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Doug Woods, DPR Construction's cofounder, dead at 70

His management style stressed collaboration that can tackle complex projects.

May 25, 2021 |
Doug Woods (center), in a 2015 photo with DPR Construction cofounders Ron Davidowski (left) and Peter Nosler. Their business is one of the industry's leading general contractors. Images: DPR

Doug Woods (center), in a 2015 photo with DPR Construction cofounders Ron Davidowski (left) and Peter Nosler. Their business is one of the industry's leading general contractors. Images: DPR

   

Doug Woods, cofounder of Redwood City, Calif.-based DPR Construction, passed away peacefully at his home on May 19, according to a statement released by the company. He was 70 years old.

The cause of death and the names of family survivors were not immediately available.

With partners Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski, and $750,000 in pooled resources, Woods launched DPR as a self-performing general contractor in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1990. (The firm’s name derives from the initials of the founders’ first names.) “When we started DPR, we wanted to be a customer-focused organization,” recalls Woods, who always saw DPR as a service business. “We’re not a hard-bid general contractor; we’re a negotiating, self-performing general contractor that takes care of our customers. To do that, we need great people, who are happy and willing to work hard. That’s one of the things that started us, making us different from the very beginning.”

By 1995, DPR ranked third on Inc. Magazine’s national fastest-growing private companies listing. And over more than 30 years, Woods, Nosler and Davidowski watched their business expand into one of the industry’s largest GCs, with roughly 6,500 office and craft employees worldwide and more than $6 billion in revenue in 2019, the latest year for which sales information was available.

Woods stepped back from day-to-day management of the firm in 2015, but stayed on DPR’s Management Committee until 2017. He served as CEO on the firm’s board of directors until his passing.

CONSTRUCTION IN HIS BLOOD

Doug Woods, cofounder, DPR Construction

DPR Construction's Doug Woods emphasized team building and customer service.

 

Born in Ontario on January 27, 1951, Woods was the son of an engineer. His family built or remodeled every house that Woods lived in growing up, and his father worked in construction and real estate. “Being in the construction field is in my blood,” Woods was quoted as saying.

DPR’s first ground-up project was a skilled-nursing facility for The Terraces in Los Gatos, Calif., and healthcare has since been one of its primary practices. The firm hit $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time in 1998. But Woods wasn’t interested so much in milestones. “For us, there has been no single defining moment but a series of opportunities and challenges that have impacted the company DPR is today and made us stronger.

The company’s unregimented management style—“No titles, no ties, no org chart,” Woods told the San Francisco Business Times in 2015—found its success in collaborative teamwork, which is palpable in the reminiscences of several colleagues and employees.

TEAM BUILDING MORE WORDS

“I only had the privilege of meeting Doug maybe six times. From a guy who came up from the field and had limited education, Doug really showed me what ‘no rank in the room’ meant: ‘Don’t ever forget, we exist to build great things,’ ” recalled Robbie Thomason, a senior superintendent who has been with DPR for more than seven years.

David Ibarra, a 25-year company vet who directs the firm’s mission-critical group, remembers meeting Woods as a new employee doing electrical on a complex project. Woods wanted to know if Ibarria was getting the management support he needed in the field to execute his job. “If not, he told me ‘just call them out.’ I had a founder talking to me directly, and ensuring that I was empowered to do my role.”

Kurt Wallner, a Project Executive at DPR, first encountered Woods in May 2000, when the latter was laying out the firm’s 2030 Mission. “Hearing Doug talk about a vision for DPR, decades into the future, I knew right then that I was joining something very, very special.”

Woods served on the Construction Industry Roundtable and was a board member with U.S. Green Building Council. And his legacy at DPR could, in part, be defined by Mission 2030, the firm’s strategic focus to be recognized as one of the world’s most admired companies by that year.

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