On a very special episode as Taylor White welcomes none other than the President and Owner of Ken White Construction to the podcast - his father, David White. Beyond the bonds of family, Taylor and David share a remarkable partnership and friendship that has shaped their journey together. Their fascinating conversation here today constitutes an exploration of such topics as their business's humble beginnings, navigating the challenges of the construction industry, and embracing a diverse range of projects.
Together, this dynamic duo unveil the transformative moments that have left an indelible mark on both their business and personal lives, and highlight the qualities of perseverance, adaptability, as well as the power of technology along the way. Drawing upon their own experiences, they review the importance of weathering tough times and adapting to changing circumstances, the delicate art of taking calculated risks, and striking a balance between caution and ambition. As the discussion unfolds, the evolution of technology becomes a focal point, with David's initial uncertainty giving way to the realization of the vast potential offered by platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Through engaging storytelling and open conversations, this father and son combo shares unique insights into building success in both business and life, inspiring listeners to embrace challenges, nurture resilience, and chart their own path to success.
- The challenges faced during the early days of Ken White Construction
- The transformative moment of Taylor joining the business
- Lessons learned from financial hardships
- Adaptability during tough times
- Taking calculated risks and finding a balance between caution and ambition
- The evolution of technology and its impact on the construction industry
- The growth and success of Ken White Construction and the role that family plays
- The importance of a strong company culture, employee development, and adapting to attract and retain talented individuals
- David’s evolving role as the business transitions to the next generation
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Taylor White: Welcome back, everybody, to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast, brought to you by our amazing friends over at Komatsu. Now, today, everybody listening, I have a very important guest with me today. Everybody has been waiting to hear, "Hey, where's your dad? Where's your dad?”
Today, my friends, I am bringing on the man who created me, the man who is my business partner as well as my father and a very close friend. So, Dad, I will refer to him as Dad this whole time because out of respect, I never called my dad David or anything else. So when I say Dad, I call my dad, Dad. We say that. So, Dad, thanks for being on. His name is David White, everybody.
David White: Well, thanks for having me on.
Taylor White: Yeah, I think a lot of people want to hear about the business, about me coming into it, but also maybe just like who you are. And I thought that would be really interesting. Starting at kind of like the beginning of it, humble beginnings. Where were you kind of raised? You were born obviously in the ‘60s, and the business was small at that point, so speak on. I would like to, first off, introduce yourself, which I guess I already kind of did, but talk about the business earlier on and growing up. I guess start from the beginning. I'd like to get that story is what I'm trying to say.
David White: Okay, so I'm David White, President and Owner of Ken White Construction, and I started back then. I was born in 1965. And my father originally had started, he was delivering milk and stuff on a farm, and then they ended up moving into the carp to a farmhouse, and my father worked there doing some farming stuff. And then as he was doing the farming, he got into doing a little bit of construction stuff for other farmers, like working around their farms and stuff with a track loader and a small single-axle truck. So then he had us, the family, and we all lived at the farm, and he went and did the construction stuff on the side, actually, and then did the farming in the evenings. And then, yeah, like he went from there to then becoming full-time into the construction business.
And he ran the business for many years without me. And I came along in about 1984 out of school to start with him. And first, he didn't want me to come into the business, he wanted me to go do something else. He said the construction business is so up and down and volatile that he was trying to say go do something else. And I got to the point that it was like either I was going to go work with him or I was going to become a competitor. So then my dad said, "Well, okay, come on, head over, and let's see what we can do." And at that time, he just had just a bulldozer and a truck, and then we started doing that together in business, and he just was doing septic systems and grading around houses and stuff like that.
As I started to get to know the business and learn it, I eventually became like a partner in the business and started to go from there. I think it was it was about 1999 roughly whenever I started to get pretty serious with everything in the business. And then in 2000, we got busy with construction on the commercial end of it. That was the .com era. And I started to take over that end of the business with the commercial because my father, at that point, didn't want to have anything to do with commercial stuff. So that was my first step, really stepping in and getting real serious with it. And then I ended up buying the company from my father in 2001. So then I just basically went from there. Dad passed away in 2001.
Taylor White: What was, I guess, the ultimatum that you kind of gave off like, "I'm either going to work with you or work against you," I guess, obviously, was that a bluff, or were you serious?
