President/CEO of Layton Construction Company
David Layton is the President and CEO of Layton Construction Company, a business started by his father in 1953 in which he took over in 2004. Layton ranks as #44 on ENR's Top 400 Contractor's List.
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David graduated from Brigham Young University and has attended the OPM Program at Harvard Business School. In our conversation today, we talk about building for the Winter Olympics, creating trust with clients, wake boarding on Lake Powell, and the uses of drone technology for construction.
Eric: Matt said you're a big wakeboarder. Is that right?
Dave: We've had to dial that back a little bit. Now it's more wake surfing.
Matt: Yeah. It's a good way to spend time with family. That's for sure. You have like all the downtime in between.
Dave: It was what we did. You know, you put the family in the boat. Even if you aren't getting along, there's nowhere to go. I mean, you go to front of the boat, but it was really good for us. You know, we took a lot of friends with us and other family, and really good memories. And I'm sure you guys are doing the same thing. It's a good sport.
Eric: Yeah. We just got over the hump this summer, where all the kids just wanna be on the boat and take their turn and wakeboard. You know, in the past, the younger ones weren't quite old enough, so we would still kind of push them a little bit to get in the water. But now we kind of hit that point where everybody enjoys it. We go on the boat for a couple hours, and people just rotate and take turns. So, makes it a lot more enjoyable than having to constantly be teaching somebody.
Dave: Yeah. The debate we ended up in is who would get the good clean water. And my wife would say the guys always got the good water, and the girls were left with the [inaudible 00:01:12]. So, you know, always family tension to some level, you know.
Matt: It's hard to spread it out evenly, you know. I'm gonna take advantage of that clean water.
Dave: Well, yeah, and me driving the boat all day long. It's like, "Hey, finally, I get out. I got good water." There was a lot of one more, one more, one more. It's like I kind of got a bad reputation with my kids, like, "Dad's the one more guy."
Eric: The one more.
Matt: That's great.
Eric: Well, that's one of the nice things about wake surfing, is the water's not as critical, you know, to have perfectly smooth water out there because you're so close to the boat.
Dave: Agreed. Yeah. You could go pretty much any time of day, unless it's super windy, and then doesn't affect the wake surfing, it's just everybody in the boats getting drenched with the splash.
Eric: All right.
Matt: Yeah. Well, cool. Part of the company started with your father. Can you tell us a little bit how your father started Layton?
Dave: Yeah. My father was captain in the military during World War II, was injured and came home and was given a medical disability. And his doctor told him, "You need to take it easy. Live an easy life, and you may survive for a few years." And that just wasn't the way dad was. He took a desk job with the Bureau of Reclamation. He had a civil engineering background, and the desk job was just eating him up. And he came home one day, told mom he was going to quit and start a construction business. And she gasped a little bit because young family, no money, his, you know, medical history and whatnot.
My dad was a worker, and he was a tough guy. From there, he just took off. He met some men that were building back in the days' finance offices and built 17 of these projects in the Intermountain region for them. That's really what got him going. They were highly profitable, thank goodness, capitalized the business. And then it took off from there.
Matt: So you think he was just wired to not work for other people and needed to work for himself, or he was just wanting to accomplish something that he could more wrap his arms around?
Dave: He was born in '17, so he was a teenager through the depression, and he had just a huge work ethic. He was the youngest child of 10. So in those days, everybody was working to support the family. He also was a fairly good athlete. Played college basketball for a couple of years, and, you know, I think through life just developed leadership skills, certainly worked for him in the military as a captain of his men. He had huge respect from these men, many of whom I met through reunions over the years. They just loved my dad, and so he had that. He had that work ethic and the ability to lead. You know, that's a pretty good combination in construction. So, I think he picked a great career.
Matt: How did you get started at Layton then?
Dave: I'm the youngest of 10. So mom and dad had a big family. From my earliest memory, it was always stated that the boys would take over the construction business. And so dad started in '53. I was born in '61. So the business was very up and running by the time I kind of was getting into elementary school, middle school, where I kind of knew what was going on. I had more of an awareness. I mean, I tell people we were just bred for this business. Everything we did pretty much revolved around hard work and construction. I had seven sisters, which we can maybe talk more about the split in the family, three boys, seven sisters.
Dave: We would go out on Saturdays and clean up job sites. I was probably seven or eight years old. I'm pushing around a wheelbarrow and a shovel and a broom and working with my sisters, picking stuff up. It's kind of just what we did. It was the family dynamic.
Matt: It was your dad's wish to have you actively involved in it, or did he just provide opportunities for you?
Dave: I think it was more than a wish. I think it was the architecture. He was gonna get it going, and it was the family business. I mean, you need to go back to that era. The family business supported the family. Everything was done by and large for the family to have stability, put food on the table. This is just what our family did. It was no different than the family farm or maybe the shopkeeper. It was the career my dad chose, and as a result, we were kind of in there.
And I don't know that my brothers or I really even thought about doing anything different, although at one point, there's a middle brother who really was never involved in the business. He was with us for about a year, and then he decided he liked engineering to a far greater degree. So he started a structural engineering practice. Everything in the family revolved around the family business. And you know what? Today, it's kind of still that same way. The business and our personal life is so intermingled, it's inseparable. You can't parcel it out. It all runs together.
Matt: Do you ever remember having elements of frustration with that setup as a kid?
Dave: Well, I mean, yeah, it's hard work. You're getting up early. You're outside. It's either scorching hot or freezing cold. My dad definitely taught us to work. He'd be at my bedside at 7 a.m., getting me and my brothers up to go work in our family garden. We had a two and a half-acre vegetable garden that fed the whole neighborhood plus the family. I mean, that's a lot of vegetable, guys.
He would plant couple of 100 tomato plants. We had a quarter acre of corn, potatoes, carrots, beans, peas. I mean, I could go on and on. But if we weren't at the job site, we were in the vegetable garden. It's just so ingrained in our upbringing that I don't think we could escape it. Like, I didn't even think about doing anything differently. And, hey, in the end, it's been a great career, although I do wonder at times if he would have chosen an easier business, how much better things might have been.
Matt: Yeah. So, very much ingrained in your childhood, working all the time, and on the job sites, did you ever have a story of early life job site learning experience?
Dave: I had dozens of them. I remember the first time I got hit on the head while wearing my hard hat back then. This is the '70s. Who wore hard hats in the '70s? I had a brick hit me in the head, knocked me over. Luckily, I had my hard hat on, huge lesson for me as a young teenager, because I don't know what would have happened. It probably would have been pretty severe. A lot of great memories of just learning the trade from the ground up, you know.
And I started out as a laborer, and then I got some carpentry experience. So valuable in terms of supporting my career these days, because I can go to a job site now, and I often hear after I've left the guys have been talking. They're like, "How does Dave know about that stuff?" And they're like, "Dude, he worked as a kid. He has done almost every job in this company. He worked as a kid on these job sites for years. He did all this work. Of course, he knows this stuff."
