WINCHESTER, Va. —Don Shockey still has his very first pay stub, from October 1948. He was 5 years old and spending time at his grandfather’s warehouse in downtown Winchester. He earned 80 cents. “I must have been sweeping floors or doing something,” he says. The family business began long before then. His grandfather, Howard Shockey, started working on wagons in 1896 and expanded into other ventures. His sons, Jim and Ralph, joined the business as they grew up.
Today Don Shockey is chairman of the board of the Shockey Companies, which has three businesses – Howard Shockey & Sons, the original company, which is a construction firm; Shockey Precast, a concrete manufacturer; and Shockey Properties, a commercial real estate firm with more than four million square feet either owned or under management.
The company, which marks its 120th anniversary this year, employs about 400 people. A key part of its longevity is the leadership provided by three generations of the family. Howard Shockey’s sons eventually took over the business, and in the 1980s Don Shockey succeeded his father, Jim, as president. “My dad and my uncle just gave me the opportunity to grow up in the business,” Don says.
He traces the company’s culture to his grandfather’s high standards. “The customer gets full value for the dollar,” he says.
There have been many changes over the years. In the 1940s, the company added a ready-mix concrete operation, which it sold in 2008. Shockey Precast began in the 1950s, and the real estate unit opened in 1970.
As a family-run business passes from one generation to the next, there is often a shortage of family members for leadership roles. Shockey has developed many longtime employees into company leaders. For example, in 2014 Jeff Boehm was named president of Howard Shockey & Sons, and Tom McCabe became president of Shockey Precast. Both men have long histories with the company. McCabe joined Shockey in 1983, and Boehm came onboard in 1987. “We’ve got a good team; we’ve got things growing in the right direction,” Don Shockey says.
One of the company’s bragging points is the long experience of many of its key people. Sixteen of its 20 project superintendents have 30 or more years of experience. “We have no issue with retention,” Boehm says. “Because of the culture Don and his family have created, once we get someone on board, they want to stay.”
Boehm says the company’s general contracting business has been handling more projects in its core region — Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Shockey & Sons is building a 791-space parking garage at One Loudoun, a mixed-use development in Loudoun County. Shockey Precast is also involved in the project.
Health-care projects also are a growing market for the company. Shockey is general contractor for the $17.5 million, 45,851-square-foot expansion of Valley Health Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Shenandoah County.
The general contracting business has offices in Winchester, Roanoke and Richmond. Boehm says that sector “has picked up quite a bit in the last several years” as the recessionary pressures eased. There’s still a lot of demand in sectors that Shockey already serves, and it is expanding into Northern Virginia. Plus, it is now licensed to do work in North Carolina, Boehm says.
The company’s commercial real estate business is focused on Fredericksburg and Winchester in Virginia, and Martinsburg and Charles Town in West Virginia. It’s developing property along Interstates 81 and 95.
Across the three businesses, the slogan is to be the “Partner of Choice” for its clients. “If our work doesn’t end with a client who thinks highly of us and we’ve not made a partner, that’s not a successful project.”
Article by Robert Burke from the March 2016 issue of Virginia Business magazine.
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