Dering Pierson Group is a general contractor providing a host of services. It began with people of like mind and similar values but varied experiences who decided to form a company. What followed is a successful venture that includes general contracting services for the hospitality and commercial markets.
We spoke with principals Joyce Dering, Adam Dering and Michael Pierson about plans to expand into the government sector, issues with the labor pool and about how the personal touch can keep clients and gain new ones.
Dering Pierson Group began in 2011 in a one-room office in Rogers, Minnesota. It quickly expanded, doubling its revenue over the first three years. A new office in Rogers was purchased and renovated in 2015.
Joyce began in 1993 in Arizona with a large Steelcase commercial furniture dealership. After a couple of years there, she moved to New York when offered a position with one of the largest Steelcase dealerships in the country. There she worked in project management and logistics across North America and Canada for seven years.
“My primary role was Project Management; in that function I had a lot of interface with construction. I learned a lot. Adam and I met on a mutual client’s jobsite in the Trade Center,” says Joyce.
Michael Pierson has a degree in construction engineering from North Dakota State University and a master’s degree in business administration. Straight from school, he worked for Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis and stayed there for six years.
“While at Mortenson I worked on various projects, including the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis. I gained a lot of experience there before coming to Lifetime Fitness. I was recruited to run their pre-construction group, and that is where Adam and I met,” says Michael.
Adam had come to America from Poland in 1983 and spent almost twenty years working on commercial renovations projects throughout New York City. He started as a union carpenter but quickly moved into various management roles for LEHR Construction, at that time one of NYC leading General Contractors. The last ten years of Adam’s NYC experience were spent on a number of TI projects at the World Trade Center complex. At one point, one of his clients brought him in to become the vice president of corporate services for Guy Carpenter, which is a part of the Marsh & McLennan Companies.
“I was put in charge of construction and real estate, tied into office locations and new leasing in North America. We moved to Minneapolis in 2002, and I continued working with Guy Carpenter for another year before being recruited to be the Director of Construction for Lifetime Fitness,” says Adam.
Lifetime Fitness constructed and renovated all of its own facilities in-house. When Adam and Michael were there, Lifetime was doing over $400 million in work annually. However, with the recession of 2008-2009, Lifetime significantly reduced its construction activities.
Given the uncertainty of Lifetime’s construction future, and the outside opportunities being presented, both Mike and Adam, along with Joyce, started their separate construction companies.
“Mike and I had kept in touch after we left Lifetime. We talked often about the projects we had going, and how strapped we were for resources. And how we had more projects coming up, and not enough resources to complete them,” says Adam.
The three decided to combine resources in 2011 to start their own company. They realized that they had the clientele and the experience and so started the Dering Pierson Group.
The Dering Pierson Group became a full service general contractor with an emphasis on the hospitality market, restaurants and hotels. These industries are interconnected, and once it had done well on one project, word of mouth spread. After having done a couple of restaurants and a few hotel remodeling projects, the company became very busy with these types of projects.
“We also do tenant improvements, retail, and municipal work. We stick primarily to commercial work and try to stay away from residential. Our clients range from a small coffee shop to hotel renovations and office remodels in downtown Minneapolis,” says Joyce.
Dering Pierson Group can tackle anything from a $5,000 office remodel to a $10 million hotel renovation. Currently, it has a $20 million bonding capacity for projects. Many of these jobs do not require bonding, but it helps clients to understand what its capabilities are.
In the first three years of business, Dering Pierson Group grew rapidly. At the end of the third year, there was a concern that with too much volume, personal interaction might be lost.
“We didn’t like that very much, so we slowed our growth to emphasize the fact that we are personally involved in every one of our projects. We do frequent visits; we drive the quality, performance and customer service on each one of our projects. We make sure to have plenty of face-time with our customers,” says Michael.
This approach allows Dering Pierson Group to have a high level of accountability in everything it does. It does not cut corners or make decisions based on the bottom line. It is more concerned about doing the right thing and making sure that clients are satisfied with the job.
Dering Pierson Group is careful in selecting employees who share and represent the company’s values. “We have a basketball court in the middle of our office as well as a ping-pong table and a mezzanine with a full bar, pool table and leather seating with an 80” TV. We are constantly thinking about the work-life balance, which is why we don’t have an office with cubicle farms,” says Adam.
The environment is designed to relieve stress. Staff stick around not just for the pay but for how it feels like to come and work here. Currently, there are fourteen employees.
Marketing efforts have not been necessary as work has been driven by word of mouth, references and personal connections. Most of its work takes place in Minnesota, but it will and does perform out of state work upon the request of existing clients. 80 percent of its projects are repeat clients.
Subcontractors enjoy working with Dering Pierson Group and bid on jobs time after time. Relationships with these subcontractors are a crucial element of doing business. “We nurture those relationships. Most of our projects are done with the same subcontractors, which means that we get priority on the quality of tradesmen. Most subcontractors that we work with really do want to be with us. We organize our projects right and work proficiently as a team,” says Adam.
The company wants to make sure the job site is well run and that there are clear expectations between the subcontractors, general contractors and the ownership group. The coordination is well scheduled and maintained so everyone can work effectively and safely. If there are issues on any job, they are handled properly. Nobody is left hanging.
“There are a lot of general contractors that shop the market on every single job, and it’s not a partnership between the subcontractor and the general contractor. It’s more of a one-sided relationship. We do really try and develop those relationships that make our jobs successful, and the clients see that,” says Michael.
Dering Pierson Group was recently certified as a Woman-owned Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBNEC). With that designation, the company is vying for some federal and state projects. This would include tenant improvements, office build-outs.
“The government has a lot of buildings and spaces that need to be remodeled. With that certification comes a certain amount of work that would otherwise be unavailable,” says Joyce. Dering Pierson Group is looking to harness this opportunity.
Dering Pierson Group has also started a growth business management program called EOS®, Entrepreneurial Operating System. “EOS is a phenomenal system that’s worked for many companies. We are working with a coach and following the process. It is early in the game, but we’re confident that EOS will help position the company for coming growth that we want in a managed fashion,” says Michael.