David White: I was serious because that's what I wanted to do. I liked the construction business. It's interesting to me. I enjoyed running the machinery and watching my father, what he did throughout the years, it just it interested me. And I knew I wanted to do the stuff outside because, in my- prior to that, I was always doing part-time jobs in the construction business, between washing trucks, running scales, being in loaders out at another company. So I knew that's what I wanted to do. So it was either that or like I said, I was going to become a competitor.
Taylor White: So you grew up just having a love for construction, obviously. Now, how do you go from– When you bought the business and Grandpa died in 2001, what was the state of the business then? Because I think the most interesting part is going from where you were in 2001 to where you're sitting right now in our new offices and stuff. But in 2001, what was the business like when you officially owned it, you took over, and Grandpa's no longer here?
David White: Well, 2001, the business was doing quite well because that was during the .com era. So we were really busy doing commercial work at that point, and that was my first real step of getting into the commercial work. So it was good.
Taylor White: And when you say you got into the commercial stuff, what kind of commercial stuff? How did you come into that commercial stuff? Was it a single client that was like, "Hey, we want some more work, and here's some opportunity to expand?" How many people worked for you at that time? And was it like a single job that gave you the opportunity to kind of expand larger?
David White: We had about I'd say seven people, six people at that time, and I ended up having to sub a lot of stuff out for the commercial project that we got involved in. And I got involved in building parking lots, excavating for buildings. There was one site that had like four different buildings that we had to dig and build parking lots in and then we had to do the water portion of it too, to the site, so I ended up subbing that portion out. So that's how I kind of got into the bigger commercial stuff. And that was one client that kept me busy. That's all I could do. And what it ended up doing to me is it took me out of the residential business for about a year and a half. And then what I learned was that wasn't a good thing because after I got caught up in the .com area with commercial and died down, I had to go back then to the residential, and the residential I took myself out of and it took me probably six months before people realized that I am back to do residential. So that's one mistake that I made. I should have done both at the same time.
Taylor White: We talk about that a lot, like not putting all our eggs in one basket. And as far as when we have meetings here, and I'm speaking to the audience right now when we have meetings on our team, me and dad will sit down and have a scotch and talk. And we're always happy and proud that we're not turning our backs on residential ever because residential is the cash flow to growing on commercial sides. And at the end of the day, I think we could both agree, though, too, Dad, that residential, it's a very business to the consumer end of it. Which commercials, there are ladders and you got to talk to this person, this person. I think one reason why we love it is like we're a family business and we're helping other families kind of like build their homes. So that's another aspect of the residential. That's awesome as well, too.
But great testament to don't put all your eggs in one basket because like you said, you learned a super valuable lesson by putting all your eggs into commercial. And then when that kind of was over, going, “Oh crap, there's nothing left now. So I need to go back into residential as well.” But I'm interested with that job because I'm a big risk taker, I like taking risks. What about that project? I'm surprised that you actually did that because you take risks. Obviously, you're in business a lot, but you're kind of more on the conservative side of risk-taking. And to me, it sounds like when that big commercial developer came after you to do this work, kind of sounds like you bit off more than you could chew as far as, oh, I had to get subcontractors, and there's water. So what was kind of the intentions of that? Did you want to execute it, or was it like, Grandpa just passed away and I know I got to do this, or what was it?
David White: No, my commercial stuff started in about in 2000. So that's how Ken White Construction began.
Taylor White: Grandpa was still alive.
David White: Yes.
Taylor White: Okay.
David White: Yes. He was alive. He was sick at the time, but he just didn't want to start something new in the commercial end. So I said, “Well, I'll open up another division and run the commercial out of Ken White Construction in 2000.” And that's what we did. The opportunity was there for me not to take it. I knew the project manager. I knew the CEO at the company that we were working for. So my comfort as far as getting paid and doing the work was good. I just had to make sure that I could follow through and get the work done and be able to do it what they wanted. And I did. Like I said, we just subbed out stuff, and I oversaw a bunch of it that I didn't have machinery for, so it worked out well.
Taylor White: Yeah. And I think that project, I remember, that kind of really helped you put us and Ken White Construction kind of on a different level. And maybe this is kind of going back in the story a bit, too, but contrary to what everybody might believe, money was always super tight when we were growing up. And then I remember you started growing the business on the commercial side. And, I mean, not that we were flying around in private jets and helicopters, but life was getting– We were moved from lower middle class to upper middle class, got a nice house in a suburban, cul de sac, and life kind of changed after that. Did you feel the effects of that? That must have been a good feeling for you. I mean, you had two young kids, and you're doing well in business other than losing your father, which is a big thing. I feel like that was kind of a pivotal moment for the business and for your life personally as well.
