2017 Intermountain Legacy Award: Dave Wadman
David Wadman is the third generation of his family to work in the construction trade. His grandfather Benjamin Wadman was a carpenter and builder. Jay Wadman, David’s father, returned from World War II service in the U.S. Navy and worked for a Ogden, Utah, general contractor before starting his own company. Building homes and taking smaller jobs, he eventually teamed with local architect Bob Hodson to bid on a new elementary school project for the Ogden School District.
“They convinced the school board they could do it, and after that one, they did more schools. Things grew from there,” says David Wadman.
The company incorporated in 1951. After working as a jobsite laborer, an estimator and a project manager and earning a degree in construction management, David took over as president in 1982.
The company grew steadily, landing work in the hospitality, retail and institutional markets. In recent years, Wadman Corp. completed the Payson Temple and the Kaysville pasta production plant for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the 50,000-sq-ft Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, several multifamily projects in Salt Lake City and the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Airport terminal replacement.
In 2008, Wadman moved to his current position of CEO. Wadman Corp. continues to work in 46 states and will close out 2017 with nearly 200 employees and around $200 million in annual revenue.
Besides growing the firm, Wadman says he has tried to build a corporate culture that values personal development and community involvement. For those efforts and in recognition of his leadership in the local building industry, Wadman is being honored as the 2017 recipient of ENR Mountain States’ Intermountain Legacy Award.
“Things my father taught me and that stand out is the importance of commitment. You do what you say you’re going to do, whether it’s written in a contract or not,” says Wadman. “The other thing was that you give back to others. If you have the opportunity to help others along the way, either financially or with service, you should do so. I think we have a culture here that gives back and invests in personal development. It is part of our business plan.”
Keith Buswell, vice president of corporate relations for Wadman Corp., says those values have been a part of the company’s mission statement all along.
“Wadman stands as a stimulating organization with committed and passionate individuals who empower the team to achieve success for each team member and for our clients by being trusting, honest and committed to each other’s success,” Buswell says. “It doesn’t even mention that we are in the construction business. We are in the people-and-relationship business.”
Wadman Corp. President Dave Hogan, who has been with the company for 20 years and became president 10 years ago, says David Wadman impressed on him the importance of maintaining a “family feel.”
“I really love the fact that I know every single one of our employees and that I have interactions with them all the time,” Hogan says. “At the executive level, we are involved with them and their families. We have a strong connection with our people and our community, and we try and take care of our clients in the same way.”
Each day at Wadman Corp. headquarters begins with a company cheer. When it is an employee’s birthday, someone in management calls that person and sings “Happy Birthday.”
Chris DeHerrera, president of the Utah chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and a former Wadman Corp. employee, recalls an incident that happened years ago, when an employee died on the job. “David brought in a grief counselor to help all the team deal with it and heal from the tragedy,” she says.
Buswell also notes Wadman’s compassion for the people he works with. “I’ve seen Dave spend many hours assisting employees and their families when they are dealing with the death of a loved one or other times of despair and frustration,” Buswell says. “Employees know Dave will do all he can to take care of them, and they reciprocate by giving their best.”
“He can seem gruff to those who don’t know him,” says DeHerrera. “But he takes his leadership role in the company and the community to heart. During tough times at the company, it seemed like he carried the world on his shoulders, but he was always the first to ask someone else how they were doing.”
She says Wadman Corp. continually invests in the development of its people, with annual superintendent conferences, leadership training and custom employee training sessions.
Wadman says the leadership training takes many forms but often involves outreach to the Ogden community. For example, Your Community Connection (YCC), a nonprofit community resource center, operates a shelter for battered and abused women and children. As part of a Wadman Corp. leadership conference, a team of employees in 2009 renovated all 11 apartments at the shelter. The workers arrived there in the morning, just after the residents had left for the day, and completed the project by the time they returned.
This summer, a team of Wadman employees participated in Cycle for Life, a fund-raising bicycle ride for the Utah-Idaho chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The team helped to mark the route, hosted a rest stop for riders and rode 480 miles, raising more than $7,000 for the charity.
Throughout his career, Wadman has been a champion of the local Boy Scouts council, helping as a fund-raiser, and served on the boards of directors for YCC, the Catholic Community Service and Weber Pathways. He continues in his father’s footsteps, serving as a board member for American Indian Services (AIS), a non-profit that provides college scholarships to Native American students. (Buswell has served on the AIS board, too.)
Wadman’s service extends to volunteer work across the industry. Wadman Corp. has been a longtime member of ABC Utah, and David Wadman served as chairman of the board in 1995, says DeHerrera.
“He was instrumental in growing ABC during that time and has continued to be a major supporter of ABC and merit-shop [practices],” she says.
Wadman also supports educating the next generation of construction professionals—for example, creating the Wadman Learning Center’s construction lab at Weber State University’s College of Construction Management.
“Dave doesn’t like the limelight and generally doesn’t want people to know all the good he does,” says Buswell. “Our company culture is really an extension of him.”