all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. BD: We’re currently looking at ways to diversify stock and are potentially looking at becoming an ESOP. We want to have more people vested. Tenured employees have a great deal of corporate knowledge. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. BD: Change management is all about sharing knowledge and acquiring more knowledge. I’m constantly attending webinars and encourage others to attend as well. When things start opening up again post-COVID, we’ll be attending trade shows, conferences, and presentations again. Learning and education are so important. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? BD: It’s all about the relationship between people. You have to have trust to have a successful transition. “[My primary responsibilty] depends on what the business needs at any given time. No matter what it is, it needs to focus on successfully driving the business forward.” TZL: Tell me about a recent project that was particularly challenging and why. How did you meet that challenge? BD: I-26 in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s the largest project that the NC DOT has ever done and we’re responsible for building a soil nail wall of 120,000 square feet. A soil nail wall is a “top- down” retaining wall constructed in five- foot lifts by drilling rows of nails and applying a shotcrete face. The nails start at the existing ground surface and are installed as the ground in front of the wall is excavated in lifts. We’ve really had to step up to meet contractor demands and have assembled five different crews to meet those demands. Mobilization and meeting safety requirements have been
greater than 40 feet, we’re uniquely equipped to deliver safe, predictable, and effective results. Our team includes industry experts in structural support, earth retention, and soil stabilization with decades of experience, and we’re dedicated to ongoing advancement in the field. “Since our clients cannot really see what we’re doing, they have to take our word for it. We need to foster absolute trust in our work. We do this through transparency and communication.” TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” BD: Balance is a happy medium. As an owner, I’d say the mix is 70 in the business and 30 on the business. I’m mostly dedicated to growth in the business markets and focused on financials. And of course, sometimes, I get involved with project management and personnel issues. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? BD: Trust is a unique thing at our firm. Since our clients cannot really see what we’re doing, they have to take our word for it. We need to foster absolute trust in our work. We do this through transparency and communication. We provide daily logs and weekly reports so the client can “see” what’s happening at all stages. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? BD: Thoughtful, insightful, and innovative. I want to make sure people are involved. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? BD: We’ve used it in the past. If you do R&D, you can write it off, so we hope to use it again in the future. We’re always on the search for innovations in geotechnical construction and talk and teach innovation. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an
HEADQUARTERS: Colfax, NC NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 73 YEAR FOUNDED: 2004 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 1 CORE SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Soil stabilization. UMA’s patented deep injection process fills voids and compacts soils to increase load bearing capacity with minimal disturbance. Residential, industrial, and commercial clients have benefited from decreased project costs as a result of using this innovative method. ❚ ❚ Earth retention. UMA’s seasoned Professional Engineers develop the most cost-effective methods of retaining lateral loads. Soil nailing, helical tiebacks, rock anchors, and mechanical anchors are among the techniques UMA uses to retain soils, stabilize slopes, and landslides. ❚ ❚ Structural support. UMA specializes in designing and building support solutions to match its customers’ plans and budgets. Helical piers and micropiles are some of the drilling services the firm offers. As a full-service geotechnical contractor, UMA can customize a plan of action using a combination of solutions. DESPAIN’S ADVICE: Surround yourself with talented people. No one can be successful on their own.
See MOVING FORWARD, page 8
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UST 16, 2021, ISSUE 1404
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