"If you turned something over to Ben, it was going to happen. There wasn't any other way around it. He was just such a dog on a bone. He didn't make everybody mad or anything—he would just somehow get it done. Sixteen- to eighteen-hour days were nothing to him. You just couldn't ask for a better business partner or a better friend," Lowe says.
Even after retiring, Houston has remained an active part of the TD business. Recently, he acted as executive in charge on the project to build a football stadium for the Arizona Cardinals.
"He would go out there for two or three days every week for two years," Lowe says. "It was a successful project, but it wouldn't have been as successful I'm sure if Ben hadn't been in the middle of it."
A key project Houston remembers being part of was the Campbell Center in Dallas, built by Austin Commercial. "They're two identical towers; the first tower was built a number of years before with a union contractor. Throughout my whole career, I've believed in merit shops—the right of union workers to work and the right of open shop workers to work," Houston says.
"The second tower was built merit shop, with some union trades, some open shop trades. It was built for about 20% less in terms of dollars and finished up about four to five months earlier. At that time, most high-rises and larger projects had been done only union, but this was a perfect example—you have two buildings that are identical, and one cost 20% less and was finished in months' less time because you blended the best of both."
Regardless of the project or his own role, Houston reiterates that it's all about the people on the site.
"When Ben goes out to walk a project, he doesn't just go to see the work, his mission is to touch and lift up every person on that site and tell them thank you. No matter if it was a 20-story building, a 40-story building, we walked every single floor to make sure we talked to every TD employee on that site and told them thank you and lifted them up," MacDowell says. "That's how we've all been raised, so now we senior leaders wouldn't think of visiting a project without speaking to every single orange hardhat on the job."
Houston recalls someone asking how he made workers feel important, "I said, I don't make them feel important, they are important," he says.
Houston's dedication to the industry led him to serve at the local and national levels of the Associated Builders and Contractors. During his second term as president of ABC of North Texas, he was instrumental in merging the Associated General Contractors and ABC Chapters of North Texas into one stronger association, TEXO.
"He was always focused on helping others succeed, and that was so key to his own success and his ability to grow the organization. People loved working for Ben because he helped them grow, he helped them become better, become even more than they ever dreamed they could be," MacDowell says. "His belief in people and his desire to serve are two of his strongest characteristics."
A motto that has become a mantra for Houston comes from his Seabee days: Can do. "I think that's essential for us to remember that as we move forward through the many challenges, obstacles and opportunities that we're going to see in the future," he says.
When Houston accepted the inaugural Legacy Award at ENR Texas & Louisiana's annual Best Projects luncheon in December, he said, "This award really goes to our clients and all our partners at TDIndustries. It's certainly not just to me personally, so thank you very much. We're honored and humbled."