Although his life hasn't always been easy, W. Mac Ware thinks it's always taught him to do the right thing.
Growing up in the tiny farming community of Pasco in western Ohio just after World War II, he remembers his father took action when he discovered Ware's three older brothers suffered from asthma.
"He didn't think it was a good idea for them to be on a farm, so at the age of 35, he sold all the farming equipment and moved the family to Columbus so he could attend veterinary school," recalls the president and co-founder of Grandview-based Renovators Inc.
Having achieved his goal, the elder Ware moved back to Shelby County to start his new career, only to succumb to lung cancer 10 years later at age 48.
Ware recalls his teen years when he drove 18 miles each way to grow corn and beans on a 62-acre farm his father had purchased in Logan County a year before his death.
Ware, now 49, believes growing up on a farm in hard times honed an honest work ethic that has served his general contracting business well.
"We believe in doing things the right way and doing what we say we're going to do," says Ware.
Renovators was conceived on the waters of Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky. While head of the estimating department at Elford Inc., Ware and Mark Shy, who worked for another general contractor, were vacationing at the lake with their families when the idea of going into business took root.
"We were complaining about our jobs as employees are wont to do," says Ware. "We thought, if we're going to work this hard, maybe we should do it ourselves."
In July 1994, both men left their employers to begin the new venture. With Ware's characteristic attention to detail and Shy's talent for public relations and marketing, Renovators became profitable almost from the start. It helped, Ware notes, that he and Shy lived on savings for six months, and that a close friend provided two years of free office space.
The partners' first gig was remodeling a residential basement in Gahanna. During the first six months of operation, they billed $300,000. By the end of their first full year, billings had soared to $1.6 million.
But success has been a long time coming.
Soon after graduating from Fairlawn High School, Ware got a job building trailer courts. Because he liked the work and was good at math, he attended Clark State University, where a dean, who knew his family background and skills, pushed him toward earning an associate's degree in civil engineering. He later earned a bachelor's degree from Franklin University in 1992 and a master's degree in administration from Central Michigan University in 1994.
In the 1970s, Ware worked as a field engineer and estimator for The Danis Co. in Dayton. There he met his mentor, Richard O'Brien, an estimator who taught him his craft and, Ware says, exemplified how to do things the right way.
Ware went on to work for other general contracting companies, including Setterlin Construction Co., M&P Construction and Elford.
As the head estimator at Elford, Ware became a mentor in his own right. Debbie Edwards, an Elford employee who worked for Ware, says she learned her job from him, noting that he was a great teacher who encouraged her to achieve in the male-dominated industry.
"He's a consummate professional, very good at what he does," she says. "He was always at the forefront of new thoughts and ideas and cared about the client first."
Shy says part of Renovators' success is Ware's ability to always do the right thing morally.
"He goes the distance to help employees financially or gives them the means to help themselves," she explains.
In return, Ware expects employees to deliver on their promises.
Keenly aware that the industry sometimes gets black marks for shoddy work and workmen not showing up when they say they will, Ware says it's vital that subcontractors and each of his 35 employees -- eight field supervisors and 27 carpenters, painters and laborers -- share the company's philosophy of providing clients the best value for their construction dollars.
In 2000, Ware expects Renovators to bill $6 million; about 80 percent of the billings will go toward paying subcontractors.
"It's real important to Mark and I that those subcontractors be treated with respect," he says, "because we want those people on our next job."
The company's commitment to treating clients, subcontractors and suppliers fairly, Ware says, has resulted in long-term, amicable relationships that have helped the business grow. And while financial success is important, Ware says he is spiritually motivated to take the high road in getting there, making time for family, friends and community interests along the way.
"The best advice I ever got was from my mother, who said, 'Life is a pleasure to be enjoyed, not a problem to be solved,'" he remembers.
Renovators' current projects include a Westerville nursery school and a 22,000-square-foot office building for Comprehensive Properties. The company has also performed remodeling at The Limited's distribution centers and specializes in doctors' and dentists' offices.
A member of the board of directors for the Builder's Exchange of Central Ohio, Ware also serves as chairman of the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Council.
He is especially interested in helping those in construction who suffer from substance abuse, having written his master's thesis on the topic. He and his wife, Helen, are active members of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.
His volunteer leadership has earned him the Builders Exchange of Central Ohio's award for outstanding volunteer service.
But Ware says his biggest accomplishments are his children, son M.J., 27, who works as a carpenter for Renovators, and daughter Ami, 30, a middle-school teacher in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition to golfing, snow skiing and reading novels in his spare time, he is learning Spanish in anticipation of Hispanic workers playing an increasing role in construction trades.
Yet despite his accomplishments, Ware remains unassuming.
"We're just a couple of honest guys trying to run a small business," he says. Muntaqima Abdur-Rashid is a free-lance writer for SBN.