Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Deborah and Craig Danto:
For Craig and Deborah Danto, husband and wife and owners of Danto Builders, much of their success can be attributed to their involvement with their clients along with a family-owned environment they've organically created. From their annual Big Bad BBQ that raises money for the Special Olympics to their honest and transparent nature, everything about Craig and Deborah, and the staff at Danto Builders, reflects a team of individuals that truly care about their community and their clients.
"Craig was born and raised in construction," Deborah said. "He's a 4th generation in the construction business. Craig's father was originally in the underground portion, doing airport runways. Eventually he went vertical and developed communities throughout the United States. From working with his father, Craig knows everything from underground construction to residential to commercial buildings. He has experience building spec homes and commercial projects including, restaurants, hotels, general commercial work and government contract work."
When Deborah and Craig married, Deborah joined Danto Builders as Chief Operations Officer and brought with her a wealth of knowledge and experience. "My background is in business," she said. "I have my MBA and I've worked with large corporations such as Pizza Hut and Arby's. I eventually got into manufacturing and now construction. Through it all, I've always had an operations/technical mind." When Deborah came on-board, they saw an opportunity to restructure the company to better position themselves for additional government opportunities. Deborah became a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), acquired her General Contractor License and, together with Craig, restructured the company to be an official women-owned business.
Like most entrepreneurs, Deborah and Craig have and continue to face their share of challenges. The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 hit Danto Builders pretty hard. Before the recession, they were doing a lot of work for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. When that business dried up, things got tough. "It took everything we had, both personally and professionally, to keep the business running," Deborah said. Since then, they've diversified their portfolio of projects to spread out some of the risk. Other challenges include finding good and consistent labor and subcontractors that are up-to-date with their credentials.
Deborah is very bullish on the future and sees many different opportunities for further growth. "I see joint ventures and partnerships in our future," she said. "These partnerships will better position us to take on some larger projects. I see continued growth in healthcare, hospitality and government work. We're also thinking about opening another branch on west coast of Florida. We're not the big guy, but we have the ability to do big jobs by pulling in additional resources."
Deborah offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "Don't quit your day job until you're set up to go and you have the reserves," she said. "Find a mentor before you go into it. Having someone that can walk you through the pros and cons before you take the leap is huge. It's also important to get involved. Face to face meetings and introductions is what's important. You can't just send out emails. Networking can and will expose you to new opportunities. Lastly, be honest and don't try to paint a rosy picture for your clients that everything is going to be perfect. Construction is tough and things go wrong, but as long as we make them right, we'll all work well together." Regardless of the industry, things will go wrong. Being upfront and honest with your clients is a surefire way to gain their respect and their loyalty.
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