By Bruce Holoubek
founding president of Contracted Leadership
A drive through almost any part of Madison will take you across the path of some public, community, or business site that the team at Daniels Construction had a hand in building.
The prolific and professional work this family-run and employee-owned business has done is undeniable. Their fingerprints are all over the Capitol city. Breese Stevens Field, Lathrop Hall, the Madison Water Utility Facility, and many, many more public, private, and business structures exist and provide services as a result of the company’s diligence and care.
Sam Daniels is a third-generation leader of the company and views his role as COO as a privilege and great responsibility. He loves the family feeling the company provides and is proud of his family for cultivating it. He strives to live up to the standard of maintaining that sense of belonging as he leads the team forward.
Sam’s journey into a leadership role and the lessons he’s had to learn — and how he’s learned them — provide great food for thought for others in similar positions. One thing Sam’s learned, and which my experience as a leadership consultant has proved — culture in any organization serves as the heartbeat. It determines at least three things: the quality of the work, the manner in which it is done, and the attitude with which the work is accomplished. The Daniels approach to building culture is to truly care for employees, in work and non-related ways.
Sam tells the story from his grandfather’s days of leading the company, it’s a situation where he got word that a team member with a new baby to their home had lost their only working refrigerator. It was important to him that his employees have an excellent quality of life, so he did what seemed reasonable to him. He drove to the person’s home, knocked on the door, and handed them cash to purchase a new refrigerator. In his words, “Your baby shouldn’t have spoiled milk.”
That story motivates Sam to carry on the legacy his grandfather, father, and uncle have invited him into. He wants to not only support that sort of culture, Sam wants to expand and improve it. In his own words:
“There’s a lot of businesses that say, ‘Our people are the most important thing,’ or ‘Our people are our most important asset,’ and for us, it’s just so true. We are a very flat company as far as the office staff goes, everybody pulls their own weight, everybody pulls in the same direction. That’s partly an aspect of the ESOP, the ‘Employee Stock Ownership Culture.’ Everybody has buy-in, everybody out in the field on the trade side, they’re all working together too, and we’re really nothing without them. And that’s why it’s so important for us as we continue to move forward, that we get the right fit, we get the right people in the right seats to continue… so that as we grow as a company we don’t lose that culture piece.”
We’d all agree that one of the most important of those seats, is that of leader. Daniels Construction is in good hands there. Sam is a leader worth following and a COO who wants to provide fulfilling, challenging work for his employees in a way that allows for a healthy life at home.
In my experience as a leadership and development contractor, I’ve come to believe that the attitude Sam possesses is one of the most important foundation stones of any organization. It’s my hope that his story motivates and inspires you to make your company culture into a “family” culture, even if your business is not family-owned.