February 2024

Terry Dunn: The Legacy Continues

When Terry Dunn looks at buildings, he doesn’t focus on the wood and brick, the windows or the beams. Instead, Terry sees the people behind the building, the teams who put their blood and sweat into the project, the folks who cleared the land and those who laid the bricks one-by-one. 

For Terry, the construction business isn’t about the product, or the buildings themselves. It’s about people – a trait passed down to him from both his father and his grandfather. 

Terry, a banker by trade, began working full-time at JE Dunn Construction in February 1974. Camaraderie and a familial way of approaching teamwork was important to Terry. When he joined, JE Dunn was a relatively small, local company with a 3,000-square-foot office for the $30 million business. Approaching business like a team, Terry instilled a “win together, lose together” mentality.  

There was also a strong commitment to community giving, and being an active member of the community was something that both his father and grandfather instilled in the business. “There is a clarion call to business: engage with your communities and have relevance to one another, or you won’t survive,” Terry shared.  

That sense of community was very much a tradition then as it is today.  

With the right culture, the company thrived, and in 1989, Terry became CEO. He sat down with the leadership team and told them that JE Dunn was going to become a billion-dollar business. With roughly $100 million at the time, this was a tall order. But Terry had a plan. 

From 1989 to 2000, the company grew from a $174 million to a $1.3 billion firm due to acquisitions and organic growth throughout the country.

Following the rapid growth, in the early 2000s, a sense of culture needed to be established across the board and across offices. “One Dunn” became the theme, where teamwork was prioritized and once again, winning and losing together was paramount. Whichever direction the company was headed, Terry wanted to ensure that it was done as one.

His commitment to the team, and to “One Dunn”, along with a strong moral compass, made Terry a great leader. He believed in training people right so that he could then become a servant leader, knowing that if the company was headed in the right direction, with the values, culture and mission intact, then success would follow.

Still today, he sees people when he looks at projects built by JE Dunn. The people are what have made JE Dunn great, and as Terry sees it, they are the difference between contractors that come and go, and the legacy of a 100-year-old company built on treating people right.