The story of how and why Dean Crowley launched his own construction company while the economy was in the dumps isn't necessarily one of a yearning for entrepreneurial freedom.
That might be true today, but in 2011 Crowley didn't feel that way. “I never really had the entrepreneurial dream,” says Crowley. “The goal wasn't to start a company.”
Instead, Crowley figured he would end his career where it started in 1992, at W.G. Mills, once one of the largest independent construction firms in the state. But national construction giant Gilbane bought Mills in 2010. A Business Observer 40 under 40 winner in 2006, Crowley was a senior executive at Mills, but not a senior-level owner who made out with a big payday in the sale.
And while Crowley says the people at Gilbane were fine, his career trajectory was suddenly thrown out of order. At Mills, which had $275 million in revenues in 2009, Crowley ran project teams and business development missions statewide. Since Sarasota was the headquarters, he was in the epicenter of the company and had what he called a “unique situation.” But at Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane, Crowley would be just another vice president at a firm outpost.
Highly visible in the area business networking scene and the fifth generation of his family from Sarasota, Crowley soon lost something else at work: his smile. Says Crowley: “At Gilbane I didn't have the reasons I got up and enjoyed going to work like I had at Mills.”
So after a year at Gilbane, Crowley launched Crowley Services Inc. The name was ambiguous on purpose because Crowley wasn't sure what the focus would be, consulting for builders or actual construction. Now he does both.
Crowley Services has grown quickly. It had $450,000 in revenues in year one, and doubled that to $900,000 in year two. In 2014, the company had $1.6 million in sales, and Crowley projects revenues will reach at least $4.5 million in 2015. There are six employees.
Crowley Services, like many construction startups, handles a wide variety of work, from preconstruction services to design-build to construction logistics. Projects range from renovations at units in Plymouth Harbor, an assisted-living community in Sarasota, to a park and fountain in North Port. The company has done work in DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Clients include municipalities and private developers.
Crowley, now with some years and success, says he loves the freedom being an entrepreneur provides. Not only because he's his own boss, but now he does things he never did before, such as create a logo and build a website.
The biggest lesson Crowley has learned in going his own way is to remain flexible with where the revenues will come from. At Plymouth Harbor, for example, the work began in consulting and morphed into actual hammers and nails. “The opportunities,” he says, “might not be what you originally thought.”
Blast from the past
Here are some of Dean Crowley's responses to the questionnaire when he was a 40 under 40 recipient in 2006.
Formula for success: Plan ahead, know your project, treat people with respect.
What's on your Ipod? No iPod.
Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Grand Canyon.
What would you like to be doing more of? Time with family.
What would you like to be doing less of? Returning email and voicemail.