When Vern Swanson and Bob Youngdale started Swanson & Youngdale (S&Y) 75 years ago, the company looked a little different. They began the company out of Vern’s garage, and they didn’t own a car to get to jobs. Instead, they hopped on a streetcar, hanging on to the side with ladders, drop cloths, paint buckets and all.
Flash forward to today: what once was two budding entrepreneurs working out of their garage, catching the local streetcar into work, has grown into one of the most successful painting and drywall companies in Minnesota. S&Y is now based out of an expansive headquarters, with two additional branch offices, and their team has grown from two painters to over 300 field and office staff.
A company growing and thriving for 75 years isn’t just something that happens overnight. Founder Vern Swanson said, “We’re in the people business; we just happen to be painters” and that message has resonated with the company ever since. S&Y embraces the philosophy that their employees are their most valuable asset. Joel Swanson, S&Y’s Vice President of Paint, credited strong relationships with their employees and customers as two of the key factors for S&Y’s long-term, continued success.
“We have a lot of dedicated people that work here,” Joel explained. “People start and retire with the company. A lot of folks spend their entire career here. We also have a really great core customer base that we’ve been able to serve for a lot of years.”
People and relationships are the most important components of S&Y’s company culture. The company is 100 percent employee-owned, which means that all eligible employees have an ownership stake. These stakes help ensure that S&Y’s success is their employees’ success and visa-versa.
Employees understand the more they put in, the more they get back. They strive to be part of the solution for their customers (and not part of the problem). They take pride in producing a quality end product that meets or exceeds customer expectations, all while maintaining a safe work environment that helps their team get home safely at the end of every day.
S&Y also places an emphasis on communication and collaboration with their team, customers and partners to help meet all challenges and issues that arise. Joel stressed the importance that industry relationships play for signatory contractors.
“Being involved in the apprenticeship program, serving on the pension fund, being involved with organizations like FCA… There are so many resources available when you know where to look.”
S&Y has long recognized the value in being involved with the industry as a whole. S&Y’s previous CEO, Bob Swanson, is one of FCA’s founding founders. Clark Anderson, S&Y’s Chief Financial Officer is the current FCA Chairman and an IPAT pension trustee, and S&Y team members have served as trustees on pension, labor-management and apprenticeship funds at both local and national levels.
Joel sees a lot of opportunities on the horizon for the construction industry. With their dedicated team, and their great relationships with their customers, union partners and industry, S&Y is poised to continue its 75 years of success.
Visit www.swansonyoungdale.com to learn more about Swanson & Youngdale!
Get to know Swanson & Youngdale:
- Where is your hometown? Minneapolis, MN
- What is your favorite hobby or leisure activity? Hanging out with family and friends – anything on the lake. Fishing/waterskiing. Cruising around on a pontoon boat.
- How long have you been at your company? 14 years.
- What sports, clubs or activities were/are you involved in? I have a young family, so I spend a lot of time with their activities. I enjoy coaching baseball and anything on the water.
- What’s your favorite place to vacation or travel to? Getting out to the lakes in Minnesota.
- What intrigued you about the industry you’re currently working in? I gained a little experience with it growing up while working summers and learned that there’s a lot of variety, its fast paced and there’s a lot of great people to work with.
- What’s your favorite holiday? Christmas.
- Are you an early bird or night owl? Early bird.
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Have people in the work together vs. against each other.
- What’s one of your “bucket list” items? Disney World with my family.