural fit for Moss. He states that Centex’s annual revenue grew to nearly $2 billion, and the firm was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s most admired companies.
Moss left Centex in 2003, intending to take some time off to build a home in the North Carolina mountains. But he wasn’t sidelined for long. The following year, he was back at work with Scott and Chad, themselves former Centex employees, getting Moss & Associates off the ground.
Moss says that while he wanted to help create a secure future for his sons, it was up to them to dictate the company’s structure. A fundamental principal, says Chad Moss, was to have a “family business” culture mirroring his father’s long-standing values.
“It’s been a conscious effort that’s become subconscious,” Chad says of an effort recognized in 2017 with a ranking among Fortune magazine’s Best Small and Medium Workplaces, part of the publication’s Best Places to Work program. “The way you treat people is a big part of it. Make them feel welcome and get involved with their personal ambitions and contributions.”
Up and Away
Beginning with its first project, the Himmarshee Landing mixed-use complex in Fort Lauderdale, Moss & Associates has grown in size, scope and geography. Now simply known as Moss, with 10 offices and more than 600 employees, the firm ranks 71st on ENR’s most recent Top 400 Contractors list, with roughly $1.1 billion in 2017 revenue.
Moss’s lengthy list of high-profile South Florida projects includes Marlins Park and Mint condominium in Miami; Florida International University’s Wellness and Recreation Center; and Brightline/Virgin Trains USA’s Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations.
Moss has also been a stalwart of community and charitable service. In 2017, the Moss Foundation announced a $10-million gift to FIU, Chad’s alma mater, for the Moss School of Construction Infrastructure and Sustainability. Beneficiaries of the contractor’s 501(c)(3) foundation also include HANDY (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth), United Way, March of Dimes, Give Kids the World, Wounded Warrior Outdoors and Operation Lift Hope.
Perhaps what truly sets Bob Moss apart, say those who know him, is that his attention to detail is not limited to the project.
For example, the 171-unit Auberge Beach Resort and Spa has risen on the site of Ireland’s Inn, a Fort Lauderdale landmark opened in the mid-1960s by Jack Ireland, who died earlier this year. Mitchell, Ireland’s son-in-law and a partner in the Auberge development team, recalls how Moss went the extra mile to ensure that no milestone was celebrated without Ireland’s involvement, from the hotel’s 2015 demolition to topping out the distinctively curved towers.
“Bob adds a granular nature to the relationship,” Mitchell says.
Smoker says that while others may talk about “quality time,” Moss is more focused on “quantity time.”
“He’ll give you as much as you need, or wants to give, because he enjoys it,” he says.
Moss asserts that he’s simply following the same example set by his father all those summers ago in western North Carolina, where he and his wife still go when Florida’s summertime heat gets a bit too much even for a longtime Sunshine State transplant.
“In this industry, if you approach people with the right attitude and show you’re trying to learn, they’re anxious to teach you and help you succeed,” he says. “I love seeing young professionals at work and feel privileged to see what my sons are doing with the company, and contributing where I can. It’s a great joy.”