Case Studies

Mavo Systems Inc.: Aggressively Growing in a Downturn

  • Written by: Mavo Systems Inc.: Aggressively Growing in a Downturn
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A common reaction to the sluggish economy is for companies in today’s construction industry to slash overhead and fall into a holding pattern. Even companies with capital to invest are reluctant to spend, unsure of when the economy will regain full strength. However, the cautionary approach holds hidden costs. Mavo Systems Inc. (Mavo) has proven that holding back inhibits overall market recovery and can be strategically shortsighted.

Mavo is a thriving example of a commercial, industrial and environmental specialty contracting company. Mavo has proven that it is possible to make money and grow a business during a downturn. Owners Dana Sawrey, Larry Reese and Jay Robertson saw many of their competitors make cutbacks when the recession hit, but they chose a different path. Acknowledging the opportunity to broaden Mavo’s services and roster of clients, the principals put together top-notch sales, marketing and project management team and concocted a plan to make Mavo stand out at a time when others were pulling in. The results speak for themselves. In 2011 Mavo recorded its biggest sales year ever.

From $2 Million to $40 Million

“Mavo was started in 1982,” says Sawrey, CEO of Mavo. “In 2000 my two business partners and I purchased 75 percent of the company from the original owner. At that time, we were a small environmental services company working primarily in asbestos abatement, mold remediation and HVAC cleaning. In 2002 we took total ownership and kept on going.

“The company was averaging roughly $2 million in revenue annually,” continues Sawrey. “We said to ourselves, ‘This work is eventually going to run out. We have a great reputation in the industry, we need to diversify.’ In the 12 years we’ve owned Mavo, we’ve drastically expanded the company’s services and have subsequently grown revenues from $2 million to $40 million a year.”

Today, Mavo offers clients a full range of industrial and commercial environmental and specialty contracting services, including water, fire and storm restoration, asbestos, lead and mold abatement, mechanical insulation, HVAC cleaning and decontamination, interior demolition, floor preparation, concrete and terrazzo polishing, vacuum truck services and specialty cleaning.

The company has also grown geographically from its base of operations in White Bear Lake, just north of the Twin Cities. Mavo currently employs roughly 230 full-time trained personnel and operates satellite offices in Rochester and Duluth, Minn., and Wausau, Wis., establishing its leadership throughout the Upper Midwest.

Large Base of Loyal Clients

A large number of Fortune 500 corporations with operations based in Minnesota have used Mavo’s services year after year. In addition, Mavo also services refineries, power plants, schools and colleges, and medical centers. Mavo’s loyal client base has come to rely on the company’s professional expertise, state-of-the-art methods and technologies, one-hour emergency hotline services and outstanding customer service. Whether it’s healthcare, retail, government or industrial powerhouses, it’s hard to find a type of building that Mavo hasn’t performed work in a safe and timely manner.

Still in the works is a major asbestos abatement job at the Henry Whipple Federal Building at Fort Snelling, Minn. “This was one of the biggest projects we’ve had in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market,” says Reese, CFO of Mavo. “Phase 1 of the asbestos abatement project involved removing fireproofing from the upper floors and mechanical shafts while the bottom floors were still occupied, which was a task in itself. We were working under very specific deadlines and there was a lot of pressure to finish on time. It took quite a bit of planning with all the trades involved. We had a crew of 60 guys working there, and they did an exceptional job. The general contractor even wrote a letter to recognize our crew’s professionalism and the role we played in the job’s success.”

Mavo’s story affirms the value of strategic expansion and aggressive sales and marketing in the face of a negative economy. Investing in people and services, the company expanded when others were cutting back and recorded dramatic increases in revenue during a period of severe market decline.

“We saw everyone pulling back and trying to ride out the storm,” says Sawrey. “We viewed that as an opportunity for growth and decided to aggressively pursue additional markets and clients. That’s what led to the expansion of our interior demolition division, which in a year quadrupled in size, and is progressively building its clientele.”

It’s a strategy that has paid off well; Mavo’s growth from 2000 to 2011 is more than impressive. Any business leader would be proud to claim raised revenues from $2 million to $40 million in a short 10 years. This impressive growth is a reflection of the quality of leadership shown by Dana Sawrey, Larry Reese and Jay Robertson. Their company’s rapid rise is a reflection of the vision and leadership of its owners, as well as the strength and professionalism of the management, supervisors and labor teams they’ve built around them. While everyone else was sitting around waiting for things to improve, the trio aggressively marketed Mavo Systems Inc. and is now reaping the rewards.

Published on: March 9, 2013

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