So, I really give a lot of credit to my father for teaching me and my brothers this business from the ground up. It's been very valuable for me. You know, I think in terms of others, your listeners, whatever experience you can get at the job site is a huge plus in your career, because you need that element to go with an education I think to build a full career.
Matt: Any particular job site that...job on the job site that you liked as a high schooler, early college, or were you just kind of like, "Teach it to me all. I wanna get this broad education and then learn management"?
Dave: Well, I kind of floated around. So, if there were needs on certain job sites, they'd say, "Well, you know, David, you're gonna go work here for two weeks, three weeks." I remember one summer I was asked to go work on a project that was about 40 miles away. So, I'd get up at 5:00 a.m. My mom would drive me to our superintendent's home, and I'd jump in the back of his truck and ride to the job site. So, as a teenager, I'm like, "Hey, I could get a little extra sleep." So after a few days, I grabbed my bedroll and a foam pad, and I threw it in the back of the truck, and so I slept to the job site. And hey, after work, may as well catch some more sleep. So I slept all the way home. It was pretty good. Because of kind of the roving nature of the needs, I got exposed to a lot of different aspects of carpentry, and primarily concrete formwork, even some rebar installation, some welding, really, really good broad experience that, you know, never was really steady at any point in my career. I just moved around to do what needed to be done.
Matt: What did that superintendent say about you sleeping in the back of the truck?
Dave: He thought it was a good idea, actually, because I got a couple extra hours of sleep. Aren't we all sleep-deprived?
Dave: And I mean, these days, I don't even think you can ride in the back of a truck, but back then, it was really commonplace. I mean, you couldn't see me, I'm laying down. I'm glad he never got in a crash because it might have been a tragedy in the making, but it worked out pretty good. You know, I enjoyed the extra sleep.
Eric: So, what do you think was in your dad, or what caused in your dad to instill this type of work ethic in his kids? Do you think it was growing up in the depression? Was it experiences he had in the military? What do you think it was that really drove him to push you guys?
Dave: I definitely think it was the way he was raised, and I think the military certainly played a role in that. But I also think it was just the era that was going on in our country. I mean, things were just done certain ways. My dad was very much a handshake guy. That's how he got that early work. He used the phrase, you know, "Our word is our bond." In the '50s and '60s to be a bondable contractor, I think, was a pretty big deal. But he'd say, "Our word is our bond." Even though he was bondable, if he said something, he did it. Say what you do, do what you say. This is the way we were raised. But I think a lot of this was generational. Unfortunately, you know, I wasn't as skilled in raising my family as my dad was. And I think part of it is just a generational thing. I don't think I could ever get my kids to go clean up a job site, that's for sure. Just getting them to clean up their room was enough of a struggle.
Matt: In your company history on your company profile online, you list 12 pieces of advice that your dad gave for running the company. One of the top ones is, "Only contract and work for those that pay." I mean, that seems like obvious and a simple piece of advice. But why do you think that's such a big deal in the construction industry?
Dave: Honestly, I think, unfortunately, it's far too common, whether it's between the client and the general contractor, or even the general contractor and the subcontractor and suppliers. I think it's all too common that there are payment issues. By and large, the only legal issues we've really had in my recollection of this company involved lack of payment and liens. And for my dad, he said, "Look, I hate to earn my money twice." You know, you earn it at the job site, and then you have to go earn it again to collect. So, his advice is, "You need to work for those who will pay you." And that means they have a capacity to pay, but it also means they have values and character where they will pay you.
To this day, we really have to size up a client the opportunity in terms of, "Will we collect that final payment?" Because, hey, guys, in our industry, those last two checks, that's the bottom line. And if you don't get them, or you get cut short, boom, right off the bottom line. So, it's a big part of success because, if you're not making a fair profit, you just can't keep going forward. The margins are way too thin in our industry, and you gotta have those nickels and dimes to keep the business going.
Eric: Yeah. Do you have any major projects over your career where you have walked away from what looked like a phenomenal opportunity because they didn't have the ability to pay or you questioned their ability to pay?
Dave: Yeah. That's happened, primarily as it relates to, not necessarily lender issues, but we actually just turned down a student housing project where the capital partners weren't able to pull together the equity. And after six or eight months of pre-construction work, it seemed pretty clear they weren't pulling it together, and so we just said, "Hey, we're gonna move on." And it's kind of a mutual thing when you're kind of pressing them, "How's that coming together? We gotta get started." I mean, student housing needs to start at the right time and needs to finish at the right time. You can't open the student housing in January.
Eric: Yeah. Right.
Dave: We started to run late on the start date, we started pressing. It was kind of just one of these things, "Hey, we're gonna go another way. You guys go another way. Good luck." I mean, no hard feelings. It's just part of the business. I know the guys are still my friends, but we're just gonna go do other things. That's okay.
Matt: Yeah. So, your father gave you these like 12 pieces of advice, but that was as he was leaving the company. So he'd started it, he had raised his family in this way of integrated you guys in the company. And then can you talk a little bit about how that transition happened and what the plan was all along, and then how the plan came to fruition?
Dave: As I said earlier, all the way through our upbringing, it was kids are gonna take over the business, which meant the boys. We got into the late '70s, and my brother was made the president. He was in his 20s, maybe late 20s. I mean, it's a little fuzzy for me because I'm a teenager back then. You know, he would say, "The day after becoming president was no different than the day before." You know, dad was still around. It was still his business, and yet, dad knew that he needed to start to transition the leadership of the company. So that's why he got my brother in. There's always two transitions, leadership and ownership. And so he got my brother in that leadership capacity. And then in the mid-80s, he decided he wanted to transition the ownership.
Another aspect that's kind of interesting is that I think generationally, that era didn't like to pay taxes. Like, you have to pay taxes but...and maybe today we still don't like to pay taxes. Dad began moving some of the ownership to the children, including my sisters, early in the founding of the company. And it was all for tax planning. He wanted that appreciation in wealth to accumulate at the next generation before it had accumulated at his generation, a pretty bold move, but it ended up working. So, in the '80s, my sisters were getting married. They were selling their shares. They weren't gonna be involved in the company. You had to be involved to have ownership. So, my brothers and I had a pretty good number of shares. And it was in the mid-80s where he said he just wanted to finish it off.
So, we put together a transition that took five years and basically liquidated his position. He took out the working capital, and we had to replace that over a five-year period, which meant we had to grow, no way to replace working capital staying the same size, you know, delivering the same kind of profitability. So, that was kind of an unspoken growth mandate, but we knocked it out. I was a college kid at the time and when I heard the millions of dollars we were gonna have to pay him, I'm like, "Yeah. I mean, right. There's no way. There's no way this is gonna happen." Thankful to my brother and his leadership to make that happen, because I was pretty much still in school.
Matt: How much older is your brother than you?
Dave: Almost 17 years.
Matt: Oh, wow. Okay.
Dave: So, he's number three in the family. I'm number 10. And so it's almost generational. It kind of feels like the third-generation business, although technically, it's still second-generation.
Matt: Do you remember watching your brother go through some of that stuff as he was early in his career and just seeing the stress or the management challenges that came along with the job and wondering if you were wanting to do that or not?
Dave: It was stressful. We had family dinner. Again, this is old-school family dynamics, old-school business. We sat down 6:30 every night and had family dinner, and dad would talk about the challenges and issues at the job site. But I can honestly say, I never really thought I would do anything different. Even though I knew this was hard, it was just so much a part of us, you know.
My brother had his tough times, particularly, as dad drifted away, my brother felt that mantle of leadership settling in, and my brother is very capable. He's smart. He's a good leader. He did very well. I'm sure there were times when he wished my dad was around to help. And through my transition, I felt the same way. There were times I'm like, "Man, I wish Alan was here to...my brother, to take care of this because I'm not sure I'm ready to do it or able to do it." But he wasn't there, so you just have to get in and start doing what you think is best, what you've been trained for, and in the end, you know, it pretty much all worked out.
Matt: So you're in college. You have the story...you're in college and you're also a foreman on a job site there. That's on-campus I assume?
Dave: I was going to BYU getting a civil engineering degree. We had a small project on campus. It was a combustion laboratory for the College of Engineering, and they needed like assistant superintendent foreman level. And so my brother said, "Hey, why don't you just...why don't you just work this part-time? It'll give you really good experience."
We had to build basically a concrete shaft in the middle of a metal building, and then fit it out with testing equipment. So a lot of elements of a whole project, although this was just a six-month job. So, it was nice work. It was right there on campus, and I could take a few classes and then go over and work for four, five hours then go catch another class and then finish up the day, just good experience.
My dad used to say we're the sum total of our experiences. So, I mean, I just got a lot of game time that really got me exposed to the industry. I remember we had to bore underneath the foundation of this building to get sewer out of the building. And I remember those guys who came in to do the boring. And I mean, these were the crudest, rudest construction workers. And I mean, I'm hearing a language I've never heard in my life. I didn't even really talk to anybody about it. I'm just like, "Wow, these guys are rough." So, I got that experience, too. I got some vocabulary that I've never used, but, you know, you know there's a vernacular in construction. Certain words just have certain meaning.
Eric: How did knowing you were gonna go into the family business frame your college experience?
Dave: Man, it brought a lot of focus. So, I played basketball in high school for three years, and, you know, we didn't have a three-point line. If we'd have a three-point line, then I maybe could've kept going, but...I was the guy hanging out on the perimeter, right? So, because I knew where I was headed, it was easy for me to say, "My basketball career is done," like I've been playing basketball since I was five years old. "It's done. I'm moving on. I'm getting an engineering degree. I'm going into the business." So when I go to college, I know where I'm headed, I know the courses I need to take, highly-efficient. It gave me a lot of focus. That was helpful because, unfortunately, these days, and my own children are examples of this, they head off to the University, and it's like, "What do you wanna study?" And it's like, "Well, I don't know. I'm not sure." I knew what I was studying, and so I got in there and knocked it out.
Matt: That's interesting. Anything that was particularly helpful in college that you didn't... that you were surprised by, or did you had learned so much, you know, in your own experience that college seemed to be like repeat?
Dave: No, it was...my engineering degree was really different than my job site experience, a little bit of overlap with surveying. You know, as I'm in structural design, and they're talking about, you know, reinforcing and stirrups and shear heads. I mean, I knew this stuff because I'd been on the job site where the kids that didn't have any construction experience are like, "Well, what's a stirrup?"
Well, it's a band that goes around the rebar to hold it together because you're trying to contain that core, say in a column or a beam. So I had that. That was pretty valuable. It was kind of an interesting era because this is mid-'80s, and we're right in the transition to the PC. Any kind of computer work we were doing was on a VAC server, and we had to do it on campus. Nobody had computers, although when the PC came out and became, you know, available to the general public, I actually ended up buying one.
I bought a PC because I said, "I don't know what this thing does, but I can do a lot of my stuff at home, like I can Word process and spreadsheet at home, and I need these skills." So, I really got a good head start on the PC era because I just bought one so I could do my work at home instead of being in the lab on campus. There was a moment in time where I maybe could have gone into programming because I took a Fortran class. Fortran was an old engineering programming language. I don't know if you've even heard of it.
Eric: [crosstalk 00:24:13] I have no idea what Fortran is.
Matt: I see it on resumes sometimes, and I'm always like, "Oh, okay, that person's from that era."
Dave: Exactly. I took this Fortran programming class, and I finished number one. Like it totally made sense to me. And I really loved being able to program, and yet, I don't think it ever really occurred to me to depart and take more of a programming path. It wasn't a career. It was just like a basic task. I didn't see the future at all, even though I had great skills. That's kind of a fun memory from college where maybe my career could have gone another way, because I was really good at Fortran.
Matt: So you're going to college, and you're like, "I'm gonna enter the family business." Your brother is managing the business at this time, and then you get done with college. And do you guys have a conversation about like what the plan is, or is it just kind of like, "Here, go do this project"?
Dave: There wasn't a lot of discussion of the plan, other than, "As soon as you graduate, we gotta get you on some jobs in the field." I'm like, okay. I mean, I'd been in the field throughout my career thus far. So, yeah, I wanted to be in the field. That's where the action is. I don't remember the specific conversation, but I know what happened. Once I graduated, I got assigned. We were building a maximum-security prison in the Nevada desert, and I got assigned straight away to go out there and primarily use my surveying skills. I graduated in April of '88, and so the spring thaw was going on out there, and they needed to get a bunch of the site improvements taken care of. So they're like, "Hey, we need your surveying skills. Go out there."
So I worked on the sewer lagoons, the roads, parking lots. I got that knocked out straight out of school. A little bit of a weird deal because I got out of school, I bought a house, and my wife and daughter were living here in Salt Lake City, but I was traveling out to the job Sunday night to Friday night. That was a little bit of a bummer, you know. You got a new house, you got a little family thing going, and I'm immediately out of town. I've been talking to some of my guys who are struggling with the out of town deal to say, "Look, I've done this, and I know how hard it is." Ultimately, when it got to winter, we moved the family out. I didn't wanna make that drive during the winter, and eight months had gone by. It was time to just get them with me.
Eric: What are some of the things you tell guys that are struggling with the traveling thing?
Dave: I start by listening, "How's it going? What's working? What's not working? I can associate with it because I've done it." I don't necessarily pretend to know their whole circumstance, but by listening, you can get a lot of insight into where they're at, where the family's at. Maybe there are certain issues that we can help with. Try to put ourselves in their situation and see if we can come up with some kind of a modification. And in some cases, we can. In some cases, it's like, "Look, I understand. We'll figure out something to get you back to where you need to be. We need a little time to do that, but we understand, you know, you gotta go back home." So, you just have to work through it. Every situation's unique, although I will say this.
I've had such great experiences with employees who have moved out of town, and it's been almost like life-changing for them. Well, we had a single father with two teenage children. We needed him to move into the middle of Nebraska to do a project. And there's always a sense of loyalty. That's one thing that's really a great piece of character in our business, is there's just a lot of loyalty between us and our employees. And it's like, "Dave, I'll go. You know, I'll take the kids. I'll go out there." So, I went out to see Scott after he'd been out a few months. I mean, same thing, I just asked questions, "How's it going? How are your kids doing? Where are you living?" And he shocked me because he's like, "Dave, you will not believe how great this is." Like, "Wow, come on, what's going on?"
His children played the trombone and the trumpet, and the town that they had moved into had one of the foremost marching bands in the country. So when the bandleader found these kids had moved into town and played instruments, like they were superstars.
Eric: That's awesome.
Dave: They recruited those kids immediately, and they became part of this band. And I can tell you, they never had that experience at home. They got elevated to a level that was so meaningful for them. And as you can imagine, when that project finished, we had to tell them they were moving. That was more hard than getting them to go out there. I think they were out there for two school years. So we let him finish out, I think it was like four or five months. We had to kind of just keep him in place so they could finish. That was okay. He'd sacrificed, they'd sacrifice to go out there. So for us to do that on the back end, leave him there through the school year was just fine. But I mean, moving can be tough, but it can also be a great experience.
I've got another story. We moved a family to California, and the son was a middle linebacker on his high school football team. He's going into his senior season. He had two brothers who had played collegiately. And he's like, "Oh, man, dad, I don't know. I don't know that I wanna do this. Like, this is my senior year. This is where it all comes together." And our construction manager said, "Well, let's do this. Let's go down." We were building a project in San Clemente in California. He said, "Let's go down. Let's check it out. Let's just go see what it's all about, and if it doesn't work, got it. You can live with one of your buddies, and we'll just make it work that way."
So, they go down. They find the coach. They talk to the head coach, and he's like, "I need a middle linebacker." Now, he doesn't even know the skills this kid has, but he's like, "I need a middle linebacker," San Clemente high school, a very good high school program. A lot of major colleges recruit from there. So as it ends up, the kid fits in perfectly and gets recruited by Boise State. And if he would have stayed at home, he wouldn't have gotten that offer from Boise State because they don't recruit at the high school where he was gonna go. So, you know, it can be good. There's times it doesn't work, but I think between us and the employees, we really try to find a way to make this work and be successful.
Matt: So you moved your family out to Nevada for how long during that project?
Dave: I was out there about a year and a half. So, the family would have been with me about half that time. The only place we could find in the winter when we decided was this teeny apartment above the auto parts store, and the guy smokes cigars all day long. And all that smoke went up into our little apartment. I mean, my wife tried everything to keep that smoke out, but we just had to put up with it because there was nowhere else to go. So we laugh about that, now and again, the cigar smoke. Oh, my gosh, it was...
Matt: You have to throw some clothes and furniture out.
Dave: It was warm and dry, which is what we needed.
Matt: Do you have any other memories from that first job site or that first year...first two years out of school?
Dave: Yeah. I have lots of memories, because I went out as a surveyor, you know, doing work, and then as that wrapped up, they wanted to keep me on. And so we were starting to get the housing units going. They were masonry and concrete, and we were putting the roofs on through the summer. So the team asked me to stay out there and take over a couple of these housing units. And that was great experience because it gave me a role as a superintendent of my own couple of projects. And I'd never had that experience before.
So now I'm having to lead the workforce, organize the work, plan it, communicate it, follow-up, quality control, the whole thing, a great experience for me as a young kid. I had another kind of eye-opening experience. Unfortunately, one of my foremen, we caught him stealing power tools. Now, we're in the middle of Nevada, and you can imagine 1980, hard to recruit guys to go work out there. This guy actually had a little bit of a checkered background, it had some issues with the law. And we knew this through the interviewing process, but we were willing to give him a chance.
And he was actually a good guy. He had good skills, good leadership, good job site skills. But the way we figured it out is he'd tell me, "Hey, I need a hammer drill." I'm like, "Well, what's wrong with the one we've gotten?" He's like, "Well, the clutch isn't working right, so we need to get another one out here." And he just kept asking for tools, and eventually, we couldn't account for the tools. So, we confronted him, and he admitted he'd been taking them. So that was, you know, a job site experience that is valuable because my right-hand guy was taking advantage of us. Unfortunate, but hey, one of life's lessons.
Matt: How about some other memorable job site stories? Do you have any that really stick out that you like to tell people?
Dave: I was on a concrete crew doing a condo project. The rebar installers had doweled out of the wall too low, and it was my responsibility to go tell the Rod Busters that iron's too low. He told me in no uncertain terms that even the almighty wasn't gonna move that rebar. I said, "Well, yeah, it's gotta move. It's too low. It's not gonna be in the deck. It's like it's not moving to where it needs to be."
So, we had a stand down, but fortunately, I was right. And they had to go back in over the weekend, raise it all up. That was a good lesson because, you know, when you're in a confrontation, you need to be prepared. You need to know your facts. And if you're right, what it does is it builds respect. And he thought he was right, and I knew I was right. And of course, it had to be right, the location reinforcing, supercritical. I knew what I was talking about. I kept my calm. We proved it up to him, and he moved it. And that built respect. So, that was a really good lesson. You can't just do everything on the fly or off-the-cuff, because it can jump out and bite you.
What kind of stories from the job sites? We've had so many interesting things happen. We were building a montage hotel in Deer Valley, and this is a $300 or $400 million project off of Deer Valley up in the old mining country. So, on this site, we would find mine tunnels as we would grade the site. And we had a protocol to deal with it, but one particular day, track hoe operator was scraping and grading the slope and tore into another tunnel because that whole Park City area is old silver mining. And he noticed some debris, and as he raked through it, he thought, "I'm gonna go take a look at that." So, he pushes forward and rolls up on top of the debris, looking out of the cab, and what he sees kind of concerns him. So he jumps out of the cabin and literally goes and stands right over the top of a bunch of old sticks of dynamite.
Matt: Oh, my goodness.
Dave: And the guy was visibly shaking. I wasn't up there at the job site, but we shut the machine off. We started taking pictures and trying to find munitions experts. And we tried several experts around the country, showing them the photos, and they're like, "No, we're not interested in that."
Dave: I mean, we don't know what we have. We just know these are probably 100-year-old sticks of dynamite. There was a guy in town that's kind of a jack-of-all-trades. His name's Lou Lucido [SP]. If you got something tough to do, he's the type that can do it, so underpinning, dewatering, shoring, load transfer, just crazy stuff. We're like, "Okay. Call Lou, see if he's got any munitions expertise." He's like, "Yeah, for sure. I'm really deep into munitions, blasting all kinds of stuff. I'll come take a look at it."