David White: Oh, yeah, it was a big boost to the business and for our life financially just because it was such a great job for us. So it opened my eyes on how everything could be created down the road. So it worked out really good for us to do that.
Taylor White: I think it’s actually interesting. For the listeners listening, my dad is one in the spectrum of we don’t talk about this sort of stuff and I’m more of an open book. But I think it’s really awesome for the viewers to hear as well, too, though, Dad, that you share stories with me. And you remember when the repo man was coming to get your pickup truck because you couldn’t make payments on it, and you were trying to negotiate with him and say, “Hey, man. Don’t take my truck.” Speak about those times as well, too because you’re sitting in this nice beautiful black office right now in this building that we have, and although it takes a lot to get to where we are, I think it’s also important to highlight where we were and you were.
David White: Well, it goes back 31 years today to when my wife and I got married and we built a house just outside of Carp. And that’s when the economy actually started to die off just after we have gotten married. At that time, my wife, she had a hairdressing business that she was running, and we didn’t have any construction work. And like you said, there were people calling, wondering if we are going to make a payment on the truck and then the machinery and stuff that we had we owed money on. And I just got to the point where it’s like, you know what? I’m not hiding. So I didn’t hide from them, I talked to them and I said, “Here’s the situation. I don’t have the money to pay for those. The truck payment, where do you want the vehicle? And we’ll go from there.” And basically, the finance people worked with us. It was CAT and GM, they were very good with us and said, “No, we’ll just extend it.” And then my wife ended up working and keeping the household stuff going as we were going through things. So she’s as much of a partner to me going through all this stuff to get us to where we are today through the bad times. It’s a family thing.
Taylor White: Full team effort. I remember growing up and mom was working 14 hours a day cutting hair. We had Mom run her business out of our house. You guys were both just constantly out there working. It always interests me when you have no work. What was your strategy to find and attract new work in a time when the economy’s kind of [EXPLETIVE] and you have payments coming out that you can’t afford? What do you do when your back’s up against the wall?
David White: Grind. That's all I could do. I basically just talked to people. I did whatever I had to do. I was going to go get a job at a big construction company that was in the area, and they would hire me. But there was no work for them neither. They had enough just to keep their own going. So I didn't really have much of a choice to go do anything other than we had the machinery. I just needed the opportunity to be able to go out and make some money and it was just time. I couldn't create the work for people to hire me. We had to just put out the time and get through it, and we did. And the phone started to ring again and then we got back to work. We had to make some adjustments and stuff.
Taylor White: I think, though, that that's such an important thing for people to hear and even myself when I listen to that because there's so much value in that to the people that are listening right now. You went through a time where there was no work. You had people calling saying, hey, make your payments. Your wife's working 14 hours a day to keep the house going, multiple mortgages on the house just to make it go. But yet the way you said it at the end part, eventually the phone rang again and it's like you need that outlook of like, yes, we're going to go through some shitty times right now, but things will eventually get better. It's insane. It's just crazy how it's just kind of you snowball over that, but it's pretty surreal.
David White: Yeah, well, you don't have a whole lot of choice. That's the thing. You can beat yourself up all you want, but that's not going to change the fact that there's no work and you're just scraping by. So you got to just be able to– The construction business, as you know, is so up and down and it takes a special person to be able to be in the business and have the mindset to get through the tough times because it plays with your mind on the ups and downs in the economy. It goes for other businesses, too, I'm sure, but you got to be a special person to be able to stay in the construction business.
Taylor White: And the opposite kind of now, do you think that is an important lesson to learn? Obviously, we're both Ken White Construction and you don't wish of a downturn or stuff happening. But do you think it would be beneficial for someone my age, as a millennial who couldn't own a business when the recession came in 2008? Do you think that it hinders my success and would change my business mindset if I went through or viewers listening right now that haven't gone through bad times versus such as someone such as yourself that has gone through bad times? You know what I mean?
