A simple secret of success
By Francie Healy
When Clark Cada was a boy, his mother would say to him as he walked out the door to school: “Go do your best!”
It’s a family tradition now. It’s so ingrained that his kids often utter those words first, before he has a chance.
“I know, Dad,” they interject as they’re at the door, “We’ll go do our best!”
This philosophy is also at the heart and soul of Cada Construction. Go do your best.
“Do it properly and be honest and do what you say you’re going to do, then stand behind it,” says Clark.
He feels it’s the “secret of success” of any long-term business, especially a mid-size one like his that has been well established for 35 years.
It wasn’t just his mother who drilled “Go do your best” into him. It was also a hard-nosed, old-school, tough-as-nails fellow by the name of Ted Smith. Clark worked for him for eight years.
“He was absolutely miserable,” he says. “You didn’t do anything that was less than perfect. If it was less than perfect, he made you do it again.”
But, he adds, in many ways this “Simon Legree” character, as he calls him, was responsible for his own success.
“The number of times I wanted to quit!” he remembers. “And others did, too. He was tough to work for, but all his clients loved him because they knew he was going to do it right. He was taking care of them and their interests.”
Clark seems to be able to inspire the same quality in the work of Cada Construction, but without any of the crabbiness.
He was not actually destined for this work, or at least it didn’t appear that way. He earned his degree in political science and thought he’d become a lawyer. And then the job with Ted Smith, a family friend, came along. Years later, when Ted closed his business, Clark opened up his own. He was hooked.
“I could see the work I was doing,” he recalls. “I could see the results. Even today, that’s the best thing – the sense of satisfaction you get from being in construction. You take something from a piece of paper and months later, it’s real.”
Old Ted Smith is probably rolling in his grave now, because Clark’s daughter, Amy, is hooked, too. Ted Smith thought women had no place at all in construction. He’d be mortified to know that Amy will probably head up the company one of these days. Clark gets a kick out of the irony of that.
Cada Construction’s scope of work has changed over the years. Clients are varied; many of the same ones tend to keep coming back. Return customers might be older and require service that the company is not involved in today, but Cada takes care of them nevertheless.
“Back when we started,” Clark says, “we used to go and do the smallest thing – a door, a window, miscellaneous repairs, whatever, and we’d do it properly. Business changed over the years, but the philosophy is the same.”
He says the focus of the work seems to change with the times. In the 80s and 90s, for instance, people wanted renovations for larger kitchens, family rooms, additions. Now they tend to want upgrades of what they have so their living spaces become more practical, efficient, and spacious.
Many are looking for improvements that allow them to stay in their homes longer: walk-in showers, for instance, or interior elevators.
Cada Construction works with external partners – architects, designers, engineers, and other specialists. They help their clients establish budgets so they can achieve what they want with “transparent costing”.
The biggest challenge is “getting the whole thing right”, says Clark. This means estimates, scheduling, design; excellence from sub-trades; and motivated, satisfied, loyal employees.
It all comes back to that one simple philosophy.
“It doesn’t matter what it is,” says Clark. “or what you’re doing. Go do your best. It’s pretty basic.”