Matt: He himself was.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this guy, he's an amazing guy. He can do it all. He really can. So he comes up to the job site, he looks at it for five minutes, and he says, "I'll take that out for a million dollars."
Matt: Oh, my goodness.
Dave: And our guys are like, "Whoa, Lou, come on." He's like, "No, that's what it's gonna be. Let me know if you wanna go forward." So we go to our client and client's like, "What do we got?" And we said, "We have nothing from anybody around the country. We have one proposal from a local guy. He'll do it for a million dollars." The client's like, "Like, how much is in there?" We're like, "We don't know." And to their credit, the client says, "Okay. Let's go," because the project was completely shut down."
Matt: Yeah. You really didn't have an option.
Dave: He came in. They used those little plastic shovels like you'd buy at Rite Aid or Walgreens, and dug the soil out. And then they would pick up the individual stick of dynamite and set it over in a vat of diesel fuel, which renders it inert. And for about four weeks, they dug through the...they found hundreds of sticks. And my recollection, somebody said what they found there was way more than the Oklahoma City bomb Timothy McVeigh set off. So, I mean, if that thing would have gone off, it would have been a huge, huge tragedy. So I did call my mom, and I said, "Mom, thanks for your prayers because they were answered." Yep, for sure, we were blessed.
Matt: How many guys did Lou have working with him to get that dynamite out there?
Dave: There was just a handful of guys. I mean, it was all...it was like an archeological dig, really, just a few guys there.
Matt: How are you sure that it was totally clean?
Dave: Well, we just had to keep digging until we found the extent of it. They found one stick that had a blasting cap in it, and the conclusion was the miner was done. So, he said he's cache a dynamite in there and tried to detonate it to walk away from the mine, and it didn't go off. So he just walked away anyway.
Matt: He wasn't gonna go back in there and check it.
Dave: Yeah. But I mean, 100 years later, soil collapse, vegetation, all of that just covered it up.
Matt: Do other building projects in that same area have similar concerns? Was this like a commonly known thing that you could find it up there?
Dave: Yeah. The tunnels are all through that Park City area. The dynamite, that's once in a lifetime, thank goodness. It's pretty common in Park City that you run into these tunnels.
Matt: Yeah. That's crazy. What's the largest project that you have completed in your career that stands out to you?
Dave: We just finished the tallest building in the history of the company in Honolulu, 41 story condo tower for Howard Hughes. So, large can be defined a lot of ways. We've been doing some distribution work for Amazon. Those are large buildings, two and a half million square feet, 12 months. We love a project like that, a lot of work to do and a short time to do it.
We've always had a track record for being able to take a tough project and knock it out in a short period of time. The Olympic Stadium, this is the football stadium at the University of Utah, was that same opportunity. The state was in a traditional process to design-bid-build the project, and it was falling through...the design phase, it was falling behind schedule. They were looking at a three-year build, and the budget was getting out of hand. So they asked for proposals, and we figured out a way to build the project in half the time, 18 months, most of which was built between football seasons.
So we could build the stadium box, which was outside the footprint of the existing stadium. We could start on that before the season ended. So we got our structure up, and we're rolling there. And then last game, we came in, took down the entire bowl, and rebuilt that in nine months.
Matt: Holy cow.
Dave: That was a great opportunity. My recollection is somebody on the selection committee told me we were the only guys that said we could do it. And, you know, what's cool is we did it. We did it.
Matt: That Olympic building, that year was kind of famously over budget. Is that right?
Dave: Which one?
Matt: 2002 Winter Olympics.
Dave: No, the Olympic Games as a whole came in under budget.
Matt: It came in under?
Dave: Oh, yeah, the state ended up with a legacy fund of about...I think short of 100 million.
Matt: Yeah. Maybe I'm recalling it poorly.
Dave: The controversy...
Matt: Yeah. What was the controversy?
Dave: ...in Salt Lake City was the process to get the games awarded to the city was...I mean, the process was what the process was and had been for decades. It just became known that the process was make friends with the IOC delegates, and they will choose your city. So, it's like, "Okay. If that's what we do, then we're gonna make friends." And we were pretty good at making friends, and then it all kind of came out, "Oh, we're not gonna do it that way anymore." So, you know, Salt Lake City was kind of the end of that era.
It didn't start here by any means, but it ended here. And so we kind of got tagged with that. And to this day, I think many in the Olympic movement would say we put on the best set of Winter Games imaginable. I mean, this is '02, so think what happened September of '01, September 11, and four months later, we have the world at our doorstep for the Olympics. And there had been tragedies. There was a huge tragedy in Munich. We did a great job in Salt Lake City. The volunteerism is huge. The venues are close. We look forward to having those games back here. That'd be another great opportunity.
Matt: Going back to some of the chronological story of your career. So you moved back to the home office in Salt Lake City. Can you walk us through how that went about?
Dave: Yeah. That was a shocker. So, I'm out in Nevada. My brother calls me. He says, "You need to come in for good." I'm like, "Well, I'm not done with the housing unit." He's like, "Well, we need you back here. You're gonna take over estimating." I'm like, "Estimating?" He's like, "Yeah. I'm tired of doing it." I mean, we had some staff, but he pretty much...I mean, you'd call him the chief estimator, even though he's the president and CEO. He was running real close to the estimating process. It's how we won our work in those days. He's like, "I gotta get you into this." I'm like, "Okay. Great. I'll move out of this junky place I'm living in, get rid of the cigar smoke, and go over to the office. That sounds pretty good." I bolted and got into estimating. I mean, that was...for me, that was a fascinating opportunity because it's so filled with strategy. So these are the days of, you know, the hard bid, the design-bid-build project delivery model.
You know, you couldn't win just putting together a set of low sub bids. You had to have a lot of strategy. I really took to that. Because of my computer skills, I got in there. And we had a couple of older guys and a couple of younger guys, and they're taking everything off with a Minerva, which is a little Swiss-made wheel. You literally roll it on the plans, and it counts on a scale, eight-inch, quarter inch. It counts in length. So we're using the Minerva. We're using rulers. And eventually, I'm like, "This is crazy." Then we'd write the numbers down on a pad of paper. We'd use a 10 key to total it all up. This is insane.
So I got us into digitizers and computer software. Timberline was the system we went with back then, and, wow, what a transformation. I mean, just the mistakes that were eliminated with technology, not to mention the speed. The mistakes that we took out of the process with technology was just huge. I was glad to get rid of that 10 key. I always hated the 10 key.
Matt: We still have a couple line around here with some old-school adding machines with ticker tape and everything.
Dave: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Matt: Some people like to joke about using them still. So you go back. You're in the home office. You're doing some like kind of process improvement type things. You're estimating way more business and you're starting to begin to think like globally about the strategy of the company, and then that's real fun work for you. Is that when you're kind of like, "Yeah, I would like to do this the rest of my career, the strategic thinking of building in the business"?
