The Sherwood Companies was recently recognized as a winner of the Wichita Business Journal’s Family Business Awards – 75-Years Legacy Award. The following article appeared in a recent edition of the WBJ.
Sherwood Cos. diversifies, grows in construction
Starting with a crane and a dream, Sherwood Construction Company was founded in 1934 by brothers F.M. "Sherry" Sherwood and Joy Sherwood, and Sherry's brother-in-law, ￼￼￼￼￼Jed Ricky. The three unloaded railroad cars, dismantled water towers, moved earth and did other odd jobs until a boom in 1941. “Boeing was built, Planeview developed and we started putting some roots down,” says Howard Sherwood, chairman emeritus.
The company grew again in 1956 with bids to move earth as part of the interstate highway program, and again in 1980 with the completion of the 4 million cubic yard dam at El Dorado Lake. “This took us from a smaller company to a larger, regional contractor,” says David Sherwood, chairman of the board, CEO and Howard Sherwood’s son.
In 1983, the company began to diversify, starting Wildcat Construction and acquiring additional companies to make up the Sherwood Companies. Now the company classifies itself as a heavy highway contractor focusing on bridges and civil construction. With offices in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado, the company works with governmental agencies, including departments of transportation and turnpike authorities, providing concrete paving, building bridges, installing utility and sewer lines, and moving dirt.
Howard Sherwood says government compliance and funding are both constant concerns for his company, but another challenge in a family-owned company is moving from one generation to the next. “When my dad started, they didn’t have environmental and safety issues,” he says. “You didn’t have these organizations and forms and processes. You have to adapt to the times and the culture of the work."
Sherwood Companies also has a reputation for supporting local organizations, including United Way, and provides scholarships to construction science majors at colleges around the state.
Howard says the key to Sherwood Companies’ longevity involves being able to perform and putting the right people in place. “No one person can go three generations, so you have to surround yourself with good people and be willing to involve them in the decisions,” he says. “The fact that my dad started the company and I had the opportunity to come in behind him has made my life very rewarding,” Howard says. “We were able to figure out how to turn the company into a third generation company with my son, whose running the operation now.”
“It’s my turn to protect it and grow it,” says David Sherwood. “It’s a bigger responsibility because I have generations ahead of me that I don’t want to let down. Most companies don’t make it very long in general. When you switch from generation to generation, it becomes even more difficult to keep it going. To be able to be on that mark over 75 years is a real tribute to all of our employees’ hard work.”
Originally published by Julie Conner on Wichita Business Journal