For a business which is mostly completed underground, things are looking up for Dan Wood, his wife Kristine and the close to 60 employees of D.A. Wood Construction, Inc.
Now in its 20th year of business, the company relocated to a 7,500 square-foot building at 963 Shepard Court, Oakdale, this past July. In addition to the two-story office space, there is a 50×100 shop, as well as a spacious outdoor space for trucks and materials.
“Oakdale seemed to be the most friendly city in the area to work with,” Wood said of the decision to relocate the business. “They seemed eager for our project.”
Wood and his wife first started the business in 1999, working out of their home in Salida, at the time.
Early on the business called Modesto home, before the couple relocated to an Oakdale location on Albers Road 16 years ago. The seven-acre homestead shared space with the then-growing business.
“We operated out of there for about 16 years or so,” Wood explained. “We decided to move just because the traffic getting out on Albers Road was really getting dangerous. It was just really a safety issue for us and it was time. It was time to get into a commercial setting.”
Wood and his team found the current location in late 2017 and proceeded from there, purchasing the land and getting plans and permits in place.
From the start of design, the company founder shared he knew what he wanted: shop and office space.
“Everything just kind of rolled into place,” he stated.
“I was kind of frustrated at first in how long the process to get started was. I’m used to being in control,” Wood continued, “and control of the schedule and that part I had no control over. That was kind of different.”
In hindsight, the founder shared, he’s been told by many the process was quick and smooth given the scope of the project.
Dan Wood first began D.A. Wood Construction, Inc. as a backhoe business in 1999 while he completed his education in construction. Son to a father who himself was an underground contractor, he shared he grew up in the business.
“I learned it basically from the ground up,” he shared of starting in the business at the age of 16. “I was the laborer in the trenches. I was the guy laying the pipe.”
The company installs storm, sewer, water and fire systems underground.
In time he learned he had a knack for operating and became an operating engineer. He joined the union and commuted to the Bay Area for the majority of his work. As the commute from the Valley to the Bay became longer, Wood decided it was time to make a change.
“Decided to make the jump and really haven’t looked back,” he said of starting the business.
A business which began with he and his wife, grew slowly. The first employee as well as the second he ever hired remain a part of the D.A. Wood team. His father also came on board early into the business and helped train his replacement.
“Whenever I was starting up my company, he was on the verge of retiring,” the owner said of his father, “and I actually talked him into coming to work for me the last two years of his career. He kind of helped me get a head start too. He came on board and took care of the field. I didn’t have to worry about the field at all.”
Wood admitted to trying to lure his father to stay on longer, but he told his son he had to pass. His time in the business was over.
While the business has had its ups and downs, the scope of work and the company clientele tend to make business a bit different than that of the more popular general contractor.
“We were pretty well positioned because we do public works projects,” Wood said of business during the recession. “It didn’t really hit until later 2008. We were well poised going into it. Our overhead was low and we owned our equipment which was helpful.”
As business has continued on a positive trend, the company has been able to grow now filling the 7,500 square-foot building with a staff including clerical, controllers, project management, human resources and estimators.
While the business stays steady, Wood shared technology has perhaps attributed the most to the efficiency and timeliness of projects.
“We used to have radios in the truck and communicate with radios and Nextel telephones,” he reminisced. “Now with the programs you have available it’s just so much easier to communicate.”
From e-mail to texting and phones which can photograph and video, the days of waiting for faxes are long behind the business.
“It’s a lot quicker. It’s a lot faster,” he said.
Well into his 20th year as a business owner, with an impressive new location and a dedicated staff, Wood shared he has no plans to stop anytime soon. As for the success of his long fruitful career he attributes it to focus and perseverance.
“Just keeping your head down and keep moving forward,” he noted. “There’s plenty to take you off course. I think if you keep your head down and keep moving forward … just perseverance.”
Customer and employee satisfaction are also high on the list.
“We take care of our people and we preach safety,” he continued. “I think people really appreciate working in a safe environment. I think those things add up to people sticking around.”
In addition to a dedicated staff, Wood shared 20 years later he still looks forward to coming to work each day.
“One thing about the construction business is every day is different,” he shared. “Every day is a different challenge. Every project that we have going there’s some sort of an issue that has to be resolved or find a fix for.”
With no plans to retire on the horizon, the contractor shared thanks to that technology he noted a week or two away from the office on occasion is definitely in the plans.
“I can open my laptop and keep an eye on things from a business standpoint anywhere,” he said.