Five years ago, Dianna Devore cut the cord with her employer of 25 years and bought a business that had cut staff and reduced the workweek. The plunge paid off. Gross sales have doubled, and employees are enjoying bonuses.
“It was a risky acquisition,” Devore says of buying Design Fabrication Inc. after leaving Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. “I was a female that had entered a male-dominated construction industry with unrelated business experience. It was a constant struggle to earn the trust of our customer base and seek out knowledge and advice from our own employees, suppliers and subcontractors. It was very challenging and exciting at the same time.”
When Devore sold her SRC stock and shares in the employee stock ownership plan to purchase Design Fabrication, which specializes in structural steel fabrication for commercial construction projects throughout Missouri, the business had been hit hard by the 2008 recession.
“With an unwavering commitment to the company’s success, I immediately restored a five-day workweek for all employees and aggressively sought out bidding opportunities in order to generate new business,” Devore says. “I also implemented a profit-sharing program, which incentivized my employees to surpass established cash-flow targets. I credit Jack Stack and the Great Game of Business for this motivating, open-book management style.”
Undeterred by the obstacles she faced, Devore challenged herself and her employees to think big. By building its customer base and expanding the type of projects it pursued, company revenue has more than doubled the past five years, tallying $4.8 million in 2014 sales.
“Our employees are engaged in our business and kept informed of project status and key financial goals versus actual performance,” she says. “We are blessed to have had positive results for the past four years with maximum bonus levels paid out the past two years.”
When Devore arrived at Design Fabrication, the company had no established safety program.
“I immediately called upon the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a companywide evaluation, and they helped to identify hazards and provided direction to establish a first-rate safety program,” Devore says.
The new program directly affected the rating used to determine workers’ compensation insurance rates, savings that go straight to Design Fabrication’s bottom line.
Devore strives to provide the kind of mentoring to her employees that she received at SRC, teaching people how to run a business and giving them ownership in the outcomes. And because her industry requires a unique kind of employee, Devore is involved in Alpha House, a residential re-entry center for federal offenders.
“Our involvement gives released inmates an opportunity to become productive members in our community and successfully transition back into society,” she says.
For her business efforts, Devore was named the 2015 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium hosted by Drury University’s Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship.
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