By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It was in July of 1986 that Will Evans and his wife, Helen, started Premier Structures Incorporated, and grew it into a multi-award winning construction corporation that has completed several well-known structures in the area, including the pillars at City Hall in Athens and the Belle Chevre cheese-producing facility in Elkmont. Currently, their trucks and workers can be seen completing the sidewalk project on Pryor Street in Athens; a commercial project that will house a Walgreen’s Pharmacy, a doctor’s office, and a physical therapist’s office on Winchester in Huntsville; and a commercial project in Putman Industrial Park in Madison. “COVID has not slowed us down,” said PSI President and CEO Dan Mankins.
I thought about the fact that it was a full ten years ago that I first interviewed Dan for an anniversary article. At that time, Mr. Will had passed, and Miss Helen was still involved in the day-to-day running of PSI, with Dan at the helm. Miss Helen has since “gone home,” and Dan, who kind of “grew up” at PSI, had a story that reflects the American Dream: He worked his way up and became part of a team and a vision greater than himself.
The Evanses treated Dan like family and trusted him with their legacy work; and he is determined to pass on that same legacy to others who are “coming up.” The idea of mentoring his younger crew is not completely altruistic; these days it’s tougher to find young people who have the kind of work ethic and vision to make it in the construction industry. And if Dan and his team can train them to come into their own and be their best selves, the result is far better than a well-built structure; it also includes well-built people and a cohesive team.
I asked Dan what had changed the most in the ten years, and he quickly replied, “Technology. Everybody in a supervisory position goes out to a job site with an IPad.” This makes it possible to film what’s going on and show it to Dan or other team members, no matter where they are, and makes trouble-shooting so much easier. It also facilitates the mentoring process for more team members because the boss can be available for the whole crew, if need be, and function as though he is in more than one place at a time.
Dan has a number of other “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 also let me know that they are hiring and are in need of about ten steel erectors. “We will train them; they just need to be willing to work outside,” he said. He then quipped, “Construction is outside work. That means it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer.”
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.”
PSI vets their employees and does drug and background checks. “You have to be a US citizen, and if you want to make a career out of construction with us, you can,” said Dan. Congratulations to Dan and his crew for another successful year, and thank you for all that you do in and for our community!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner