Looking Back and Forward After Thirty Years

By Carl V. Carney
President and CEO
Davie Construction Co.

Throughout 2023, there were many moments when I was humbled by the thought of reaching our 30th Anniversary. This significant milestone was not a personal achievement but required the unwavering support of many dedicated individuals. We experienced that last three decades of success through the hard work and dedication of current and past team members, their families, and our subcontractors. I benefited from the wisdom of consistently engaged partners like our banker, attorney, and accountant. All helped build the reputation that has earned us the loyalty of our valued clients. All share our commitment to improving the lives of those we work with and for and the communities we live and play in.

The Moments Within the Milestone
I experienced a powerfully emotional moment last August when I looked into the crowd, preparing to welcome everyone to our 30th Anniversary Celebration at Davie County Community Park. I saw the faces of those who had been by my side throughout this journey. I felt gratitude and nostalgia as memories flashed before me. I recognized all our team members and their families, several representing more than one generation. They are the past, present, and future of our company. I also had a moment of sadness as I imagined the faces of those no longer with us, silently acknowledging them for their contributions and knowing we wouldn’t be here without them.

I was so pleased that our extended family traveled to celebrate with us, sharing funny stories with Teddy and our children about the challenges of the early days. Many evenings, we’d pack the kids in the van with a movie playing in the back to keep them busy while we checked on jobs after hours. They grew up with respect for hard work because it was expected of them as soon as they were old enough to lend a hand. My late parents were there in spirit as Teddy reminded me how proud they would have been of us reaching this milestone.

Learning the Hard Way
While we celebrated this milestone joyfully, it was also a time to reflect on the obstacles. Initially, times were hard. After several years in the field, I came into my leadership position before taking on the roles of estimator, project manager, and anything else that needed to be done. Our management system is a patchwork quilt taken from other organizations, selected, and adapted to create a culture customized to our mission and business philosophy. We tried to treat our subcontractors and suppliers like we would like to be treated. We made it a point to pay our subs/suppliers on time. I was responsible for not only our Davie Construction Family but the families of all our steady partners on the many jobs. There were serious challenges along the way. We experienced some painful lessons learned early on: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I have been asked many times what it takes to make it to three decades in our business; my answer is simple: “Learn how to duck.” Early in my career, I took many direct punches, but over time, we learned how to avoid the sting of those punches. Eventually, you learn to duck and get out of the way. As difficult as those early days were, they provided an education that has proved to be invaluable.

Building a Winning Team
The construction industry has changed significantly over the past three decades. What was once a male-dominated community ruled by testosterone and rough attitudes has become kinder and gentler through the benefit of diversity. Construction professionals must be thoughtful and intentional in conducting themselves. It is a wonderful career path that provides extensive opportunities for those who prefer working outside to leather shoes on the carpet. There is such a sense of accomplishment in building something tangible and lasting that you can see, ouch, and experience others’ enjoyment in your hard work. We seek team members who share our principles and never compromise. As my father-in-law told me many years ago you build your reputation every day based on your integrity and your word. It’s never one instance, one job, one month, or one-quarter year; it’s a long-term body of work that has built the Davie Construction reputation, and our team must prioritize that approach.

I have always looked for competitive people who perhaps played team sports and have a passion for winning. Procrastination is unacceptable in this business. Our team members are proactive and take issues head-on. They must be coachable, accepting direction as opportunities to improve. Construction is a 24/7 business. We don’t watch the clock. The job ends once the punch list is complete. We can get a 98.5% on a project, but we’ll lose a customer during that close-out stage if we fail to finish strong. We are all judged on how we finish!

Maintaining Our Edge
In the early days, I consumed every management book and tape I could get my hands on. I still do, but now I’m listening to podcasts. Jack Welch, one of the most well-known and highly regarded national corporate leaders, was a profound influence. I follow his example of servant leadership, firmly based on ethical and caring behavior, prioritizing team members’ growth, well-being, and empowerment. My job is to create a culture that allows our employees to be successful while ensuring our customers get the best possible return on their investment in facilities.

We invest in our employees with continuing education, including participation in our industry’s most influential annual conference. We nurture promotion from within and offer many team-
building opportunities. We help create support systems so new hires can learn how to represent Davie Construction as relationship builders in professional social situations.

Caring for Our Community
We love our Triad community; we work here, and most of us also live here. We’ve been honored to complete many projects in the surrounding area. We’re committed to supporting our neighbors through the generous contribution of time, resources, and funding. This Christmas, we celebrated our fifth year of collecting Toys for Tots, and thanks to the initiative of one of our team members, we also hosted a gift drive for the Children’s Home. We sponsor activities supporting arts, sports, philanthropic, civic, school, and church organizations. We generate donations to a scholarship fund that honors my mother, a former schoolteacher in South Carolina. We founded the Davie Construction Scholarship Fund to provide financial aid to the children of team members whose applications present them as exceptional. Cassidy Nichols won this year, which was particularly meaningful as her father, Tony, a beloved team member, passed away shortly after she received the scholarship.

Cherishing Our Clients
During our early days, I was the hunter and gatherer for Davie Construction. We earned our reputation and our growing list of clients by the quality of our work and the reliability of our word. We always do our best. We “Hang the Light” to solve problems. We “Sharpen the Saw” to consistently improve our processes and decrease waste, specifically regarding our clients’ time and resources. We are always willing to find more and better ways to serve our clients. When they expand into new regions, so do we. Qualified as a General Contractor in 18 states, we make it convenient for clients across the Southeast to work with us. We have hired field superintendents who live in the remote regions we serve. Meeting our client’s needs has yielded a high percentage of repeat clients. There is no higher form of appreciation to us than to become the builder of choice for our regional clients.

I was adamant about building our reputation across many industries from the start. I knew over the years that economic trends would force the contraction of specific sectors. I wanted enough work to honor my commitment to my team and sustain manageable growth. As a result, we specialize in a wide range of areas, including health care (senior living, medical, dental, veterinary), financial services, multi-family, higher education, retail, and industrial. While consumer behavior and work habits have brought a decrease in retail and office buildings, we’re ready when they come back!

The Future’s So Bright
I look to the next thirty years with excitement and optimism. We won’t change our commitment to providing our clients with the highest level of service, exceeding their expectations, and earning their business for the next job and the next. We won’t change the type of people we select to join our team. We encourage honest, hardworking professionals who value their coworkers and uphold our reputation in every client engagement. We won’t change our commitment to our community, expanding our support to new areas where our contracts take us. We will continue to invest in technology, processes, and systems to benefit our clients and team.

We look forward to celebrating the next milestone that awaits us!