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Tom Dunsmoor said his 30-year-old company, Dunsmoor Construction, had its best year ever in 2018. He is shown with his wife, Michelle. The company employs eight full-time employees and a number of subcontractors.

Tom Dunsmoor

Armed with a strong work ethic, owner of Dunsmoor Construction sees highest ever sales growth in 2018

By Lou Sorendo

How did you initially acquire the skills necessary to become a contractor? 

I grew up on an onion farm. My parents — Ross and Louise Dunsmoor — instilled a strong work ethic and taught my brothers and I to take pride in what we did and to be honest in life. My roots and working on the farm played a big part of who I am today, and my parents worked hard and always pushed me.

Describe the beginning your career.

When I was 19, I bought my first house and this was the first of many housing rehab projects. I worked with a Canadian carpenter, Candide Michaud, and together we started doing jobs building houses, warehouses, and additions. I also worked in Phoenix and Boston on construction jobs, but returned to Oswego and started doing small jobs.

Was it at that point that you started your business?

I was dating my wife, Michelle, and she encouraged me to start my own legitimate construction business. She turned to a friend, Romao Caruso, who assisted in the set up of the business. We launched our construction business in 1988, a year before we were married. After Michelle graduated from business school, she had already worked for the Caruso family and was employed at Usherwood Business Equipment. She brought strong office and financial skills to the business from its very start.

How did you grow the business?

As I worked in the carpentry field, my skills grew over the years as I expanded in the type of work I did and also cultivated my customer base. When I started doing bigger jobs, I developed relationships with other contractors in the construction field and was able to maintain successful relationships. I developed a balance of business and steady construction operations. I have had many long time employees over the years, and Michaud has worked with me on my crew for over 14 years. Also, Daniel Stacy has worked for me for 20 years.

What were some of the major overhead costs involved in launching the business?

My business started small and I bought equipment necessary to do the jobs as I could afford them. The biggest expense to my business has been workers’ compensation and liability insurance. I have never used outside financial sources to run my business until a few years ago when I did some larger jobs. I established a business line of credit with Pathfinder Bank and I use it as necessary when working on larger projects. I also use Pathfinder Bank to finance equipment purchases necessary for my jobs.

How important has your wife and business partner been in helping to sustain the business?

Michelle has always done the office work, bookkeeping and human resources for the construction business and kept us financially organized with the large amounts of projects we have always had going on. She also does the bookkeeping for our onion farm, my partnership with Dr. Corliss Varnum at Port City Family Medicine, Whitewater Commons at Bridie Square, and our rental properties. Her input and workload are critical to smooth operations.

You hit the milestone of 30 years in business last February. What have been the keys to your longevity and success over those years? 

This is what I love to do. I love to design, build and transform buildings into something nicer. It is rewarding to see the final results. I enjoy seeing people happy with what they get as a result of our hard work.

Do you do contracting work in Arizona during the winter months?

I spend time in Arizona from January to April, but I continue construction operations here in Oswego. My employees are reliable and capable and we have the tools of technology today so that I am able to effectively communicate with them and oversee the jobs and their progress. Michelle has her office set up in Arizona so that she is able to continue all office operations during those months as well.

Do you have further plans in terms of growing and expanding the business is Oswego County?

I am always open to new opportunity. I enjoy doing projects like my buildings at Whitewater Commons at Bridie Square and the Port City Family Medicine office building. If the right opportunity presents itself, I will be eager to take it on.

What is the most gratifying aspect of being your own boss and calling your own shots from a business perspective?

The flexibility to do other things in life, meaning having the opportunity to spend time with family. But owning and running your own business has a side that most people do not see. Michelle and I work countless hours on nights and weekends, but I do take time to enjoy life. I know first-hand how important that really is.

In terms of sales, how is your company growing?

We don’t release figures related to annual sales, but I can say that our sales for 2018 were the highest in the 31 years we have been in business and that the economy in our area for our business is on the upswing. Dunsmoor Construction employs eight full-time employees. We also work with several subcontractors we use regularly.

What is your retirement scenario? Do you have a succession plan?

I hope to continue work in the construction field for years to come, but would like to spend more time in Arizona during the winter months. As far as someone taking over when I retire, that is hard to say at this point. Both of my sons are successful on their own, with my oldest son, T.J., running our onion farm and my son, Eric, employed by Novelis. They are both happy with their careers and want to start their own families, but who knows what the future holds?