Putting Safety First
Based in Seattle, Deeny Construction is a multi-generational underground utility contractor specializing in storm drainage, sanitary sewer, fire main and domestic water service installations. Recognized throughout the city for their unique logo−a “big green shamrock” laidovertop a bright yellow backdropwith green trim−Deeny Construction has thrived over their 77-year history to become one of the premier contractors in the Pacific Northwest.
Founded by John Deeny in 1938, the company started out with just “six picks and six shovels.”They have grown tremendously since then, and the company’s history has spanned four generations of the Deeny family. John’s son, Terry, became a fulltime employee in 1962, taking the company over when John retired in 1968. Terry’s son, Jon, joined the firm in 1988 and became President after Terry’s retirement in 1999. Lastly, Jon’s son, Patrick, fittingly joined the family business on St. Patrick’s Day of 2014.
Today, Deeny Construction is atop contractor when it comes to “wet” utility workand they are particularly well-known for their outstanding safety record and excellent workmanship.In this field, they have worked on the campuses of several noteworthy corporations including Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft, and have also contributed to landmark projects such asSafeco Field, Harbor Steps and The Bravern. Recently, however, they have taken action to expand their range of services to include more “dry” utility work.
“We’ve been doing a decent amount of primary power installation and communication conduit installation because many of these newer projects are putting everything in underground instead of putting wires directly into the building,” said Patrick.”We’re also doing more site work and earthwork, creating parking lots and more minor scopes that we’re able to handle. We’re seeking to become more and more of a turnkey solution for certain projects in terms of the civil scope. We want to be able to handle all the utilities on a project as well as a variety of other types of construction relating to excavating in general.”
Deeny Construction typically works within a 60 mileradius of Seattle−mostly north to south, ranging as far north as Everett and as far south as Tacoma.They take a customer-first approach to the business, often undertaking “one-day, couple thousand dollar” jobs for clients despite having the capacity to handle multimillion dollar jobs, such as a $4 million portion of the local light rail system projectthey are currently in the midst of completing.
“It starts with building relationships,” said Jon.”You can talk until you’re blue in the face about how wonderful you are, but until you produce and have a track record with someone, it means nothing.It’s about doing that and maintaining a good relationship with people.Word-of-mouth is still the best way that we get our capabilities and what we can do out to the world. Even though we’re expanding what we do, Seattle is still a relatively small market and the best way to advertize is to do good work.”
“We pride ourselves on being an extremely safe company− that’s our number one priority,” he continued.”Our customers want the comfort knowing that they’re working with a subcontractor in one of the most dangerous parts of the construction industry overall who makes safety a priority. We’re always striving to meet our customers’ safety goals and their safety requirements.”
Doing things the right way
This past December, Deeny Construction received the Silver Award in the Small Firms category at Seattle Business Magazine’s 2014 Family Business Awards. This was an impressive feat considering they were up against family-run businesses hailing from every sector and industry, and the construction industry can be extremely challenging to survive in, let alone thrive.
“The average construction company lasts less than five years, and for us to have four generations in the family spanning 77 years in the business is extremely unique in our industry,” said Terry.
“I believe the stats of family-run businesses making it to the third generation is less than 15 per cent, and I think the fourth generation is less than five per cent,” added Jon.”We’re in our 77th year now, and we’re really proud that we’ve been able to make it through a lot of the rough times and come out on the other side looking pretty good.”
TheDeeny family views the award as “an indication that we’re doing something right,” adding it to theextensive collection of accoladesthey have accumulated over the years. The collection largely consists of small business awards, excellence in construction awards, and − most importantly − safety awards, includinga national safety award from both the National Utility Contractors Association and a plethora of safety awards from the local Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).
“Our local AGC has a Safety Team, and to qualify for the Safety Team, you have to meet a bunch of requirements,” explained Terry, who served as President of the local AGC chapter in 1979and as President of the national AGC in 1999. “We were the very first company to qualify.”
“And to maintain your membership in that, they actually build on those requirements,” Jon replied.”There are certain requirements you have to meet to be initially certified as a member of the AGC Safety Team. Not only do you have to maintain those initial requirements, but there are additional requirements every year as well. Being part of the original group that was certified is very meaningful to us, and being able to maintain that for the last 25 years has been further proof of our safety prowess.”
Jon revealed that the company takes a “team approach”to ensure that safety is a top priority for their workforce.To safeguard this priority, Deeny Construction provides workers with incentives to observe safety; not only as individuals, but in teams as well. If one team member fails to meet safety protocol, it ends up costing his or her fellowcoworkers their team bonuses− a smart way to guarantee that safety is at the forefront of each worker’s mind.
In addition to these incentives, Deeny Construction also hands out awards at their annual Christmas party.Workers with pristine safety records− including one employee who had accumulated upwards of 20,000 accident-free hours as well as a current foreman who has over 13,000 accident-free hours−receive the prestigious Top Gun Safety Award.
According to Terry, there is nothing more important to the company than seeing their employees make it home safe and sound every night.To further ensure this happens, they host safety meetings every Monday morning, provide theirstaff with diversified safety training andemphasizethe issue of safety in every newsletter. The company’s workforce – and their family members – appreciate that greatly.
“I remember several years ago at a Christmas party, a new employee’s wife came up to me and told me that she felt so much better knowing that her husband was now working for Deeny Construction,” Terry stated.”She said that she could rest easy because she knew her husband was working at a safe place.”