Four-time MCOY winner faces steady growth
Dan Vos Construction president attributes success to happy employees.
After being named Michigan Contractor of the Year by the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan for the fourth time, Ada-based Dan Vos Construction attributes its years of success and growth to its employees and the trustworthy relationships it builds with its clients.
Daniel R. Vos started Dan Vos Construction in 1951. His grandson and current president, Dan Vos, started working for the company when he was 14 years old.
“My dad simply asked me one summer if I wanted to make some money,” he said.
Vos already had some experience building things for fun. He said he was always building tree forts and doing other tasks that allowed him to work with his hands.
At his grandfather’s construction company, Vos’ first “real” project was building a house for his sister who was getting married the same year. He said every summer after that, every Christmas break and every day off from school, he was working.
Vos studied construction management at Ferris State University before working full time at Dan Vos Construction in 1995. He started working in the field with carpentry, steel erection and other general trade skills. He also ran a few jobs as a foreman.
“Then they dragged me into the office,” he said. “I didn’t really want to go into the office, but there was an opportunity to be an estimator.”
Vos said his transition from fieldwork to office work was one of the better changes for him because it helped him prepare for future leadership positions. He was an estimator for two years, or “eight months too long,” by his standards.
“I guess I was a little too ADD for it,” he said.
He then moved into project management, which he said was probably his favorite position because of the “variety” it offered. Managing different projects gave him the chance to learn about different people’s businesses. His company works primarily with food grade manufacturers, such as ice cream, noodles and turkey processing plants, as well as some industrial clients.
“You learn about each one of those businesses and how they operate,” Vos said. “You take a live turkey in this door and it comes frozen out that door, and you have an active role in that from point A to point B.”
Five years ago, he assumed the role of president and CEO of the company from his father, Gary Vos, who was CEO, and Gordon DeYoung, who was president at the time.
Under Vos, the company has experienced steady growth in revenue. In the past, the company generated around $50 million to $60 million annually and retained about 60 employees, which Vos said was the trend for a long time before he took over. Under his grandfather, the company earned about $10 million to $20 million.
“My dad had more of a teamwork attitude than my grandpa did,” Vos said. “We grew quite a bit when my dad took over.”
The company is slated to earn over $80 million in project revenue by the end of 2017, which Vos said follows a trend of steady growth from the past five years.
The same trend applies to employment. The company now has 94 full-time employees and recently added another project manager, civil engineer, several field workers and steel erectors.
The company also has its own design department, which Vos said is unique for a general contractor.
Their area of operation spans West Michigan as far north as Big Rapids, as far south as Kalamazoo and west into the Lakeshore area.
“For the area that we have, for our demographic, I think it’s a pretty good market share. I’m pretty pleased with it,” Vos said.
A few years ago, the company tossed around the idea of expanding its area of operations out of state, into Indiana and Ohio, where companies were looking for design/build jobs totaling $5 million to $8 million. The company chose to turn them down because it didn’t have the resources to manage a project from that distance.
“Our guys don’t like to travel. We don’t like our guys to travel. I’d rather have them home with their families at night, so we’re pretty happy where we’re at,” Vos said.
Dan Vos Construction received the MCOY for the fourth time under Vos’ leadership. Ultimately, Vos attributes the success of his company to the quality of his employees.
“We don’t really try to win every year,” he said. “It’s not one of our strategic plans to win the MCOY every year. It more or less just happens.”
The ASAM awards the MCOY to contractors based on bid ethics, safety, job site supervision, communication administrative procedures and several other criteria to encourage the best practices in the industry. At the 2017-18 MCOY Awards, Vos told the Business Journal that ASAM has “raised the bar” for his industry as a whole.
“Success for me is a happy employee,” Vos said. “Regardless of how much money we’re making … I want our people to be happy. … If they’re happy at home, they’re happy here, and that produces a better product.”
Vos estimates about 96 percent of his company’s work is repeat business with previous clients.
For the future, Vos said, he’s not trying to make any drastic changes in how the company operates. What’s important to him is staying rooted in the same Christian ethics and the foundation on which his company was founded.