Dennis Crimmins is a commercial developer operating out of Alamogordo, New Mexico. After graduating high school, he pursued an opportunity at White Sands Construction – a residential remodeling company with a positive reputation in the community. Having worked as an employee for several years, Dennis spoke with the owner about moving up within the company. In an unexpected turn of events, he was given the opportunity to purchase the business. Soon after, the company turned its focus from residential to commercial clients. They have also worked with the military on several projects and is recognized as one of the largest companies in southern New Mexico.
Dennis has managed to create partnerships with many national franchises and has been part of the development of city halls, military buildings, dispatch centers, and more. In 2015, he moved from running the construction side of the company into a development role. As a hard-working and ambitious individual, he is always looking for new and exciting professional opportunities.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I was working for White Sands Construction for a few years by the time the original owner was ready to sell the company. They were strictly a residential remodeling company at that time and I was looking into moving toward opening my own company that would work more with commercial clientele. We are also very near to an Air Force Base that I thought could potentially be a great source of revenue. During a meeting, I was offered the opportunity to buy him out. Once that happened, my wife and I really ramped up the business in the direction I wanted to go.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts with phone calls with my brokers and engineers, finding out what companies are wanting to come into our area and how I can get our company in front of them before they pick a developer. Throughout the day, there are meetings and phone calls to handle whatever comes up. At any time, we have several projects in the works. Something can happen unexpectedly and you have to be ready to take care of it as efficiently as possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By designing and building for companies wanting to come into our area. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with some really great people. We have gotten into partnerships with several franchises. If a company wants to build in our area, we help them find the best area, then develop and build the site. When a developer approaches me, we lay out the area for them. They may design the building, but we can help them find out which areas are better for commercial and which are better for residential. The great thing about how the company has expanded is that we are knowledgeable in a lot of different aspects of building and development. We don’t just build or just design. We can offer it all.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Developing and building for franchises wanting triple net leases. A lot of the national chains don’t want to be tied down with owning the real estate. They want their capital available to buy more stores. A triple net lease means I still own the property itself, but they take care of everything. From insurance to taxes, they cover the costs. It is a great way to earn passive income after the development and building are complete.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Do not take no as an answer. I am always looking for alternative ways to get things done. If we have a new opportunity in the areas we work, I will be one of the first people reaching out to make the connection. I want companies to know that they can rely on us for whatever they need. If one approach doesn’t work, I will go back to the drawing board to figure out a new strategy. Until a contract is signed, I don’t give up. I am very determined, always have been.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Construction is such a hard job, especially with smaller companies. There are so many people on any given job. You’ve got designers, contractors, suppliers, the list goes on and on. If something goes wrong, there can be blame-shifting or outright denial of wrongdoing. As White Sands has grown, this has become much less of an issue because we do the designs and building most of the time. There are fewer hands in the cookie jar, which allows for even better efficiency and accountability. After all these years, I believe that if I could have started working with national franchised companies and started developing at a much younger age, it would have been less stressful overall.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Money is not the overriding factor in success. So many people have such a focus on making the most money, they miss out on what really makes them happy. Every day I am just so grateful that I was able to get into a career that I see as a hobby. That old saying “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is so, so true. If you’re chasing money, you may make wrong decisions or cut corners where you shouldn’t. I don’t want to be that person. Honestly, I feel bad for those people who think that way because their life could be so much fuller. People get so tied up in the day-to-day business of surviving that they don’t have a chance to actually enjoy what they’re doing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make sure everybody around you is making money too. They will always come back to you first when there’s a deal to be made. Treat others how you want to be treated. Do right by them and they will do right by you. We pay our employees well because they keep us in business. Contractors work with us because we are fair and ethical. Suppliers will help us out because we have treated them well in the past. Building these relationships is what helps lead a company to success.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Always hire people that are smarter than you. I lead with the idea that no one is above replacement, including myself. What that means is that no matter who is in charge, the company will do well because everyone is on the same page and knows what they are doing.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Years ago, I made the mistake of trusting a partner to do the right thing. I found that they were actually the polar opposite of myself in regard to ideals and ethics. Be very selective on who you go into business with. It can be difficult to separate yourself from them and then you have to work on repairing any relationships that have been adversely affected. These days, I know better and look deeper into the history of anyone I am willing to work with. The internet has helped this tremendously because it holds such a wealth of information.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have been in this field for so long and I am so used to how things are done, I am not sure what I could recommend. I will say this, though: the best businesses are the ones that make people’s lives easier. Whether it is a service or a product, find a way to make it better than it is now and throw your heart into it. Successful entrepreneurs know what they are offering is needed, they just have to show everyone else that it is. Don’t be afraid of failure and don’t let a no make you stop believing in yourself. Just keep learning and work hard.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Years ago, I was into racing and I actually designed and built a track in our area. I sold it when I got out of racing. These days, my grandkids have taken up the hobby and I’ve helped them purchase bikes and equipment so they can race. It is such a joy to see them using the track that I made. It’s a part of my life that has come full circle, really. To me, that is the best money I have spent.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Dragon, which is a talk to type software. I did not grow up in the age of computers, so typing wasn’t first nature for me. This is the best software a person can have that doesn’t like to type and has poor grammar and spelling. It does all of it for you.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Most of the books I’ve read have been about the construction field. They are mostly training manuals and the like. I enjoy mystery novels, but I mostly use audio books while I am traveling. I’ve also listened to all of Zig Zigler’s audio books.
What is your favorite quote?
What goes around comes around. I believe that Karma is real and if you don’t treat people well and with respect, you won’t find happiness or success.
- Follow the Golden Rule
- No deal is off the table until a contract is signed
- Money is not the key to success
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.