Numbers and size, though, aren’t what drive Miron co-owners Tim Kippenhan and David Voss Jr.
“I want to be the best,” Kippenhan said, noting that if Miron takes care of its customers, business growth will take care of itself.
Voss likewise doesn’t aspire to make Miron the biggest company. “What Tim and I are looking for,” he said, “is to be the most admired construction company, for doing it right.”
Voss said that means meeting and exceeding customer expectations and taking care of employees so they’re meeting and exceeding their goals in life.
Another building block of success is to ensure everyone has fun during the day. Voss said the business environment has become so cutthroat that it can be counterproductive.
“You have to enjoy what you’re doing,” he said. “We’ve been in so many companies where it’s just push, push, push push, push. You dry up. Your passion is gone. The people all said, ‘It’s a job. It’s a real job.’
“We don’t want people to have jobs here. We want people to have goals, and they come to this building to reach those goals every day.”
It’s that culture, coupled with extensive community involvement, that led Post-Crescent Media to select Miron as Business of the Year for a second time. Miron first won the honor in 2002. At that time, Miron had about $300 million in annual revenue, so it has more than doubled its business in 12 years.
Voss said earning Business of the Year honors ranks high among Miron’s many industry and community awards.
“We’re a growing company, and it’s a great place to work,” he said. “That’s what the award tells me, that people understand that.”
Kippenhan said the award is recognition for Miron’s 1,200 employees. “This isn’t about Dave or myself. This is about our employees. They’ve worked tremendously hard.”
Voss and Kippenhan are third-generation owners of Miron Construction. The company was founded in 1918 by Voss’ grandfather, Patrick G. Miron, as a masonry contractor. In 1949, the company was incorporated with five stockholders, including Voss’ father, David Voss Sr.; and Kippenhan’s grandfather, Roland Kippenhan.
In 1979, Voss, his brother Patrick Voss and Kippenhan’s father, Greg Kippenhan, became principal owners. Today, Voss and Tim Kippenhan are equal owners.
Voss remembers how the five stockholders would gather with their construction crews at the end of each day. Everyone knew everyone, he said.
“It didn’t matter if you were a laborer or a mason or one of the five owners of the company, you all sat down on a five-gallon pail in the garage, and everybody had a beer,” he said.
“No matter what size this company grows to, we have to maintain that family atmosphere. That feeling that I care about you and your family and I want you to care about my family — that can never leave. That’s what we’re grounded on.”
Voss said the end-of-the-day gatherings served a dual purpose.
“That’s how they traded information from day to day,” he said. “They talked about the jobs. They talked about the challenges. They talked about what was up tomorrow or next week. The owners would talk about the next projects they were looking at. It was kind of like a board-of-directors meeting every night.”
Miron’s impressive headquarters at 1471 McMahon Drive continues that tradition by providing areas for employees to gather to celebrate the day’s successes or talk about tomorrow’s challenges. The areas offer far more comfort than the five-gallon pails of yesteryear.
“That’s what really made Miron what it is today — that feeling of a team,” Voss said.
Voss earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology with an emphasis in building construction management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but he had to start at Miron the same way his father did: as a laborer.
Voss initially felt slighted by starting at the bottom — he had a college degree, after all — but he now thinks it was a shrewd move by his father.
“You did that so the people in the field felt that you were no different than them,” he said. “They started somewhere and worked their way up in this industry, and for them to feel confident in you, you needed to do that, too.”
Voss passed the lesson onto his four children, all of whom work for the company.
“I believe they all started at the bottom,” he said. “They all worked in the warehouse. If they came in five minutes late, the gentleman who ran the warehouse would have them clean out the sewer. It doesn’t matter who you are, you learn that you do it right.”
Miron is not the largest contractor in Wisconsin or even the Fox Cities, which is home to The Boldt Co. of Appleton, but Kippenhan said Miron does more work in the state than any other contractor.
Its signature projects include the Lambeau Field stadium improvements in Green Bay, the construction of Plexus Corp.’s headquarters and manufacturing plant in Neenah, and the Fox Valley Technical College referendum projects.
Miron will handle the Menasha High School addition and renovation and the construction of the Appvion Innovation & Customer Design Center in Appleton.
Although Miron concentrates on Wisconsin, it worked in 17 states last year, including Iowa, where it landed more than $100 million in building projects for the University of Iowa.
Kippenhan said the work outside Wisconsin is driven largely by repeat clients who seek Miron’s services for their other facilities and sites. Plexus wanted Miron’s expertise for a manufacturing plant in Romania, though the logistics didn’t make it cost-effective.
Miron long has been a leader in school construction and sustainability projects. Kippenhan said 40 percent of Miron’s work involves sustainable practices.
“Our industry has definitely taken hold of it, and with the price of fuel and energy, that should continue,” he said.
Miron’s mission consists of more than constructing beautiful buildings and making money. Voss said the company also strives to improve lives through community service.
Miron is a co-founder and a major sponsor of Quarry Quest, an annual festival that showcases the mining and construction industries by allowing children to operate, with the help of professionals, heavy machinery like a backhoe, a 100-ton crane or a 70-foot boom lift.
In 15 years, Quarry Quest has raised more than $1 million for children’s charities.
“Not only are we doing something great for the community,” Voss said, “but we’re also giving those kids a little taste of our business. Maybe we’re going to get 10 or 20 of those kids to say, ‘You know, that’s what I want to do in my life. I want to build. I want to be a carpenter. I want to be a crane operator.’”
Miron also supports the Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Cities, Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races, Junior Achievement, United Way and YMCA.