Team player Featured

8:00pm EDT August 29, 2006
 Donald A. Buck Jr. believes a good boss should be visible, so he spends a lot of time strolling through the offices of WDG Construction. He wants his employees to know he is there and accessible.

Buck, president and CEO of the company, and his sister, Vice President Nicole B. Saunders, purchased WDG six years ago. Since then, their strategies fueled the growth of the 300-employee company, which clears and readies land for utility and road placement. Revenue for 2004 was about $35 million, growing to $50 million in 2005, and Buck projects 2006 revenue of $70 million.

Smart Business spoke with Buck about how he’s built a good reputation and a solid management team.

How do you create a positive work environment?
We avoid the strong-arm technique and promote a team mindset with all the employees. Employees understand that my door is always open and they can come talk to me at any time.

Lead by example, and provide an atmosphere that sets a positive tone. Having meetings with staff and promoting a family atmosphere within the company lets people feel like an individual and not a number. In a lot of bigger companies, you get treated as a number, not a person. If you’re treated as a person, you have a more positive attitude toward your job.

What the biggest pitfall a CEO should avoid?
In growing a company, don’t let your ego grow. Always remain a member of the team, and don’t let your ego grow to where you’re not a normal employee and a member of the team anymore.

It’s a negative within the company. If you’ve always been a member of the team and the people around you feel like you’ve got your ego to the point where you feel like you’re better than everyone else, you’re in trouble. Your staff has to feel comfortable if you walk by, or feel comfortable enough to come in your office at any time and talk strategy with you.

Some people get an ego and they become untouchable. You can’t approach them, because they feel now that they’ve become successful, they are a lot better than you. I feel that the more successful I become, I’m becoming successful because of my staff. I want them to know they are equal to me.

We all wake up in the morning the same way. We all get out of bed the same way. It’s something I feel strongly about. You have to be a part of that team instead of that team always being afraid of you because you have an ego.

How do you empower employees?
Understand your strengths and weaknesses and then build a management group that complements the company needs around your strengths and weaknesses. If I have strengths, I need to use my strengths to manage the company. If I have weaknesses, I need to hire people that will overcome my weaknesses in business to make the company more successful.

Allow your management staff to make decisions, even if you don’t agree with the decision. Have the confidence in your staff to accomplish tasks their way.

It promotes a more positive atmosphere when a management staff can do things the way they want to do them, rather than the way you want them to do them. If you have the right managers in place, you don’t have to worry about 300 people, you can just worry about four or five.

When I was employed here a few years before we purchased the company, I was a one-man show. I did it all myself. What I struggled to overcome was putting in place a management team that can make decisions, but if you don’t let them make the decision — and do it the way they want to do it — they’re not going to have that desire to get it accomplished. When it’s their decision, they’re going to make sure that it’s done right.

How do you achieve and manage growth?
The marketplace here is very strong. There’s been so much work down here, it has allowed companies to grow at a very fast pace. We’ve really strived to finish projects on time, so whenever our name is mentioned in a conversation, it’s a very positive response.

We try not to overcommit our crews, so we’re working on a manageable amount of work but have an aggressive enough backlog where we can continue to grow our volume. It’s really a day-to-day challenge to understand what your backlog is, and to not overcommit and take on more work than you can finish.

How to reach: WDG Developers, (813) 907-3440 or