Dave: Yes. Because of my role as the chief estimator, it put me into the executive committee. Because, I mean, fundamentally, construction is about get work, do work. I'm the get the work guy. So I'm now in the executive meetings. That was a great result of just taking that estimating position. And there was another dynamic in the industry called CM at risk, construction management at risk, that was really emerging. Design-build was kind of out there also, but the industry was becoming more accepting. By the term industry, I'm talking about our clients, were becoming more open to a relationship than a bid. They were intrigued with the process, "How do we get everybody involved earlier, and the bid will take care of itself?" So, the transformation in the industry is going on.
And I mean, I got into that with everything I had because the challenges, and almost the frailty of the hard bid, was so counter to everything that I felt like we wanted to do, which was to get with a customer, take care of them, give them a great outcome. And that's what we now call predictable outcomes. We wanted to give that customer predictability. Meet their budget or bid it, open on time or open early, the quality they expect, the quality that endures where they're not having to do maintenance and repair repeatedly, the quality of the experience, we're friends, we hang out together, we like each other. There's no legal battles.
That whole renaissance really got me excited, and I became passionate about going out and selling work. And we still were bidding work, but my goal was to build the relationship with the customer and convert them to a process where we could help them, and we could deliver everything they needed and more through a construction management at-risk relationship instead of a hard bid.
In fact, one time, this is one of my fun stories, we're in the middle of a bid in our town. And our town's a pretty competitive place, and I was just really getting along well with this customer. And I said to him, I said, "Why don't we just negotiate this thing? Let's just make a deal, and we'll get going right now. There's no reason to have a bid. Let's just do this." He's like, "I agree. Let's do it, no more bid." So, this was within about two weeks when the bids were due. And I just remember the conversation around the industry that they were gonna give the job to us. The bid was canceled, and my competitors were furious.
Matt: Yeah. I bet.
Dave: It's like, "Come on, I'm ready to bid the job. Let's just have the bid." He's like, "No, no, we're just gonna use Layton. I like those guys. We're gonna save time. It's just gonna be better." That's a fun memory to negotiate something in the middle of a bid process.
Matt: How do you go about building that trust between clients and yourself?
Dave: I really do think it takes genuine participation. I like people. I'm kind of social. I enjoy being around people. And I think that in the end, in conjunction with a technical skillset and a reputation, are the valuable elements. So, you have to have a reputation where people know that you deliver, you're trustworthy, there's no funny business. Technically, you've gotta understand what's needed and how to deliver it, and then you've gotta have a relationship that enables all of those skills to come together. And to this day, I think that's the recipe that still works.
As tough as this industry is, so many clients want a relationship, a personal relationship, and it takes effort. And I'm not talking about like, "Hey, let's go play golf," or, "Let's go to lunch." I'm talking about a relationship where you know them personally. You know their spouse. You know their children. You know what their life story is. You become friends. It's that kind of a relationship. That's an element that has really enabled a lot of repeat business in our company.
We build that relationship, and we deliver. We deliver at a high level. And our client's like, "Well, yeah, we're gonna do the next one, the next one, and the next one with you guys. We're gonna take those lessons learned. We're gonna get better. We're gonna do it cheaper. We're gonna do it faster. We're gonna get better, and we're working together. There's no animosity. There's no emotion," huge, huge learning experience for me back then.
Eric: You seem to have these two different concepts, like technical skills and then like relational leadership skills. And oftentimes, you know, people are strong in one and weak in the other. Do you think you were stronger in one and had to develop the other? How did you go about growing both sides?
Dave: First of all, I thank my dad for my technical skills because I got exposed to so much. I mean, we went through all that. I probably got 15 years off and on of experience of being around a job site. I had all kinds of opportunities. And I mean, you take a college kid that's got that kind of background, it's just like the Symphony Orchestra that's made up of members that have been playing that instrument since they were teeny. It's a 10,000-hour concept. So, I think that's where I got the technical skills.
My engineering degree really helped to reinforce that because I could understand the science behind what's going on at the job site. I mean, I don't know about leadership, like are leaders born or they're made? I mean, the military would tell you leaders are made. There's a lot of books that would tell you leaders are made. I don't know. I think I was just kind of more born. I have been to a lot of leadership educational kinds of things. I think it's almost genetic. We're just kind of stand-up people. And I think probably to some degree it's how we were raised, you know. You just step up. Step upper lip, let's go. It's just how it was.
Matt: Do you look for people within your organization who kind of have some of that leadership talent and try to promote them or get them into higher-level positions, or do you look for technical skills and then hope they have leadership talent?
Dave: Well, I mean, you need both. You need it all. I mean, honestly, at some point, you gotta have workers, and you gotta have leaders. The workers have to work, and leaders have to lead.If the leaders are working, who's leading? It's a problem. If the workers are leading, who's working? So, you've gotta have both. There's a real cultural value commitment to long-term employment at Layton. We have a lot of employees that have been with us for decades. And it's really the way my dad started things. He wanted his employees to come and stay, and he wanted to create an opportunity, an employment opportunity, where they could do that. And we followed that on.
We've had a number, I mean, dozens of guys come in that were just good guys, and they learned the technical skills on the job site, and we gave them opportunity to move up and expand their leadership skills and build a full career. You're not slotted in a job. We need you to move up. We're gonna give you those opportunities. We're gonna give you training, and we're gonna give you a work environment where you can stretch yourself. And that's really reinforced our ability to attract, retain employee long-term, very key to our success. Many, many situations of second-generation employees here, and there's probably some third generations. I mean, it's cool because, like I was talking earlier, this is about relationships. I don't know every employee, but I know a lot of them. And I want them to know me. It's gotta be real. It's gotta be personal. It's gotta be in-depth. It's not like a job. This is where we are. This is what we do. And we're all in.
Matt: Yeah. That's great. Chronologically, your brother was president of the company running the company. And then how did the transition between him to you go, and what were the events in and around that time?
Dave: So, early in the '90s, we put together the business unit concept. And we had three business units, two in Utah and one in Arizona. And we married together the pre-construction side with the operations side, and we called it two in the box. Between those two, you had to do everything to run that business unit. I mean, people thought we were crazy back then, "How can you do this?" But we have invested so heavily in the pre-construction side of the business for decades. It just made sense to us back then.
So, as the chief estimator, who's now selling work, pricing work, doing pre-construction work, I became that guy and was partnered up with an operations guy. And we took on much of the legacy work of the original Layton construction that my dad founded. That's in the '90s. And my brother as the CEO was over the three business units. So, he'd always talked about a five-year plan of transition, me in him out. I didn't know what him being out was, because with him and my dad, my dad hung around for five or six years after my brother became the president.
I didn't know what my brother was gonna do. He didn't really communicate that, but we had this five-year plan that took nine years. And that's fine. It was good. I wasn't in a hurry. I've got this big piece of our Intermountain region work that I'm in the middle of, and we're just knocking the socks off it. That Rice-Eccles Stadium I talked about, that opened in August of '98. So we're working on that in '96. That's right in my wheelhouse, just those opportunities. I'm just loving it, right?
