Diversifying for Success

D&D Building

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D&D Building started as a building maintenance company in 1968; it was launched by two high school friends, and it gradually grew into doing more commercial work. Today, the company has around 170 employees in four facilities totaling just less than 100,000 square feet. It is primarily a general contractor that does carpentry with specialized divisions that provide separate services.
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D&D Building’s millwork division creates custom commercial millwork using computer numerical control (CNC) machines in a 50,000 square foot facility with twenty-five employees. It specializes in building cabinets, desks, solid surface countertops, and custom milled units. The company is made up of master and journeyman cabinet makers and is a member of the Architectural Woodworking Institute.

D&D also has a commercial flooring division that supplies and installs a wide variety of materials including sheet goods, carpet, vinyl composition tile, sport flooring, porcelain, ceramic, granite, and wood. The flooring division handles flooring jobs of all sizes from minor repairs to flooring large-scale facilities. It does everything from first-time flooring in a new facility, to pulling up old floors and replacing them.

A third division of D&D Building is their metal works division that fabricates steel railings, custom assemblies, and miscellaneous metalwork. This division provides tig, mig, and arc welding services, and has a mobile welding truck that can travel to work in the field. This division most commonly provides miscellaneous metal packages for commercial construction projects.

Another division of D&D Building is their commercial specialty product division. This division handles commercial specialties including cubicle curtains and tracks, floor grills, fire extinguisher cabinets, lockers, toilet compartments, visual displays, window treatments, and much more. This division represents 45 manufacturers carrying around 20 different lines of specialty products.

Another division of D&D Building is their hydraulic repair division. This division’s function is to repair and rebuild hydraulic cylinders. The company does retrofitting, milling, honing, welding and large gap lathe work, all in the interest of prolonging the life of expensive hydraulic equipment for government, construction, landscaping, and many more sectors.

The last division is a commercial openings operation that sells and installs windows, doors, frames and related hardware.

Having diversified the company into separate business units gives D&D the flexibility to serve all of a projects needs in-house with less overhead and more transparency than many of its competitors. The result is a more cost-effective operation with finer control and higher quality results for the client. Through this model, D&D has built a reputation and an impressive portfolio of work in its region.

Respect and integrity are keystones to the culture of D&D Building. The success of the company is in large part a result of the workforce’s teamwork. “We want it to be like a family. People who work together go on vacations together,” says Scott Gibson, president of D&D. “We can train them to do the tasks we need but we’re looking for positive people, we look at that very seriously.”

The company understands the value in maintaining a stable team and it does this by encouraging an environment in which people are happy working. Activities like birthdays and holiday parties are commonplace. The company has been known to couple training with recreational outings to make these into enjoyable experiences. For example, the company has conducted safety training on the bus ride to and from outdoor recreation retailer Cabela’s, which is a favorite of many D&D employees.

“We need to certify people for certain things, but we try to make it fun rather than just putting them in a room and talking to them for four hours to sign a piece of paper,” says Gibson. It is this sort of commitment to its people that has allowed the D&D leadership to make it a fulfilling career destination for so many workers.

The company plans to expand this year by opening a new facility in Traverse City, Michigan. Through this new site, the company will be able to reach throughout the northern range of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The company is committed to growth and continues to expand.

D&D has worked on impressive projects including some work last year at the Michigan State University Research Center, a 160,000-square-foot multi-story research facility in downtown Grand Rapids. The company also does a lot of work for large retail grocers throughout the United States. These large projects are a great indication of the level of trust the region has placed in D&D and its capacity to deliver high-quality work on difficult jobs.

In the past D&D has worked on large scale commercial projects across the United States, working in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and everywhere in between.

Taking care of the well-being of its employees and their families is important to the leadership at D&D Building. The company makes an effort to treat workers like more than just employees. “We want our employees to feel like they’re working next to a brother or sister; you watch out for them and take care of them and make sure they don’t get hurt,” says Gibson. “We try to make it so that people aren’t dreading work on Sunday evening, but are anxious to get back and see the people they work with and have that kind of relationship.”

One of the major challenges in the construction industry is keeping a balanced workflow. When a team of workers complete a construction project, it is important for the company to have a new project lined up for them to go to. D&D’s reputation for quality work keeps the project requests coming in, enabling the company to avoid downtime and keep its employees working steadily.

Another significant challenge in the industry is a lack of available manpower. Fewer people are entering the construction field as a result of the social push away from the trades. One of the ways that D&D is working to combat this difficulty is by keeping a happy and stable workforce to avoid employee turnover and holding onto good people once they have joined the team.

D&D sets itself apart from its competition by offering a wide range of services through divisions. Where other companies might out-source many of the necessary tasks and then mark up the fees provided by the third-party companies it brings onto the project, D&D handles those tasks in-house, and the numbers given by each division are presented to the client with no added fees.

This diversification aspect to the D&D model gives the company a competitive advantage in terms of cost, but according to Gibson, cost is only one piece of the larger puzzle. “Customers are looking for the best deal, but they’re not looking for the cheapest thing they can buy. They’re looking for the best value.” Since its employees have decades of experience in the field in the area of project management, estimation, or work on the ground, D&D has the needed expertise to deliver.

Currently, the company is working on several projects including a Hillside Church project, a restaurant, a project for a utility company, and many more. In a twelve month period, D&D will regularly complete around four thousand jobs of various sizes through all of the many company divisions.

The key to D&D Building’s success is its commitment to diversification. Diversifying the various tasks that the company can perform on a project for a client enables it to offer everything a project needs as a full-service commercial construction provider. D&D can help a client from the very beginning through working with architects, project management, and finally in bringing people onto the project that are qualified and will exceed the clients expectations all the way through to the finish.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 12, 2019, 9:57 PM EST