Victor DiGeronimo Jr. never gets tired of gazing at his company's completed construction projects. The CEO of Independence Excavating Inc. recently made a visit to the new REI store at the company’s Pinecrest development in Orange Village.
“My cousins, whenever we do anything together, they make fun of me because I’m the old guy, so they make me pay,” DiGeronimo says. “REI opened up, so I went in the store and walked around a little bit. I texted my cousin who is running the job and I said, ‘You guys always say how old I am, but I’m just letting you know how proud I am of you.’ You never get tired of seeing your work.”
DiGeronimo merges his skills as a construction expert and a dealmaker to help Independence Excavating continue to thrive more than 60 years after it was founded by Sam DiGeronimo. The company has more than 400 employees at peak operation and owns and operates more than 300 pieces of construction equipment.
DiGeronimo says the Pinecrest project is an example of what can be accomplished when you don’t just go after the easy deals and are willing to accept a significant challenge.
“If it was easy, everybody would do it,” DiGeronimo says. “If it’s easy, the reward usually is not very big. We like the difficult ones, because that’s where we can add value.”
We spoke with DiGeronimo for a Master Dealmakers feature earlier this year, but wanted to share a few more pieces of wisdom that shape his approach to leading the family business.
DiGeronimo talks about taking risks and his key to finding happiness when making a deal. What follows is a transcript of the above video, edited for readability.
Bring on the challenge
Every opportunity, the challenge is different. I have such great support. I have 22 family members that work in one of our businesses. Everybody has their area and you can get really good information from someone about your particular risk or challenge. Some of them are a little more scary than others, I guess. But it’s all risk. If it was easy, everybody would do it. If it’s easy, the reward usually is not very big. We like the difficult ones, because that’s where we can add value.
Have a diverse set of skills
Pinecrest project, 271 and Harvard. There were 31 homes there. Some of the homes had septic, some had asbestos. We do all that. We have asbestos guys, we have utility guys. Where some groups or people are like, ‘I have to hire a demo guy, I have to hire an abatement guy.’ We can have all those costs before we get involved. A lot of times, a lot of the managers or general contractors in the area, they don’t have that self-perform ability to really have a handle on it before they’re in too deep.
The same with [the] Chrysler [plant]. There were a lot of people who wanted to buy it, but nobody wanted to take the environmental risk. We knew what it was. We did our diligence and we were comfortable with it. A lot of really smart real estate people and really smart industrial property owners wouldn’t touch it because they didn’t know what was underground. They didn’t have the knowledge in house to be able to say, ‘OK, it’s going to cost me this much.’ That’s where I think we have a huge advantage.
Do it the right way
If the deals don’t end good, they were never a good deal. It doesn’t matter if they make money or not. If it doesn’t end good for some various reason where your owner doesn’t like you or you’re fighting, the money doesn’t matter. If you do the right thing, you’ll make money and you’ll keep everybody happy. That’s our goal. We like to do multiple deals with the same people. That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the rule.