Matt: Yeah. Yeah.
Dave: So, eventually, what happens is my brother decides he wants to go do some service for our church, go out as a missionary. And that really had sets a hard deadline for him to exit the company and me to take over. So shortly before he left in...I think that was '03 or '04. I mean, he's gonna be gone for three years. So, he can't function. So this is the transition. We know the date, you know, spring of...I think it's probably '04. He's gone. He's physically gone. He's emotionally gone. That's when I made the transition.
Matt: When you took over all three business units, your experience had been in this kind of one area. Did you still have that as a focus, or did you have to learn the other sides and...or were you pretty well-versed in everything already?
Dave: Well, I'd gotten around. We've had an outside Board of Directors for 30 years. One of the board members suggested that I take over the Arizona operation in the late '90s from my brother. My brother was homebound, like he didn't like to travel. And it's not that he wouldn't travel, but his personal life was so locally focused that he really couldn't travel much. So, the board member said, "Look, why don't you make Dave the president in Arizona, and just see what he can do." And we'd kind of had up and down success there, and he said, "Look, he'll go down there. He'll figure it out. He'll make it happen, or he'll come back and say, 'This just isn't gonna work.'"
So, somewhere in '98, I got that assignment, and I still have responsibility in Utah, but I now have this responsibility in Arizona also. And then in '01, we started a tenant finish business, and I had responsibility for that. So by the time we get into spring of '04, I'm pretty well traveled around the business and know the people, know the clients, know the business models, and fortunately, have confidence with the employees that this is gonna be the guy. And so that was my preparation.
Matt: You spent some time at the Harvard Business School executive education program. Can you talk about what you learned there and how that prepared you?
Dave: For sure. In fact, it's that same board member who recommended this program to me. He had been through a similar program 30 years earlier. His suggestion was, "Look, most of what you're gonna be doing is leadership and business-oriented in the future. What about just a little bit more education?" Because I had never had any business classes in my whole education career, including my civil engineering degree. There were no business classes. So this was all OJT, on the job training, like I had to figure it out as I went. I never had any education.
So, we decided...Stanford had a good program. Harvard Business School had a good program. I decided I wanna go Harvard Business School. It's called OPM. It's owner's/President's Management. And I decided that was what I wanted to get into. To qualify, you would have had to have been a president or owner for 10 years, because the key to this program is very much about the orientation from that president owner perspective into the business, not from an operations guy or a sales guy. So you had to have 10 years.
Well, at the time I was the president in Phoenix, but I hadn't been there 10 years, but because of my ownership in the business and what Dad had set up, I had more than 10 years of ownership. So I qualified as one of the youngest guys there. I was greener than the moss on the rocks. I was so overwhelmed. We basically went back for three weeks and did case studies. We did three case studies a day. I was way out of my league, but I'm so competitive and hard-working. I just studied like nobody else back there. I mean, literally, I'd get a few hours of sleep each night, and I'd just pour through those cases. And that for me I think was really one of my life-changing experiences. It gave me an awareness, and in some ways, even a self-confidence to take on things I didn't know anything about. And I just had all these little baby steps of confidence and learning.
With the students coming from...and I'm gonna say about 30 different countries, you know, you're going through these case studies, and the class isn't a lecture. The class time's a series of questions. So, everybody's supposed to have gone through the case, and then the professor would say, "Okay, Mr. Layton, what did you take out of this case? Tell us what's important. Tell us your thoughts." That's about as wide open a question, and it just starts driving discussion.
So, you know, I'd worked hard. In this case, I'd express my opinion. Then he'd ask another student from India or a student from Russia, and you would get a totally different angle. And I just sat there and I'm like, "Wow, I would have never thought that way." And so, this awareness just crept into me that it's not about right and wrong necessarily. It's about the analysis that yields your direction. If you're committed to it, that's your direction you're gonna go because, in a lot of times, these case studies, you just don't know the outcome. And there is no outcome. They're so fresh that you don't know what happened.
So, huge, huge experience for me to get that awareness that this is not black and white. This is like a rainbow. And when you pick a path, that's your path, and hopefully, you've done...you know, you've made great choices, you've done all the analysis, but that's the path you're going, you make it happen. That's how we started the tenant finish business, is as our firm was growing, we were doing a lot of big projects, and we had this customer for life philosophy. But you can't just do big projects if you have a customer for life orientation, like you have to do them all. Customer needs you to do them all. So, I'm like, "We have to take on small projects. We have to service the customer."
I met a guy named Clayton Christensen, who was a professor at Harvard Business School. He'd written a book called, "The Innovator's Dilemma" and totally transformed my thinking about the tenant finish world, where we can really excel, we're gonna start fresh. We're gonna be committed, its own identity, its own people. We are gonna become experts. We're not gonna cross over resources, because the big projects would always wanna steal from this tenant finish world. We're not gonna do that.
We're gonna jump the curve. We're gonna go to this business model, and we're committed to it. Within one year, we became number one in our market, and we've never looked back since. It's $100 million business, and the beauty of it is it's scaled to that small, tough, short scheduled work. And our guys are so good, like they are so good at it. It's a legitimate part of our business. We can now take care of that customer, start to finish.
Matt: Prior to that program, you had always thought that, you know, customer finishes interiors was just not something you guys were good at. You weren't gonna get into it. It was messy. And this just changed your thinking about that how?
Dave: First of all, they're small. If you put a big-time superintendent on a project that's six weeks, like to him, that's mobilization. That's not the project duration. They're just not...the long-distance athlete, the marathoner is not a sprinter. You need a sprinter. You need the 100-meter guy. And so that's how we set it up. We'd done small work, and we'd struggled. And in fairness to our guys, they just weren't of the mindset or equipped to take on that six-week job and make it efficient. We totally reinvented it, and it was all driven by the commitment to the customer because we just weren't doing very good at that delivery level. I never thought it would deliver the kind of economics it has, but we had to go there because we had to take care of our customer.
Matt: Were your customers asking for that, or was it something that you...okay.
Dave: Yeah, for sure. Like you'd build them a building, build them a nice new office building, and they'd come back a year later and say, "You know, we need to finish out this area with offices, and we need these offices converted into a conference room. And we need to switch the door on this office because of this and that." I mean, it was just all a mixture of hodgepodge work. And you take the team back in that built the building, and they knew the building, but it's just different. Those are the marathoners. I needed the sprinters.
And so we'd get through it, take longer. The economics weren't that good, and we're just like, "There has to be a better way." So, we figured it out, and now it's a business unit that we're expanding. It's a great part of our business. But we got there in a combination of our values, our culture towards our client, and this Harvard Business School experience I had where, I mean, you could literally jump off the curve you're on and start a new curve. We're like, "That's what we gotta do."
Matt: So that Harvard Business School thing, it was like an empowering, like new ideas. That was kind of your big takeaway. Just seeing other people's perspectives, other people's ideas, it was like eye-opening.
