Next Wave: M. Duffany Builders | Meet Tim and Todd Duffany
Tim & Todd Duffany
As the next generation owners of their family business, Tim and Todd Duffany are focused on the future, applying the lessons learned from their father, M. Duffany Builders’ founder Mike Duffany, to ensure continued success. Whether it’s through Todd’s, 38, involvement in site supervision or Tim’s, 36, role in day-to-day operations, these brothers aim to follow in their father’s example—a man who, they say, always does the right thing. “When people talk about our father,” explains Tim, “they have a special feeling, a respect, for him. He’s a good moral compass. It’s always like, what would Mike do? People say he could yell at them and they’d feel good about it,” Tim says as he and Todd both laugh. “So we strive to be that grounded, balanced, and approachable.”
CCH: How did you come to be involved in your family’s business?
Todd: For us it stems back to when we were little guys. We used to ride around on the pickup truck with our father…
Tim: Picking up nails on job sites for a penny.
Todd: Then come high school, we worked summers doing roofs, and siding. Once in a while we used to pick up a hammer and put a piece of trim on here and there. Both of us went out to college and then again spent summers working here. I went to school for aviation. After 9/11 that industry changed, and I decided that this was a better opportunity for me, so I came back here right after school to work full-time. It’s been 15 years now.
Tim: For me, after I graduated college, I got into financial services. I was in the wealth management business, and I did a little bit of outsourced operations and CFO work, so a lot of my clients I advised were similar to our family, where they had a business and then they had real estate and everything mingled together. Then, two years ago, there became a need here for someone full-time, especially as Mom and Dad are stepping back, to fill in the operational role. I had some projects wind down and it was good timing, so here I am.
CCH: How do you plan to build upon M. Duffany Builders’ 35 years of success?
Todd: We’re trying to honor the model our father created, which is based on integrity and longevity. Folks find value in different ways. For us, value is finding means and methods that outlast everybody else. So more and more now we’re facilitating that with the guys in the field and bringing his knowledge to all those guys through osmosis.
Tim: Our clients, they value quality work. Some people value the cheapest option on the market, and that’s not what people are hiring us for. They want something that’s going to last for them and for their kids and not have to redo what’s been done years ago. So quality is incredibly important to us.
Todd: And we aren’t production builders—we only build one to three new homes at a time. We do a lot of repair work, a lot of renovations—the more complicated the better.
CCH: So why are the more complicated projects better?
Todd: It’s something new every day. You go to a job and there’s something different that somebody’s presenting to you, some sort of issue that you have to find the solution to. Some people can’t think outside the box, but we look at things in a different way. That’s part of why I didn’t end up getting into the aviation field—I was on track to fly commercial, and after a while of thinking about it I didn’t want to get into the commercial world of flying. Although the experience would be great, I didn’t want to be in the same routine most of the time; my personality doesn’t really enjoy that. I need to do something different all the time—that’s just who I am—so I found that to be not challenging enough. I’d rather do it recreationally.
CCH: In what ways have you been able to contribute to the growth of the company in your time here thus far?
Todd: To go way back, I was big into the computer piece of the business, trying to bring our father along with emails and introducing him to a different dynamic that he wasn’t used to, with spreadsheets and Excel, that sort of thing. So I helped him morph the estimating process to be able to manage more. That was almost 14, 15 years ago now. And then over the last five years, I’ve been really diving into customer relationships and the whole estimating process and taking that off Dad’s shoulders, because he used to do the lion’s share of it. So now he can relax a little bit more and take off time more often when he wants to get involved with other things around town…
Tim: He’s big on community…
Todd: So every opportunity he gets he jumps on another board.
Tim: So a lot of my focus has been around the succession transition. We’re in the middle, I’d say, of the transition plan. In any succession, some of the biggest hurdles can be due to the fact that the systems are built around people. The business relies on institutional knowledge that somebody has, so from day one for me it’s been about understanding the business, what the workflow is, and figuring out how we can streamline this better to be more efficient. Also, there’s 35 years of success here, so how have we done things to be so successful? I’m trying to replicate that in a more systematized way and translate that into a process so it’s repeatable.
