Dohns see tangible rewards all over town 2014 Bravo! Entrepreneur - Fort Collins

It’s a rare day that Doug and Connie Dohn drive around northern Colorado without seeing a school or a restaurant, a car wash or a library or a loft they built.

More than 20 years in, the owners of Dohn Construction Inc. see the fruits of their hard work everywhere in Fort Collins, Loveland and Boulder as well as southern Wyoming.

“The rewards are a lot of the tangible things out in the community that we’ve built,” Doug said.

Added Connie: “It’s so nice to work with people who are excited about what you do.”

And it’s particularly rewarding having survived a recession that wiped out many in the construction industry.

When the Dohns opened their general contracting company in 1992, they figured it would be a slow start.

With a career in construction that began when he was in high school, Doug ran the general contractor end of the company while Connie, a certified public accountant, ran the business end.

But almost from the get-go, they were busy building custom homes, condos, apartments, churches, retail buildings, schools, buildings for Colorado State University, restaurants. The list goes on.

By the time the recession hit in 2008, they had 78 employees and a roster of contracts. By the end of 2009, work had slowed to a crawl.

“We lost about a third of our volume and had to cut back a third of our staff,” Connie recalled. “The lowest point in our business was when we had four executives who sat around the table and decided employee by employee who we had to let go.

“It was awful.”

As tough as things were, they never considered closing their doors. “We had 43 dedicated people who were still working here,” Doug said. “We felt loyal to them, and they felt the same way about us.”

The company relied primarily on government contracts for work and “there were a lot of jobs that had no margins at all,” Connie said.

Fortunately, they had always operated without debt and retained a lot of cash in the business. “We had a very healthy financial statement,” Doug said.

Things have finally turned around, though much of their work these days is apartment buildings to meet a pent-up demand.

“We’ve survived the last four years. Now we’re ready for another growth period,” Doug said.

They’re facing new challenges as well. Subcontractors are being hit by price inflation across the industry and by a shortage of workers as a result of the higher wages paid for work on surrounding oil fields.

Of their four daughters, one, Stephanie, works in the business, and they see opportunities for the others as they finish college.

The Dohns also find time for community involvement. Doug is president of the Larimer County Food Bank. Connie is president of the Community Foundation board of trustees and also serves on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau. They sponsor a golf tournament put on by their employees, who have donated more than $100,000 to local charities in the last five years.

When pressed, they tick off a few of their favorite projects: Rockwell Hall at CSU, the Old Town Lofts at Oak and College, the children’s garden at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.

Their biggest rewards, however, come from the relationships they’ve built and maintained over the years, “from our employees to our subcontractors to the project owners. That’s why we’re successful.”