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ARCHIVED  July 30, 1999

Duran clan builds on good work, reputation

GREELEY — Entrepreneurs are said to be a breed apart. They typically eat, drink and sleep their work, leaving little time for family. But Ellie Duran, president of Duran Excavating Inc., may have the opposite problem. As part of a family-owned business, Duran works with his two older brothers and father, and when the Durans are not at work they’re taking family vacations — together.

“We probably spend too much time together,” he said, with a smile that indicated otherwise.

The Durans will celebrate 20 years in business this year. As they look back over their accomplishments, which include reaching $6 million in revenues, they have much of which to be proud.

In 20 years, the Durans have built a solid reputation that has landed them jobs across the state. As utility and dirt contractors and demolition experts, the Durans operate as contractors and subcontractors and list some of the state’s largest projects among their own. Approximately 99 percent of the company’s work is commercial, and they frequently work on state, city and county projects.

Although the company is based in Greeley, the Durans do the majority of their work in Denver. Some of their larger projects include the Denver Central Library and the National Western Stock Center. This year, however, they are working on the Greeley/Weld County Airport expansion and are proud to say that now the company’s average project comes in at about $800,000 — a significant leap from the $50,000 projects that comprised the bulk of the company’s work in the early days.

Those salad days, however, provided a foundation for growth that Duran believes is invaluable to any successful business.

“In our younger days, we were always intimidated by the business world,” he said, “but we learned from scratch what it takes to move dirt and utility mains and have acquired business savvy and technical knowledge.”

Dave Daldegan, project manager for Hensel Phelps Construction Co., is one professional who values such seasoned partners.

“Ellie and I have always been able to solve problems that we run into on the site,” he said.

Hensel Phelps has done business with the Durans for at least 12 years, and Daldegan frequently chooses the Durans for projects because of the company’s reputation for good people and dependable equipment, he said.

“They’re not always the lowest bidder, but they’ve performed very well,” he said. “They’ve got a handshake attitude. They always cooperate with us.”

Getting down to the nitty gritty

“We’re the guys who get the project off the ground,” Duran explained. “And if you’re a fly-by-night contractor, they’re not going to give you another shot at it. We’ve tried to give people our best work in a timely fashion.”

Known throughout the area as general and subcontractors, the Durans have done a great deal of utility-line relocation and excavation. For a brief period in the late ’80s, when the construction industry took a dive in Colorado, the Durans ventured into business in San Diego but soon realized that Colorado was a better bet. “We did a few projects and then decided to stick close to home,” Duran said.

In 1992, construction in Colorado took off, and the Durans have been riding the wave of prosperity ever since. In fact, the company has set revenue records for the past five years and expects to hit $10 million by 2001. Their strategy to reach that goal is to seek larger projects and build on knowledge they’ve gained over the years, Duran said. Judging from the company’s volume of repeat business, that strategy has paid off.

Operating under the philosophy of building a solid foundation and using that as a stepping stone, the Durans have also cultivated loyalty in their employees. By offering profit-sharing and insurance packages, they’ve succeeded in maintaining a base of 30 full-time people. During the peak season, their employee roster increases to about 40, but Duran laments the high turnover rate common in construction.

“Someone out there is always offering a higher buck, so it’s tough to attract company-minded people,” he explained.

Still, the company’s success over the years has taken the Durans from a 700-square-foot rented facility to a 7,500-square-foot office and warehouse space on 2 acres, which they own.

“We gotta be proud of where we started and where we’re at, said Duran adding, “It’s all gone by too quick.”

20-20 hindsight

Despite the fact that the Durans got their business education on the job, they have remarkably few regrets when they reminisce about old times. They’ve learned to pass on jobs that offer only slim profit margins, but other than that, Duran says he wouldn’t do much differently if he could retrace his steps.

“I wouldn’t change a whole lot,” Duran said. “You ain’t gonna learn it if you don’t try it.”

Duran and his brothers started digging basements three years after he graduated from high school, and the business grew from there. “My dad has always been in the construction business. I guess it just filtered down,” Duran said.

Down to the ground, that is.

The three brothers, whom Duran describes as triplets, have been able to pool their interests and work together without the strife that frequently tears at the seams of family businesses.

Duran handles the management of the business, while brothers Larry and Gary handle the field operations. The senior Duran oversees maintenance and purchasing functions.

“We respect each other’s job functions,” Duran said. “It’s not like anybody wants more than the other, and we’re all dedicated to the business. Our biggest problem is that we probably don’t take enough vacation time.”

When they do go on vacation, they usually take cruises, and the whole family goes — brothers, sisters, kids, fathers and all. “We go as one whole, big family,” Duran said.

GREELEY — Entrepreneurs are said to be a breed apart. They typically eat, drink and sleep their work, leaving little time for family. But Ellie Duran, president of Duran Excavating Inc., may have the opposite problem. As part of a family-owned business, Duran works with his two older brothers and father, and when the Durans are not at work they’re taking family vacations — together.

“We probably spend too much time together,” he said, with a smile that indicated otherwise.

The Durans will celebrate 20 years in business this year. As they look back over their accomplishments, which include reaching $6 million…

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