Premier Structures Incorporated: Building Buildings And People

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

In 1986, Will Evans and his wife, Helen, started Premier Structures Incorporated, and since that time, PSI has become one of the most highly-respected construction firms in the Tennessee Valley. Dan Mankins, who is now the owner, having purchased PSI from Miss Helen a few years after Mr. Will passed, knows firsthand what it is like to be built up and grow as a man while you are constructing buildings. He spent several years working at PSI, moving up the ranks until becoming its president as well as its CEO. Now he’s at a point in his personal and professional life where he wants to pay it forward by building up those who are coming up. That is not to be construed as a handout, but rather a chance to revive what is nearly a lost art – building relationships via mentoring the next generation through apprenticeship.

What this means in simpler terms is that PSI is hiring, and with all the growth that is forecast as well as is currently in play in our area, skilled construction workers are going to be in high demand for several years to come. For example, PSI has been awarded contracts for the remodeling of the old Athens High School and some big-box retail projects beginning in September, and they are in need of at least 10 new employees.

When I first interviewed Dan in 2010, he said the following as it applies to PSI’s working philosophy regarding constructing buildings. What is interesting is that the same approach can be applied to building people, and PSI is in a great position to do just that:

“What I try to focus on is the quality and value of work that we provide to our customers. Our customers are people, not just companies. I want our company to do what we do, the right way, for a fair price. We don’t cut corners, we don’t do cheap work, period. Where some companies have faltered by reducing their standards just to get jobs, we have found a way to keep our standards high and provide quality work that we can stand behind. Along with our crews, we have a great group of subcontractors that work with us. We differ from most companies where we don’t shop prices or use a lot of different subcontractors. This way we know what we’re getting. Our subs know what we expect, and we know what to expect from them. I believe that doing business this way is the only real way to get what you pay for.”

While this truly is “the only way to get what you pay for,” sadly the work ethic that assures that kind of quality is an endangered species in our culture, as Dan has found too often. However, he has wonderful stories that tell what can happen when someone is teachable and willing. “We had a kid who had been taught poorly, took shortcuts, and didn’t want to learn ‘how to do it right the first time.’ We had to let him go. He went to work for other firms, and learned the hard way what happens when you don’t do it right. He came back, was willing to learn, and now is a lead man. He’s headed toward becoming a supervisor.” Dan has a number of “tools” on hand to build his crew. They include friendly competition, a leadership team with literally decades of experience who also share Dan’s vision, and the challenge to the younger employees to “step up and teach somebody else to do your job,” as he says.

Dan told me further that this is what PSI requires in order to work there: American citizenship, ability to pass the drug test, and willingness to learn while putting forth their best effort. Women are welcome. In fact, Dan says that in his experience women shine brightly in the construction industry.

“Ok,” I said, “Let’s say I am looking for a job. Why should I come to you?” Here is his reply:
“Our pay is in the middle, but we have something that hardly anyone else has, and that’s benefits. We have paid holidays and paid vacations. We have holiday bonuses. We have retirement plans. If you are interested, once you become a supervisor, there is a voluntary profit-sharing program.”

He went on to tell me that PSI is experiencing some real “growing pains.” “Right now we are doing about 7 million dollars of business a year, and we need to get it up to 10 million in order to handle all the growth. To do that, we need to hire about 10 quality people before the end of the year who can come on board with our vision,” he said. I asked, “What is your vision?” “Building buildings and people,” he said. If you are looking to build a life while you are constructing buildings, then PSI is hiring. Call them today to set up an interview.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner