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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The essense of sustainable success

David Allen Company CEO and Chairman Robert Roberson (left) shows his company's offices in Raleigh to Bob Kruhm, publisher of Triangle/Triad Construction News and Charlotte Construction News.
Well, I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina, a little longer than planned. Air Canada cancelled the flight home because of bad weather in Toronto, so instead of being on a plane right now, I'm in a hotel room, blogging.
Somewhat rested, with a room service meal covered by the Amex Flight delay/cancellation insurance, I have a little time to think about the day's visit, especially our visit to the offices of David Allen Company, an incredibly successful marble, granite, terrazzo and tile contractor.
Chairman and CEO Robert Roberson showed me and publisher Bob Kruhm around the company's offices; an astounding demonstration of skill, workmanship, and creativity in stonework.
How, I asked, could this company be so successful -- thriving to become the leading contractor in its field in the southeast. "Because all our employees are 'owners' -- they think and act like they own the business, and they are also taking real ownership of the company," Roberson answered. (This direct quote, I hope, is an accurate paraphrase; I didn't record his words with a tape recorder.) Roberson noted that the company's founders and leaders know and understand the trade and specialized skills necessary for the business, but the up-and-coming employees and managers can do the work better than their predecessors.
There is more to the picture, of course. David Allen Company has taken the lead in community and business organizations, including the founding and support of the Carolinas chapter of the American Subcontractors Association.
The result is the company has outlasted virtually all of its competitors in its 80 years in business room.
Roberson's observations echo the ideals I'm hoping to achieve for our business, and those of Jack Stark. On the flight down -- and after I'm finished this blog entry -- I've been reading his The Great Game of Business -- outlining how he and his employees have been able to unlock the power and profitability ofo open-book management and employee participation/ownership.
I certainly do not purport to know all the answers to successful business practice, but it seems that if anyone wants to build a really great business, we should look at the companies who have succeeded in thriving, adapting, and progressing through generations, to lead their field. For that, I'm thankful to Bob Kruhm for making the introduction today; and for Robert Roberson to show me at least part of the way to success.


Sonny Lykos said...

Talk about timing! I've been an advocate for ESOPs for years. But what's timing is not only this column, but that I also received the new issue of Remodeling in todays' mail. And one of the extensive articles in entitled "Open Up."

I think you'll enjoy it, Mark:

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

Sonny, thanks for this reference. Indeed it is useful!