From Humble Beginnings

Vision is the hardest thing to hold on to when you’re navigating the ever-changing landscape of construction. As the author, Joel A. Barker once famously said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

What Joel is alluding to is that vision and action are two very different things, yet both are contingent on each other to make your impact on the world profound and lasting. Running a successful business shares the same dynamic between vision and action. You might have a grand strategy for what your business will become, but once you open your doors, you’re often caught up in the day-to-day and find yourself no longer having the time to nurture your original vision. Even profitable companies can get stuck treading water; they’re so fixated on action that they’re not looking far enough into the future.

Craig Danley, President, and CEO of Delta Pipeline has always had his eyes on the future. Even from humble beginnings and the hardships of managing a business, Craig has tried his hardest to stay true to his original idea, which is investing in peoples’ futures.

Delta Pipeline is Born

Craig started his career in construction at 15 years old with his grandfather, who had an underground wet utility company. He started as a laborer and quickly moved into a pipelayer, foreman. Craig went to contractors’ school, earned his contractors license at 19 and went into business with his grandfather at the age of 20.

“It was a different era.” Craig explained. It was good to know how the industry operated, but Craig wanted to run business in a different way. When the business folded in 1989, amid a major recession that wiped out many other businesses, Craig seized the opportunity to forge his own path. He’s forever grateful for his grandfather, Harold, who taught him everything about the industry.

“I wanted to build something. I wanted to grow a company, one that would last, and I didn’t want it to be just about me.” In 1991, Craig and his business partner, Richard Vance, started Delta Pipeline. Like many grassroots companies of that era, they gutted Richard’s garage and turned it into an office. Craig remembers that period well, “We made our plan tables out of Richard’s doors.”

Delta had 7 team members during their first year and booked $479,000 in sales. Before you think that’s a large sum, after cost and overhead, profits were slim. Craig was forced to work nights as a steam cleaner to make ends meet. “The steam cleaning job put soup on the table.” He’d come home at 3:00 am, get a couple hours of sleep, and then head back to the office.
Slowly, things got better. From 1991 to 1995, Delta Pipeline was able to grow their sales close to a million dollars. At that point, Craig felt he finally had the resources he needed to get closer to his original vision.

People . Principle. Purpose

At the heart of Delta are the “3Ps”, which summarizes Delta Pipeline’s core values. Craig wanted to be more than just a CEO of a company. Anytime you ask Craig what his leadership team does at Delta, he’ll have a simple answer for you. “We invest in peoples’ futures.”

In 2005, Craig and Richard had finally found their true purpose in life. The company was on sure footing and they could really experiment with unique ideas of management. Craig refers to this as “shared capitalism”. He was not interested in hiring the typical, experienced industry leaders. Instead, he focused on hiring people who needed careers. He wanted to find people that could use a leg up. His only stipulation was that they would work hard and be willing to learn and grow. He wasn’t surprised to find that the company was hiring people who became great employees. If they had that fire in them, it didn’t matter if they were living in their car or in a condo—they had an exceptional opportunity to learn a valued trade and create a good living for themselves and their families. Craig found that if you have the right people, a solid set of principles, and a clear purpose, success was almost guaranteed.

In 2017, Craig and Richard felt the company was in a great place. It was providing opportunities to people that truly needed them. Employee retention was great, in fact 6 of the 7 original employees from 1991 are still with the company! Delta Pipeline was doing well, and Craig knew it was time to start letting go and turn the Delta legacy over to those who help to build it.

From Private Ownership to ESOP

It was Craig’s vision all along—a business full of ambitious, hardworking and talented folks that would all benefit from the fruits of their labor. In 2017, he and Richard created Delta Pipeline’s Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). They were literally gifting the company forward—putting it into the hands of the employees that made it so great.

Craig understands the value of his team, “I can’t do what they do. We need each other.” Through the ESOP program, the shareholders are empowered to not only profit from their hard work, but to really participate in the heart beat of their company.

These days, Craig is in the business of empowerment. That is why Delta Pipeline has its own in-house training program, Delta Pipeline University. Team members learn the trade while they work. Delta even offers leadership training—it’s not uncommon to start at Delta as a laborer and make your way into a leadership role. You’ll have the tools to do just that; all you need is the desire to be more.

Craig wants everyone to know they have a voice and leadership is about learning the techniques to “lead”, more than it’s about giving orders. “Through leadership, we grow in the awareness that we’re all in this together.”

Delta Will Always Look Toward the Future

They knew what they wanted in 1991, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Craig and Richard really felt like they had hit their stride and knew there was plenty more that could be done. Their humble beginnings and running the operation out of Richard’s garage, taught them that humility and clear vision are two of the hardest things to hold onto during the tumultuous hustle and bustle of an average day in construction.

So far, so good and they keep their eyes on the horizon. Creating the ESOP was just the start. They want to continue to invest in people and grow Delta’s share value for the benefit of all.

“We’re a small business that is growing our team members, investing in people and we really care about the future of others, ourselves, our community and our country.”