David White: Yeah, I think going through bad times, it's a good business lesson. Nobody can teach you anything. Because back at the time, we were buying a lot of machinery all at once. My father, as we got busier, he just would say, “Okay, let's just go buy another dozer, buy another track loader.” And then I was always like, “Oh, but what if, Dad, what if?' And my father never really worried about the 'what if.' And then when the 'what if' did come and the recession hit, that's whenever, it was like, okay, this is an eye-opener. Economy can crash, and it will again. It's just history. That's what happens. But you just got to set yourself up better for that. And that's what I learned. I learned to look not ten years down the road. I looked at three to four years down the road. And then as we started to go and grow and buy machinery, as the machinery got paid off, I tried to look. I know three years down the road, I'll have that machine paid for, and the other machines can help get paid for it. So that's what going through a tough time taught me was just don't go too crazy and extend yourself out too much at a long distance. Because if you can manage that, you can pretty well get through any recession because you can set it out. Sure, you're going to maybe have to downsize with some of your employees, but you've got your machinery that's all paid for, so you'll be in pretty good shape.
Taylor White: Yeah, I think that it's important what you said. Like, Grandpa was kind of let's go and let's buy this, and didn't think about the 'what if' and you kind of did listen to and think about the 'what if.' And I think that's actually what also makes a good team as well, too, though. Us now, I don't think about the 'what if' and you think about the 'what if' and maybe my perspective on that would change if I did go through those bad times. But I also think that it's a healthy relationship to have in business because you need somebody that's constantly driving for more. Let's go, let's push. Not to say that you aren't, you are 100%, but you have more of a holdback of like 'what if', which is, I think, important. So speaking on a team dynamic, I think that it's important to have that, no?
David White: Yeah, it is. And I think you had a bit of a 'what if' with the COVID. So when COVID hit in 2019, we had a 'what if' moment.
Taylor White: I remember the phone call.
David White: Because we didn't know what was going to happen.
Taylor White: Sending the dump truck back. We're like, 'what are we doing holding off on it?'
David White: We had a new dump truck ordered.
Taylor White: Excavator, skid steer.
David White: And then I got calling and I'm like, “Oh my, what are we going to do?” And we were talking and you're like, “Dad, what's it going to be like? How long can we go before we have to really start to worry?” And I worked numbers, I looked at things, I made phone calls to the finance people. Because anyone I talk to– Going through a recession, there's always somebody that you can talk to and say, “What happens now? Give me some direction.” When we hit that COVID era, I reached out to my mentors, talked to people that had been in business for a long time, nobody could give me the answer of what to expect next. And that was a scary time. That's right. And it was a scary time. So that experience alone going through, you've seen how all of a sudden something could come and stop right real quick. So it kind of wakes you up a little bit, too, going, okay, it's not never-ending butterflies and stuff, rainbows. You're going to hit some hiccups in life, and you got to adjust on the fly.
And I think wit you guys, you haven't seen a recession as of yet, anything big, that's really hurt, but it will come. And I can't teach that to you, and I can't teach that to any other business person, but I can give you my experience on something. And that's what when we hit that COVID era, there was no one that you could talk to to figure it out. Which kind of was a strange thing, too, because even with the banks and with the finance people for the equipment, they didn't know what was going to happen, and it was out of our control. And it worked out really well.
Taylor White: Yeah, I was going to say–
David White: As far as business-wise.
Taylor White: I almost think it was not a good lesson at all, to be honest with you because I was so scared of losing everything that we've been working so hard for, Grandpa and you. And then it turned around to be the most impressive three years of business ever for anybody. You could have went and bought an excavator and kept it busy for the past three years, like, no problem, which is insane, but I want– Go ahead.
David White: It was a very short window. Whenever the 2019 COVID happened. We were two, three months, everything went to a standstill. And then it was like, okay, full cylinders, let's keep that truck coming, keep everything going. But it was a short window for you to see how something could change quickly.
Taylor White: Yeah, well, I'm glad that's in the past now. So today, what is the business like today? And I'm kind of interested in talking about the dynamic that we have here now and your role and what you're doing and what you think of the business. In your opinion, how's Ken White Construction doing? I never ask you that, ever. How is it doing?
David White: Okay, let me back up just a little bit.
Taylor White: Don't talk [crosstalk] again.
David White: No, you're asking about how the business is doing. Well, whenever I got into the business to do it, I was an operator. I wasn't a businessman. I was an operator, go out, did the work on-site, did everything that I did, speed it up to like whenever you started at 2018 with us in the business and you became partners in the business, the whole dynamics changed. Because now as a business person, I got pushed out of the machinery as we grew, as we grow. And you become a business person in the office now. And my dynamics in the office is I'm overseeing the financial day-to-day stuff. It took me away from that now that we got people hired for estimating, project management, project supervising. It's a different mindset for me in business to sit where I'm sitting today. But I'm enjoying it because I'm seeing you guys grow in the business, and the business has changed so much because of the Internet stuff that you can do with the Instagram and YouTube and stuff like that, that you've reached. And we've got the exposure now that I could never have had prior to that.
