Cadet Construction Company
Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cadet Construction Company is a premier builder delivering custom design-build projects to clients throughout the Southeast.
Founded in 2013 by Jimmy Dillahunt Jr., Cadet has quickly garnered a reputation as a leading general contractor and construction manager that utilizes cutting-edge technology to serve customers in a broad spectrum of industries, including the education, health care, medical, entertainment, industrial and civic markets.
“At the heart of our organization we have a highly experienced management team and when we combine it with our technological sophistication, it really allows us to work collaboratively with all of our clients at the highest level of innovation and quality; we really add value,” says Dillahunt Jr., CEO of Cadet.
Employing 40 people from its base in Raleigh, Cadet completes projects primarily in North Carolina, but will travel throughout the Southeast and further north for the right project. The company generates between $10 million and $15 million a year in revenue, a figure that Dillahunt Jr. credits to strong management. “A lot of that is because the management team brings a lot of experience with it,” he says.
Leadership through discipline
Cadet takes its name from Dillahunt Jr.’s military school background. A graduate of the Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, Dillahunt Jr. credits the school with instilling in him the values that contributed to his career as a successful business leader.
“It made me into the individual I am today,” Dillahunt Jr. says. “The private military boarding school instilled the principles of structure, time management, hard work, honesty and accountability and I’ve carried over those core values from being a cadet to the company I started.”
Cadet has recently seen some growth in the hospitality sector, but what really motivates Dillahunt Jr. is his team’s ability to participate in projects that noticeably improve the quality of life in his own community. “We’re in the process of building not necessarily prestigious, but very important projects that are going to help serve and improve the community that we all live in,” he says.
One such project currently in the works is the E911 and Emergency Operations Center in Winton, North Carolina. Cadet was hired by Hertford County to complete the project, which merges the response communications operations of the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, Ahoskie Police Department and Murfreesboro Police Department into a single public service answering point (PSAP).
“This place is much needed,” says Dillahunt Jr. “It will help improve the life-safety first response to emergencies for a pretty large geographical area.”
This new PSAP will coordinate the dispatch of all emergency response organizations throughout the county, including law enforcement, fire, rescue, emergency management and the North Carolina Forest Service.
While Cadet was not the lowest bidder on the project, solid references from a recent project at Camp Lejeune Marine Base in nearby Onslow County helped to seal the deal for the three-year-old construction firm. “We weren’t the lowest bidder, but the owner felt like we added additional value,” says Dillahunt Jr.
Another community-changing project currently underway at Cadet is the construction of a terminal for the Swan Quarter Ferry in Swan Quarter, North Carolina. The current facility was built in the 1950s and the North Carolina Department of Transportation now desperately needs a new building. “It’s another one of those jobs that has a lot of meaning behind it,” says Dillahunt Jr.
On the private sector side, Cadet has seen some recent growth within the hospitality industry, recently completing a $1 million design-build renovation that saw a Best Western Hotel transformed into a Holiday Inn Express. “This was a new client and while they had a lower bid price from someone else, they went with us based on our qualifications and what we brought to the table as an organization,” he says.
A partnering approach
While Cadet subcontracts most trade work, Dillahunt Jr. knows a construction company is only as good as its subcontractors and places increased emphasis on maintaining a roster of high-quality partners. “We pride ourselves in a unique process of checks and balances,” says Dillahunt Jr. “We do a thorough job looking into subs that are not the lowest number, but we ask for references and take into account different things and make an informed decision.”
Dillahunt Jr. credits much of Cadet’s success to the company’s commitment to treating subs more like a business partners and less like an outside firm.
“There are subs and then there are business partners, and we try to surround ourselves with more business partners than anything; you don’t find that many general contractors that take a partnering approach on whatever endeavor they’re embarking on with a client,” he says.
Founded post-recession in 2013, Cadet hasn’t been around long enough to experience any major challenges and Dillahunt Jr. plans to keep it that way by continuing to hire only the best-and-brightest employees. “My employees have high integrity and honesty and know how to build trust with clients,” he says.
Cadet’s real strength lies in its value-added approach to general contracting, where success is measured by how much savings are passed on to the client. On one recent project, this approach led to $100,000 in cost savings to the client. “A client is normally appreciative when you’re helping them save money and respect the fact you are looking to deliver what they’re looking for and put money back in their pocket at the same time,” says Dillahunt Jr.
While the company is eager to pass on savings to its clients, at Cadet, some things are more important than the bottom line. “We pride ourselves on not just looking at something from a dollar perspective,” he says. “We look at it like what we are doing will hopefully be able to be more than just a typical job — we look for ones that have more meaning behind them.”
Like many general contractors, Dillahunt Jr. measures success primarily through customer referrals and the E911 and Emergency Operations Center for Hertford County has already drummed up some new business for the growing firm. “I would say that’s the best measure of success any business owner could have,” he says.
Dillahunt Jr. sees nothing but growth Cadet’s future as it enters the third year in business. ““What we have done has worked very well for us. We are going expand on that but also going to continue to stick what has gotten us to this point,” he says. To that end, the company will add 30 to 40 employees in the coming years, with revenues projected to increase to $20 million to $30 million. “Right now we have a healthy combination of renovations and new building, so maybe even more,” he predicts.
As CEO of a young company, Dillahunt Jr. doesn’t have much time to pursue hobbies outside of the construction firm, but that’s just fine with him. “I don’t really take any down time,” he explains. “I care about my people and I look at them as more than just employees; I look at them as family members.”
That commitment to employees, strong leadership and emphasis on delivering value-added projects to a range of clients will help Cadet Construction Company to grow its general contracting and construction management business throughout North Carolina and beyond.
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