Las Vegas, NV – (In Business Las Vegas) – When Shawn Danoski and Bryce Clutts were asked what they were most proud of when it came to their business, they seemed stumped by the journalistic softball question.
The conversation wandered toward a hospital expansion in White Pine County amongst other things, but it became quite clear the pair would much rather focus on building an honest, thoughtful – oh yeah, and profitable – general contracting firm that gives back to its community.
It’s easy to talk about growth when your field is thriving. That was the case for many years in Las Vegas’ construction community. But today, saying your company will grow at least 40 percent from last year’s revenues seems unbelievable. Danoski Clutts is able to make that claim this year, and the secret to the contractor’s success isn’t much of a secret at all. Take care of existing clients and their referrals.
“If we make a profit on a job but lose a customer that’s a failure to us,” says Clutts. “Not making a profit isn’t a big deal; we can figure that part out.”
Today, 75 percent of Danoski Clutts’ work comes from referrals. But perhaps most impressive about the company’s ability to grow during tough times is that it is still doing the bulk of its work locally. Both principals acknowledge that strong existing client relationships will likely take the company out of state for more work in the future.
“In the next five years we plan to service more of the western region of the U.S.,” says Danoski, an admission that may push comfort levels for both executives, who are valley natives. “This is our home-base and it always will be,” Danoski adds.
Having made the goal of expanding outside of Southern Nevada in early 2009, jobs such as the recent groundbreaking of a $2.3 million hospital expansion in White Pine County and the July completion of the new Mesquite police headquarters are some examples of that strategy. But with increased competition, even for small rural jobs, the contractor is more and more selective with all the projects it pursues.
“We’re not chasing everything on the streets. … There are customers out there that are only driving for the dollar. But then you have to deal with the product,” Clutts adds.
Founded in 2001 when Danoski took a leap of faith by cashing in a $30,000 savings bond and opening up shop, the firm’s resume is impressive despite its short history. Projects like Desert Marketplace, more than 160 jobs at McCarran Airport for clients such as Wendy’s, Starbucks, Hudson News, California Pizza Kitchen and the currently under construction USO lounge for military personnel are notable. The firm has also made a name for itself for its church buildings, aviation, industrial and medical industry work.
Recently, the firm has taken on work at Strip resorts for retail merchants. Danoski says traditionally the company has been an off-Strip contractor, but in the last 18 months it has done some 12-14 Las Vegas Boulevard projects, he estimates. It was a case of satisfied clients finally getting the firm into the resort corridor. “The hard part is opening that door,” Clutts adds. “But now the doors are open.”
The relationship-first approach extends beyond clients to subcontractors as well. Now more than ever general contractors need to scrutinize subcontractors more closely before taking and submitting estimates. Clutts recalls times when his company’s bids have been accepted then a subcontractor suddenly goes out of business or withdraws its bid, tipping the balance of the overall contract. He refers to those moments as “suffering the consequences of the market.”
The principals acknowledge the company’s 16 employees as big factors in this year’s growth. The pair relies heavily on them and understands many employees are working harder than ever. “Our employees have taken a real understanding to our clients’ needs. It makes our life a lot easier.” Clutts adds. “They’re motivated by their own success and the belief that we’re all committed to keeping this company going strong. …We’re lucky in that we don’t have to do a lot of teaching with our employees. Most of them have been with us between three and eight years.”
Danoski Clutts is also known for its safety record. The firm has earned four Safe Site awards from the AGC and has gone 300,000-plus hours without lost work time due to injury.
With long-time involvement with the Girl Scouts of Frontier Council, the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and other nonprofits, Danoski Clutts also works hard to make the valley a better place. Recently, the contractor provided design and budgeting services pro-bono to the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada. The center’s leadership is now able to seek out grants to fund a new building as a result of the contractor’s services.
“It’s a job we probably won’t even get because it’ll go out for public bid, but now they can move forward with their plans,” Danoski stated. Danoski himself is an industry advisory board committee member of UNLV’s Construction Management program. He was also appointed (by the Governor) to the 2010-2013 State Commission on Construction Education. Clutts’ efforts with the Girl Scouts also earned Danoski Clutts Building Group the Community Benefactor Award in 2009.
While the Contractor of the Year distinction often goes to older firms with longer histories, both Danoski and Clutts are quick to thank many long-time contracting firms in town for their guidance. “It’s humbling to be a part of such a small group of contractors (Contractor of the Year winners); some of which have mentored us in our careers and helped us become the organization we are today,” added Danoski.
From left to right: Charlie Stewart, Catherine Granger, Brian Palko, Shawn Danoski, Bryce Clutts, Perry Ursem, Cindy Adamo and Jim Obendorfer.