Taylor White: Did you ever see Ken White Construction getting to where it is today with just you?
David White: No, definitely not. I felt like I was stuck on a little island, actually.
Taylor White: But did you have any interest in growing it to where it is now?
David White: I would have grown the business, but not to what it is today because I didn't have the people that I was comfortable enough with to do that. It's great to have you in the business and my two nephews in the business. So family being in the business, it was much easier now to move forward and see it grow. There was an end for me because if it was not family that was going to be coming into the business, I would not be doing what we're doing now. Because you get to a point in your life, it's like, how much stress do you want to put yourself through to try to do it, and then what's your end goal? So to get out. I like where it's headed now because you guys are involved in the business and it's growing, and it's fun to see.
Taylor White: I guess it's pretty different because if you go back to 1960 when you were born and there's no cell phones or anything like that, technology is way further behind then than it is now. And now you have a business where you have a videographer on payroll that follows me around and follows the guys around, and we upload content to YouTube and Instagram. And what is your thought on that?
David White: I didn't know what to think when-
Taylor White: Yeah. Better rephrase that. What was your initial thought on me doing that? People always ask me that question. What does your dad think? What did he think? I’m asking you. What did you think when I was like, “Hey, I want to start putting stuff online and YouTubing our life.”
David White: Honestly, at that time, I remember you saying to me, you want to go on Instagram and do this stuff? I didn't even know what Instagram was.
Taylor White: Still don't.
David White: I follow stuff that's about it, but I didn't know what it was. And I'm thinking, okay, after you told me about it, I wanted to stand behind you and see, what can he do? Maybe he knows something I don't know, and go and try–
Taylor White: He couldn't know something I don't know.
David White: Well, yeah, you proved me wrong. I didn't know what to expect, actually, and then I just put my trust in you. You can't learn something that you don't know. And I didn't know anything about the space that you were heading to for Instagram and YouTube and everything.
Taylor White: Do you think that a business or somebody listening right now that has a business from somebody such as yourself, an older gentleman, and let's say another older gentleman is listening? What advice? Like some of your old business buddies, do they ever talk about YouTube or talk about the social media that we have? And what's your response to them? You guys need to do this or I don't really know. What do you think it does for a business?
David White: Well, I remember whenever you were starting it and they were talking to me going, “What's he doing?” Like, “Hold, what's that costing you?” And I said, “Well, you know what? I don't know much about it, but my son told me, you watch, Dad, in four years, they're going to be trying to catch up to us.” And I didn't know what that meant. Catch up to what? So now fast forward to today and now the people that were asking the questions and thinking, what are you doing? The business guys, they are trying to catch up and they're following you and they're telling me about the stuff that you're posting. So they've done a complete turnaround on what the internet can do. So I say, yeah, you got to get on it in order if you want to grow the way that we're growing and the exposure that we're getting, the doors that it opens for us is amazing. I didn't think that it would be what it is today from what you had created. So hats off to you.
Taylor White: I think it's pretty neat. I also think I remember when we were talking about it and you kind of didn't have any idea what was going to happen from it. And we ended up making something of that, which I think is really unique and pretty unreal. But I want to talk also about the building that we have now and kind of get a summary, I guess, of where the business is right now and what you kind of see. What are your thoughts on the entire business, not just social media, not just yourself, not just me, not just whoever, but the business itself? What would be a good summary of Ken White Construction as of today?
David White: It's a great family-run business. I think we're setting it up for future generations, and that's the whole goal in the business for me. I think that to be able to have what we have, buy a building, get things set up, the company now has its garage, offices, it's more corporate set up that we've given it room for the future generations now to grow. Because whenever I started, it was just a little shack we were in in the middle of our yard in Carp. Today, moving forward, we now have a nice piece of property with the building that can be for the future generation again. So I think we're headed in the right direction for sure. And it's about the family in the future.
Taylor White: Yeah, I agree. And add to that–
David White: I don't know if I answered you.
Taylor White: No, I would have the exact same answer. I also would just add that I really enjoy seeing our employees and seeing them grow with the company as well, too. Your grandfather now you're thinking of my kids and Lisa's kids, my sister, when you say like generational. But I very much also love seeing the guys and the girls out there on our team and I want to see them do well too. I think that's a big goal of kind of like construction is like taking employees from right now to ten years from now and having them in a completely different position, growing with the company as well.