CCH: What do you enjoy most about working in your respective roles?
Tim: For me, it’s knowing that I can add value. I look at things that happen here operationally, and I see a path for improvement. The core values and ways of handling business are strong and ingrained, those aren’t changing. From here, it’s about improving upon the day-to-day details.
Todd: I enjoy meeting somebody new every day. It’s neat to make these connections with people—what brings you to Falmouth, what are your long-term goals here? I like to do the foreplanning for jobs—paint me a picture of what you’re envisioning, and how can we help make that dream a reality for you?
CCH: What’s been your experience working for your family business?
Tim: There’s a lot of pride here. Everything people do, they want to do it the right way. There’s a sense of ownership. … I remember, growing up, when the office was at our house and seeing the same guys—some of those same guys are still around. They’ve been able to provide a good living for their families, and to be able to continue that gives me pride.
Todd: The sense of family isn’t just with us; it carries through to everybody here. We try to be people that our guys can look up to, whether we’re older brothers for people or someone they can chat to outside of work to help them get through and help put them in a better position. It’s a cool family dynamic in that regard, too.
CCH: What would you say you admire most about each other?
Todd: I respect Tim a lot—even if we disagree on things. It’s been like that since we were kids. We’d drive our mother nuts getting into fights—[she would yell] “Go outside! Go outside!”—but at the end of the day we were best friends, all through high school and college and even now.
Tim: Todd’s always been someone, just like Dad, that I feel fortunate to be able to look up to. He’s always been doing the right thing. Todd was never in trouble growing up—outside of when I was able to convince Mom that he started it (they both laugh). He got me into playing lacrosse, and he kept me in Boy Scouts. I always say he’s the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry. Everything he does, whether you agree with him or not, is for the right reasons—and it’s not always about him, it’s usually about what’s the right thing to do, just like with Dad.
CCH: As you’ve touched on, community is quite important to your father—how important is community to you guys?
Todd: In the past I’ve been involved in Pop Warner, with the Scouts, youth lacrosse—I was a coach and a board member. As my [now 18-month-old] daughter gets older I’d like to be involved again to some degree in all of that.
Tim: Community is ingrained in who we are—that was part of our upbringing. Growing up, I was 9 and you (to Todd) were 10, I think, when we were playing Pop Warner football in Bourne. At that point, our parents got together with a few other Falmouth families to start Falmouth Pop Warner so that youth football would be more accessible to Falmouth families. People come here to build homes, and for us, we build homes, but we also feel like we build communities. Falmouth’s a very special place, and like most places on the Cape, people try to find a way to be here. We help support that, including with the people who work here as well as our subcontractors—giving people a way to make a living without having to go over the bridge. This is a family business, but when we say family… the 33 people that are here, if there’s anything they need, then what can we do to help? That’s who we are.
CCH: Your commitment to community also extends to education. Explain your involvement there.
Tim: We have a couple students right now at the Upper Cape Tech who are doing their co-op with us. We’re working with Mashpee to try to get a similar program up and running through the Home Builders Association. We’ve been talking to Falmouth High School about opportunities for summer jobs here. Through Mass Hire we have someone here now who’s working to get a construction certificate, and part of that is job placement for 60 hours. And then there’s a construction course at 4Cs every year, and I speak at the lunch. We try as much as we can to be out in the community and be a part of it, in whatever role that is.
Todd: We’re big advocates of the Home Builders Association. Dad was a past president, and he just got back on the board.
Tim (laughing, surprised): Did he? Good for him.
Todd: We all want to make this place as viable as we can.
CCH: What would you say to fellow young professionals who are looking to succeed here on the Cape?
Todd: I see a growing need for good, skilled tradespeople, no matter what you want to do… there are opportunities out there for folks.
Tim: When I started my career in Boston, I had visions of that for the next 20-plus years. But the skills that I learned there are so transferable. If you’re focused on growing yourself, no matter where you are, you’re going to have more opportunities, especially around the Cape.