Dave: Absolutely. The premise of the whole program is this. As an executive, you have all kinds of information, data, influence conversations. Everything's coming at you. You have to sort through it, and you have to make a decision or see that a decision gets made. It's not like you have to make the decision yourself. You have to see that a decision gets made with all of this information coming at you.
How are your skills at getting that decision made? And that's where I really learned a lot of lessons. Like it's not black and white, as I said earlier. The same data can produce different orientation. And I learned that listening to very intelligent, capable leaders from around the world go a completely different angle from what I thought was like, "I got it. This is it." And they're going a completely different direction, and I sat there and I'm like, "Wow, I get it," like, "That could work. I never even thought about it that way."
Matt: That's pretty cool. You'd recommend other executives to do a similar type of education?
Dave: No question. I've done that. With many around the country, I've said, "If you can get into this OPM program, you should do it." I've had a number of my friends get in there. One just finished up. It's one of the life-changing experiences for me. So there you go. There's my plug for Harvard Business School executive ed.
Matt: The book "Innovator's Dilemma." That's a recommendation as well?
Dave: It is. Yeah.
Matt: We'll look that up. You've alluded to it, but you have adult children. Are any of them in the business?
Dave: So, Julie and I have six children. Our oldest daughter is in our HR department. She's awesome. She's been with us...I want to say 15 years. She started while she was in high school. I mean, she is a spark plug. She is so great. And then I have some other businesses that I am involved with personally, one of which is a real estate development company. My son...I only had one son. He works in that business. He's more developer than contractor. And so when I talked about I didn't teach my kids the lessons I learned, he just was never gonna be a contractor. Like, no way. He's an incredible developer. So, he's working with some other guys in that business, like my full-time jobs CEO of this construction business. I've got others that handle all that other business.
Matt: Right. Right. Okay. So, a little bit less of all the family members active, like your kids weren't as active in business as you were for your family.
Dave: No, no.
Matt: Summer jobs and all that?
Dave: No. That's one of my failures. Like I said, it was hard enough to get the bedroom clean or the lawn mowed. I didn't do a good job as a parent, yet my six children have all turned out great. They're just awesome. They're solid. All have different careers. They're all married, picked great spouses. Most have children. In fact, I told them a few years ago, "My kids, I just want you to know I sure like the adult family more than the kid family, like this is awesome. It's adult family is so good." Kid family was rough. Maybe it isn't for every parent-child, you know.
Matt: Yeah. For the listeners, what was your...as a parent, what was your hardest phases? Like, I mean, balancing work life, and then also like the different stages of childhood for your kids did you find it was the hardest?
Dave: Teenage daughters were pretty tough. They're kind of getting you wound up at 11 and 12. When they turned 13, the fun starts. Look, don't get me wrong. My daughters were awesome, but there was a lot of moving parts, you know. It's hard. And my wife did a good job with them, but it's a hard time. We had five of them. We had one daughter that, whatever the dynamics were with her friends, she could never go. And we told her, "You cannot go if there's just three of you," because what would happen is two would pair up, one would be on the outside, and everybody'd be in tears at the end of the night. And it was never the same third. They would move it around, and it would even be different friends. But it's like, "Honey, no, if there are three, you can't go. Find a fourth." And it was just that simple dynamic of three of them would result in a pair and a single, and it didn't work.
Matt: Yep. Yep. I have two young daughters, and I recently watched like the BBC production of Lamas [SP]. And there was a scene where like the teenage daughter is fighting with their dad over like, you know, she's not allowed to be with a guy, right? And I just remember. I just like thought, "Oh, no."
Dave: I mean, this is an example. We told our daughters, "Older guys are trouble. We do not want you dating older guys, period. Like don't." And guess what? Every single daughter, every single one, dated multiple older guys and most married older guys. It worked out, but these are the kinds of things where I'm like I just...I failed at getting done what I was talking about.
Matt: How many grandkids do you have?
Dave: We have eight.
Matt: We have eight.
Dave: And we have two more coming. We have two grandsons due November and December.
Dave: Yeah. It's a good little family developing.
Eric: What's the oldest grandkid's age?
Dave: Well, we're a modern family. We have three children who married spouses who'd been married previously. So we ended up with three grandchildren through marriage. We have two teenagers who are grandchildren and then some little ones. And that's fun too, because having grandchildren that are teenagers, I mean, my wife loves it because when she's shopping and stuff, it's like, oh. It's a lot more fun to buy for the teenagers than the little kids. So, it's all good. It's a great family.
Matt: That's great. All right. Well, I think that were some really great stories. Is there anything else that you feel like we didn't touch on that you wanted to add?
Dave: Just to the benefit of your listeners, I think one thing we didn't really talk much about is technology. The commitment in our company has not been to be cutting-edge, but we're leading-edge. We have invested heavily, particularly in pre-construction going back decades, which proved to be very fortuitous because pre-construction is a huge aspect of the industry today and a very key element in the success of any project.
So we got there early, and we went deep, strong technology backbone with software. We've adopted that at the job site. We got into BIM modeling with our own employees at least a dozen years ago when our people were doing the model, because nobody else was doing the model. We ran the clash detection. At the job site now, all of our guys have tablets. Our management software's all web-enabled. So they're out in the field with the tablet being able to do their work in lieu of stuck in the trailer glued to a set of plans.
Our ability to manage and track is also technology-driven. A good friend of mine is the founder at Domo, and we've taken that Domo software and applied it to a very deep degree in our company to render dashboards. And it's a huge aspect of helping us manage the right things at the right time. It's amazing how that dashboard can rationalize so much data and deliver the outliers that need management's attention. So, instead of pouring through reports, the Domo software can help pop that to the surface. And so we're spending time more knowing where we are and where we've gotta get to and what the issues are, and less time what is the problem.
We don't have the kind of margins in our business to run a huge R&D cutting-edge technologically approached business, but we're right behind that with our technology. And it's reinforcing our whole commitment to predictable outcomes, because we know where we are in a project, our client knows where we are, and we're delivering on those metrics. That's the definition of predictability, all enabled by this...by technology and talented people.
I mean, you gotta have talent, but you've gotta have a system also. I say it this way, talent alone is just like an all-star game. It's an NBA all-star game, just talent, talent, talent. Well, we want talent, but we also want a system, a game plan. And you put those together, and it's a pretty powerful winning combination.
Matt: Any particular piece of technology you're optimistic about in the next 20 years?
Dave: Scanning technology, drone technology. Think about this. You program a route through your project, even a finished space, like take a hospital. You program the drone to fly the corridors and scan the work in place. How cool is this? You fly that drone every night. You just captured every piece of work that got done that day. You know where you are from a productivity standpoint, you could rationalize against the model for things that aren't built correctly. None of this is here today, but it's coming. To me, that's something that we're really looking forward to.
Matt: Yeah. It's gonna be super cool.