David White: Yeah, for sure. And that's the thing with employees today versus when I started with employees, we didn't talk culture, we didn't talk anything. You show up, go to work, get your paycheck at the end of the week, and that was basically, you want to be in construction? Well then get up and get at it and put in lots of hours because that's your life. Today’s culture that we've created with the company, it's so different and it's great to see, and I enjoy coming to work to see everybody and to see the work that they're standing, they're doing, and producing to represent Ken White Construction and making us look good with our clients. That's the fun part, too. We've got a really good group of guys and girls that go out there and put in an honest, hard day's work and enjoy coming to work with us. And it's awesome to see. It's mind-blowing, the culture that we have right now.
Taylor White: I think it's really interesting that back when you were 100% running the business, there was no camp days. There was no anything such as that. Now we have a day at the beginning of the year dedicated to just camp days so that we build like team bonding and morale and culture and it's a fun time just for everyone to kind of let loose, but that's the intention of it. What are your thoughts on, I guess, the more effort and the more cost that goes towards that stuff now of putting in effort for culture morale? Do you think that it's needed? Do you think that it's not needed or what's your opinion on that?
David White: I think if you want to be a strong business in today's world and grow your business and have good people, you got to have those events that we do, and you got to show the appreciation back to your employees. I didn't have to do that before. We never did that because that just was not part of the industry. Today, it's becoming much more professional; the business culture is more inclusive of people in your business to grow. And I think it's definitely got to get on board, or else you're going to be stagnant and you're going to be sitting with mediocre people, working with you. So we want the best of the best, and we're getting the best, and it's nice to see.
Taylor White: Meteorocracy doesn't have a place in construction, especially at a growing business. Do you find it more difficult at the size of business we're at now versus when I just really kind of started getting serious in 2018 about business, and we had four employees?
David White: Do I find it more difficult? I find it more interesting right now because it's control that I don't have. I don't have control of the day-to-day operation stuff right now. Like, for instance, Diane, my wife, she asked me two days ago, she goes, "So what are you doing?" Because I was talking about what Brad was like, our project manager was setting up the jobs and the schedule and doing everything. She goes, "Well, what do you do now, though?"
Taylor White: You haven't done that for a year and a half.
David White: That's a good question. Yes because she still thought that maybe I was the one coordinating the jobs, meeting the clients, sending the invoices. I don't do that anymore. I said, "No, I'm more in the office overseeing everything, but I'm more the moving stuff around, making sure that the money is coming in, that kind of stuff.” So it's been very different for me to be able to step back and see that go. I'm enjoying.
Taylor White: Yeah, that's good. That's the main thing. No one has a gun to your head when you say that.
David White: No.
Taylor White: I'm having fun. But I guess you were just speaking about where you are now and how your roles kind of changed, and you used to do this and now you're doing that. I know that we have spoken before, but when's retirement? When are you knocked on? Do you care to retire? Do you want to come in and work three days a week? Do you not? Are you always going to work? Are you always not going to be here? What's your plan? Do you want to be here five days a week, 10 hours a day? Do you not?
David White: My idea of retirement is basically I want to be able to come and go as I please with the work. I still want to be able to come and see everybody, be part of it, be more like a mentor on advising you guys through stuff. But I don't want to have to be stuck having to come into work every day. When do I want to do that? I'm probably going to say within the next five years. I'm going to be–
Taylor White: It goes up a year every time I talk to you.
David White: Yeah, but I'll always be doing something. I just can't see myself walking away and not wanting to be part of the company, doing something. Whatever little role that may be, but I'll still be wanting to do something.
Taylor White: I also think, though, it's a part of you. You used to work my hours. I'm here before anybody else in the morning at 5:30 in the morning. And then now just with this year with Kara and then my wife being pregnant again as well, too, I'm normally out of here at 5:15, 5:30, whatever. But regardless, I'm here 12 hours normally a day, five days a week, and answering calls and stuff. You used to do that; you don't do that anymore. Now you could come in at 9:30, 10:00 and put in your day and whatever, but I think a lot of it like what you're saying, though, it's like you're just not ready for that yet. When you say five years, you mean five years because it's not like someone's holding you here, like you need to be here every day. You have a role, you have what you do 100%, but that's all stuff that you go to your cabin in the wintertime and on Thursdays you go golfing, and hopefully, Fridays you take off this summer and your hours have changed, so you're starting to let go of that process. But someone with a personality such as yourself, and that's why I am a workaholic because you raised me to be a workaholic as well, too, so it's all your fault. But that's kind of the plan and you kind of are executing that, would you not say?
