Doug Woods, who co-founded DPR Construction in 1990, died on May 19 at age 70, reportedly of pancreatic cancer.
Woods (shown above, center) founded the Redwood City, California-based firm with Peter Nosler (right) and Ron Davidowski (left), and under their stewardship, DPR grew rapidly as a commercial contractor and construction manager. Within seven years of its founding, the firm ranked in the nation’s top 50 general contractors, a standing it has held since.
Born in Ontario, Canada, in January 1951, Woods grew up in a construction family. His father was an engineer who worked in construction and real estate for HP. The Woods family lived in houses Doug’s parents built themselves from the ground up or renovated. Not surprisingly, starting in his formative years, Woods grew to love building things, according to a memorial page on the DPR website.
Founded at a time when many construction companies had transitioned into using brokers to help alleviate headaches from coordinating deals and self-performing work, DPR's founders purposely took a hands-on approach.
Woods' personal philosophy was stamped all over his company’s corporate culture, according to the website. He insisted DPR create a customer-centric business model founded on taking good care of its employees. That translated to a company culture profoundly dedicated to worker safety and incident-free work days.
Referred to by many employees as "Uncle Doug," Woods went out of his way to treat staff the way he himself would want to be treated. The mutually respectful culture is reflected in the company’s lack of offices and corporate titles, noted employee Robert Andrescik in a LinkedIn blog post.
"When you hire great people who want to do great work, provide them great pay and benefits and place them in a great work culture, you get (you guessed it) great results," he said.
A positive attitude
As passionate as he was about the people the company employed and served, Woods was equally enthusiastic about construction itself.
The more complicated, technical and daunting the construction challenge, the more he loved the work, associates said. He particularly relished visiting jobsites and interacting with project teams and customers, eyeing every opportunity to move his company forward.
Much of the company’s success may be attributed to Woods' conviction anything was possible, coworkers said. "I remember working in the early days of DPR in pursuit of microelectronics manufacturing facilities," said project executive Whitney Dorn.
"Just one of those projects would have tripled our volume at the time. Those projects seemed so out of reach. But not for Doug," she said. "His confidence, optimism, and pure determination made us feel like we would land them. And we did!"
That determination led DPR to a string of milestones. In 1992, the firm landed its first ground-up project, building a skilled nursing facility in Los Gatos, California. In 1998, DPR attained the $1 billion mark in annual revenue.
In November 2015, just months after the company feted its silver anniversary, Woods, Nosler and Davidowski were honored by the San Francisco Business Times, which gave the trio a "Most Admired CEO" award. Today, DPR is the 12th largest construction company in the U.S. by revenue, with almost 8,000 employees across the U.S., Europe and Asia.
In the years to come, Woods’ trademark battle cry is certain to live on at DPR. "We exist to build great things," he often said. "Support your team. Ever forward."