The perfect workplace: “A company that cares more for their employees for who they are than what they do.”

Sacramento Business Journal, October 24, 2014
A+ Employers Award / Best Places to Work
Small Company Winner 2014: DesCor Builders

Brad Des Jardin, who co-founded DesCor Builders almost a decade ago, remembers learning an important management lesson by counterexample early in his career.

“When I first got out of school, I was in a difficult situation: I had a boss who used negative feedback as a motivator,” he said.

“It was a general-contracting business and the boss was strictly old-school,” he said. “A lot of guys were like that back then. I’d like to think that eventually, they learned that fear and intimidation only motivate an employee so long.”

“When we began the company, we made sure that every employee we’d bring on shared our values, which basically comes down to treating each other and our customers with respect. We love our employees and we want them to succeed.”

– Brad DesJardin, President & CEO

Des Jardin and co-founder Neal Cordeiro, who had similar experiences, decided they would treat people differently when they started their own construction company, based in Rancho Cordova.

“When we began the company,” Des Jardin said, “we made sure that every employee we’d bring on shared our values, which basically comes down to treating each other and our customers with respect. We love our employees and we want them to succeed. All of them came here through referrals or because they’d heard of us, and we’re very grateful they chose our company.”

The company’s 33 employees seem grateful as well — for perks ranging from flexible work schedules and three weeks of vacation for new hires — and for less tangible benefits such as career guidance and advancement opportunities.

Rowland Fellows, a project engineer at DesCor, has been with the company two-and-a-half years. Although he has a master’s in construction management, this is the first construction job for the 32-year-old since graduating from college and holding jobs in banking and insurance.

Being a project engineer is “usually a job you get right out of college, like in your early 20s,” he said. “But Brad and Neal were great about sitting down with me, from the beginning, and helping me chart out my career.

“Everyone always asks you in an interview, ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’ ” he said. “But these guys keep coming back to it in your (annual) review, reminding you what you said and helping you figure out a timeline for getting where you want to be.”

One of the best things about working at DesCor, Fellows said, is that the owners “recognize that when you’re out in the field, you’re the face of the company. So they give you a lot of responsibilities and know you’re going to do well.”

He also appreciates that the company has made an effort to know him as a person as well as an employee. “I remember going to my first office Christmas party and not only was I introduced to everyone, but so was my wife. It made us feel we were part of something other than just a job.”

Jason Stidham has been with DesCor a little more than a year as a project superintendent but has been in the construction field for 11 years. “In my experience, most employers treat you like a number,” said Stidham, 29. “But here, the owners … make us feel that they work for us, the employees — that we’re their customers. They’ve actually said that to us.”

He cited a recent incident when he found a quality-control problem. “Nothing fatal but something that could be improved,” he said. ” So I wrote a four-page document and gave it to my manager. He sent it … to the owners because he was so proud of me. He could have ignored it or turned it in and claimed credit for it. But he wanted me to shine.”

The founders also have enabled Stidham to reach his professional goals. “Brad and Neal asked me what I wanted to do here and I said, ‘I’ve been doing $200,000 TI projects and I want to be doing $10 to $12 million projects.

“They kept their eyes on me for a while and pretty soon … they were convinced I could do ground-up projects of that size.”

Des Jardin, whose father and grandfather were both general contractors in Northern California, said he and Cordeiro have “pretty clear expectations of our employees, and review how the company is doing with our monthly FBI — fundamental business indicators — reports. We want to make sure they’re as up-to-date on where things stand as we are.”

All this adds up to a workplace that is valued by employees.

“I was going to say that Brad and Neal have a very open-door policy here, but I caught myself,” said project engineer Fellows. “The room where they sit, and we sit when we’re not in the field, has no offices, so there aren’t really any doors. Maybe that says something about our work environment.”

Ed Goldman | Correspondent | Sacramento Business Journal
October 24, 2014