David White: Oh, yeah, for sure. And as things go, I find I'm not controlling the day-to-day stuff now, and that's when it allows me then to be able to come and go as I please because I don't have to worry about what's happening out on the job sites. If there are issues, sure, you bring it to my attention as to what has happened, but yeah, I don't need to be able to do that. And that's my idea of semi-retiring, basically down the road, is not having to worry about it and someone else is worrying about stuff. But I can still come in and be part of the roundtable meeting if I wanted to.
Taylor White: The only thing that I think you really care about in a mental checklist I'm talking in business, is like, are we invoicing people? What are our receivables? And are the checks being put into the bank? And does our bank account have enough money in it to survive next month?
David White: Exactly.
Taylor White: Because I guess is there a secret honey pot of money somewhere that we just keep pulling from or I pull from?
David White: I'm still looking for it.
Taylor White: Do you give me an allowance? Yeah. No, I haven't given you an allowance in a while.
Taylor White: Do you just give me everything in life?
David White: Of course I do. No, you work and you're it. You're taking it to the next level, and I'm along for the ride like I said, and I'm enjoying it.
Taylor White: Yeah, but it's like I said at the beginning, it's a team thing. There's not one without the other. And I think that that's really important. I think that when people see social media, that's the part that we forget to convey. Not forget. I actually play on it as well, too. I love playing on the third-generation silver spoon, all that stuff, but it takes an army, it takes a team to make the business grow right now. And that's as much as my role is kind of outward-facing of, like, where are we going? Where are we headed? What's next? What's this big thing? What's this big thing? And then marketing as well, too. And I think that it's really important to have, like you said, oh, you're it, you're taking it. But I would disagree with that. I would be like, it's both of us.
David White: Yeah, no, for sure. And I'm the Debbie Downer guy. So I'm the guy that's saying, "Whoa, Taylor, we don't need to go do that right now. You're full of piss and vinegar and want to just keep rocking and rolling and going.” So it's my job to kind of bring back reality a little bit and say, "Hey, you know what? We could get into some tough times," and that's what I just want to gear things to.
Taylor White: That's a then problem.
David White: Yeah, then problem.
Taylor White: We have a lot of these and people listening in the office all the time, and it's always a joke. And in the wintertime, when cash flow is a little bit lower, there's always Dad sitting there at his office trying to figure out, like, "I've got to make it work. We've got to make it work." And I'm always just like, "Come on, we do this every year. It would be fine." Although we had a great winter this year. This winter was probably one of the best winters that we actually came out of as far as cash flow and not so much cash flow, I guess because winters always suck. But as far as keeping the guys busy, I think that that was the first one. We did land clearing last year, but last year, we ended up staying busy doing home projects and just keeping crews going.
David White: Yeah, and that's the thing that's changed, too.
Taylor White: That's key.
David White: That's what's changed in the business, too, before.
Taylor White: Yeah, talk about that. We use to break down.
David White: We'd shut down.
Taylor White: We'd close doors. I remember that.
David White: I remember mid-November, we'd shut down and everybody be like, "Lay me off, lay me off." They'd be laid off and they wouldn't come back 'til April, May, the following year. And everybody was good with it, but not now. Everyone's got to make a decent living to live in today's world, and they want year-round work. So yeah, we had a good year last year because I think we're getting set up now that we can work year-round.
Taylor White: Yeah, that's the whole part of my job, outward facing. I'm already thinking about winter now. And that was the whole point of hiring some of the people we just hired that have sewer and water backgrounds. Sewer and water continues on in the wintertime. Trying to figure out and get into these industries within construction that keep busy kind of year-round. But yeah, that's a big part. Like, we used to completely just close doors, shutter down, do nothing all winter other than plow the storage out and that's it. And I just did that myself; I was the only one working. We'd be in the office every day, obviously. But it's pretty crazy to think of what we used to do compared to if we even thought about doing that now. First of all, we'd lose our workforce, and then, second of all, the bank would be knocking—not for a pickup truck this time, but for a building and everything.
David White: I always say we've got a monster to feed.
Taylor White: I was just going to say it. I think that’s actually important. And sorry, I keep cutting Dad off because he’s my dad. But I really think that it’s important when you talk about the monster to feed. I know that there’s even days today that I go in and you just cannot believe the amount of money that it takes to stay going now. What we're doing in two months is what we would’ve done all year six years ago. And now, you see these bills for fuel, for insurance, for payroll, for equipment, for maintenance, for office supplies, for everything and you’re like, “Hey, like,” some days you literally say that, “I can’t believe how much this is costing us right now. This is how much it is to stay going.”
