Page 11 - Alabama 811 Magazine 2021 Issue 4
P. 11

Built to Last
Underground utility company centered around core values from the start
By Michael Downes 811 Magazines
Building a company from the ground up is tough. But if you start with a rock-solid foundation and develop a dedicated team, the sky’s the limit.
That’s what Tina Calma learned when she founded Southern Directional, Inc. with her husband in 1999. She built the company around a set of core values, and not just a specific scope of work. And in the last 20 years, the list of services offered has grown alongside the size of her team.
“We didn’t start out to target a water company or gas company. We knew we would do underground but spent more time on core values and getting people who were like minded,” she said.
Tina, who serves as president of the company, said that’s paid off.
“Family, integrity, excellence in the ordinary — these things are important to us. And the people who came on the team were likeminded, so when we are represented in the marketplace, that’s what people see,” she said.
The company’s culture is one of the
first things a potential client sees on the company website, too. And that message has paid off for Tina and Southern Directional, as they’ve not only expanded to all types of underground utility installations, but also grown the company from 6 employees to about 90 in the last two decades.
Tina’s family has been involved in contracting and construction for several generations, and in the late 1990s,
fiber was coming across the country, and there was a need for installation companies. Directional boring was also starting to take hold around the same time, so everything just fell into place.
The company’s first contract was with a fiber company, but soon after they
scored big with a contract to install conduit for taxiway lighting at an airport and have been involved in municipal as well as private projects ever since.
“The expansion has been a slow process, but it’s been a success. We started with fiber, and we continued
to get certifications and increasing
in skill. We became a DBE minority- owned business in 2002 and expanded to other municipal projects. We started doing natural gas work in 2005, and water prior to that in 2004,” she said. “It’s been organic growth from day one. We’ve expanded into all realms of utility installation.”
But they couldn’t have done any of it without help from Alabama 811.
“Directional boring is huge for them,
so we have a great relationship with
811. We consider them a partner. A lot
of what we do can be a dangerous job
if you don’t know what’s in the ground. They help us keep our people safe, and it also helps us with our production
and time,” she said. “We call to let them know where we’ll work, they dispatch the locators to the site to mark lines for us, so there’s no need to spend countless hours searching for utilities. Not only are we safer but it also improves our production rates, and that’s a win-win.”
Tina said her crews use white lining regularly to make things easier for locators to identify where on the site they plan to excavate.
“We have a lot of communication between foremen and locators.
That’s been invaluable as well. It’s a relationship where everybody is on
the same page and trying to help both parties to create a safe environment — not just for our team members, but the customers we serve as well,” Tina said.
A lot has changed since the company’s early days, with technology and a need for safer digging driving the change.
“Boring has come a long way from what it was back in the day. The 811 system has too, as far as the technology and equipment. Boring blind or digging blind isn’t something we have to do since technology and the industry has improved.”
And while industry trends come and go, and best practices continue to improve each year, the one constant has been Southern Directional’s focus on their core values.
“We think we have a great culture. Our core focus is developing leaders and elevating people. We spend a lot of time on training and promoting from within and creating an environment where they don’t just sit in a seat, but they thrive and find a purpose,” she said.
Plus, families are included in all of the company-wide events, and Tina said Southern Directional feels more like a family than a team.
“The biggest reason we are in business today is we wanted a company that didn’t have a lot of turnover that is
so typical in construction companies. They ship people all over the country, but we wanted something different
for our people,” she said. “When we have projects outside our area, we are conscious about how long they are spending away from their families. They’re gonna be home every weekend, and we rotate our crews, so they don’t suffer burn-out. So far it’s paid off.”
Tina, thanks so much for a great interview. It is both refreshing and encouraging to hear stakeholders talk about core values, partnership and the value of your employees. We wish you continued success in the years to come.
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