David White: It's a mindset thing. It's a huge difference as you grow your business to see the numbers that you've got to do when you are growing and getting more employees and having to pay all the stuff. So, to get over that is really hard on the mind to figure out and go, “Am I doing the right thing?" And the thing is too, I find, is there's not a lot of people out there that tell you how and what to expect as you're growing the business. Like I said, if somebody wanted to grow their business, I'd love to be able to go, "Well, here. Here's what we went through and here's what you've got to do."
Taylor White: Here's what we learned, yeah.
David White: But there’s no book that tells you exactly how to do it. There's so many curves. You've seen it week after week. We go, "Okay, we got this figured out. Everything's good." Well, the following week will come up and we'll go, "Okay, we got to change things here a little bit, because the way we're doing it now isn't the way to do it with the way we have structured in the business, the way that we're given direction to the employees, all the people out there in the workforce." So, that alone has been a big learning curve for us. And I hope in the future, somebody wants to know, "How do you grow a business?" We could tell them how you have to do that in order to get the business larger. It's the internal stuff that you don't get told about in the office, to have everything flowing properly.
Taylor White: And it's tough doing what we did and growing as we did with no outside capital, a s****y line of credit from the bank—sorry, bank managers listening—but we always want more. There was no secret honey pot of money sitting somewhere that we could pull from. It was your money and a little bit of mine; more yours than mine, and that's–
David White: Big balls.
Taylor White: Exactly, that's what I mean. I think that's the hardest part of it. It comes down to the almighty dollar. Because, again, if you were playing with somebody else's money, too, I'm not saying that it's easy because you have somebody else's money. I'm not saying that. All I'm saying is that spreading personally yourself thin is a really big aspect of it. And that's a really big mind F, because you're constantly thinking about the almighty dollar and, "Oh, my God, we need this much more this month. We need this much more." It's tough doing it all capital, investing in your own self. That's why people always ask me, my father-in-law is an investor, and everyone's like, "Oh, are you investing in RSPs and stocks and this?" I'm like, "Buddy, I'm all in on Ken White Construction, and so is my Dad. That's what we got. You want to see my retirement? Put the drone up in the air and look at the ten acres of land with iron everywhere. That's my retirement."
David White: And that's what I've always said. I tried the investments and RRSP stuff with other companies.
Taylor White: Your business just needs money.
David White: Yeah, I had to cash out on that. And it's like, "No, if I can't touch it, can't feel it, I'm not part of it." And so I invested in ourselves throughout my life. That's all I've been doing is just investing in ourselves. It's worked out for us.
Taylor White: Invest in yourself.
David White: Yeah, exactly. I know it makes great sense to go out and buy the RRSPs, but for us, I needed that money to put back into the company to grow for down the road. And my RRSP for my Dad was me whenever I end up buying the company and if he had lived on, he was going to be taken care of. I said, "I'm going to be responsible.” That's the RRSP that I invested in. And with you taking over the company and doing your stuff, you're going to all be on the hook for a long time owing me money. So that's going to be a good thing. That's why you’re my RRSP.
Taylor White: Oh, you think that?
David White: Oh, yeah.
Taylor White: I'll get you to sign something when you're all liquored up. I like that and I want to end on that. Investing in yourself, I think that's great and I think that that's a really great way to summarize the growth that we've had as well, too. I think it's really important to say that, too. And I also think that it's really important to highlight the success of a family business over three generations. Things that you do today can be the success of tomorrow. And I think that that's really, really exciting to highlight. Being in a family business, working with you every single day, it's just super exciting. And obviously, thank you for coming on today, talk about the business, and being as open as you could because I know that this is kind of out of your wheelhouse, but I think that a lot of people if they listen to the full show of this, can pull a lot of info from it.
David White: They might not make it to the end. They might fall asleep on us.
Taylor White: No, I don't think so. I think they're going to want more anyways. Maybe next time we'll have to have a scotchy-poo or something.
But thank you everybody for listening to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast brought to you by our amazing friends over at Komatsu. We will catch you guys on the next one. Make sure to listen everywhere that podcasts are available. Give a follow, like whatever, tag us on Instagram @conexpo. Appreciate you. Catch you on the next one.