Construction Company Known For Building Wichita Wants To Help Build Employees' Lives, Too

Dec 4, 2020

For more than 130 years, the Mahaney Group has helped build Wichita.

The company — better known as Mahaney Roofing until a name change in 2019 — has worked on many local landmarks, like Wichita High School (now called Wichita East) in 1923, and the original University of Wichita roundhouse in 1955.

These days, the company is earning a reputation for its work in helping to build people as well.

Over the last decade, the Mahaney Group has pursued a philosophy to assist employees who want to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Company president Damon Young says that includes employees who've hit a "road bump" — legal troubles, maybe addiction problems, or other challenges — and find themselves in need of a second chance.

"One valuable lesson we've learned over our years of trying to be in what we would call the transformation business is that we don't transform people," Young said. "We create environments where people can take on the hard work of transforming and changing their own behavior.

"Another way to say that is we believe that … creating opportunities for others is contingent on people seeing themselves as the hero of their own story."

Victor Martinez has seen that story play out at Mahaney. He joined the company as a laborer eight years ago after spending time in the military and then working a series of off jobs — aviation, construction, hanging drywall — just to get by as he looked for a new direction.

"I really didn't have a path and … Mahaney is the one that gave me the opportunity to move up through the ranks," he said. "They're the ones that seen something in me, that they wanted to put me in a different spot … and promote me within the company. I'm really grateful for that."

Martinez quickly became a foreman after joining the company and now is superintendent of Mahaney’s Service Department.

"We get all kinds of different guys that come in, and they don't have a path in life or that personal path or a work path," he said. "We are here to provide that for them, opportunities to move up within the ranks and just better themselves at home and grow as a person also."

The Mahaney Group did the roofing project for the Great Plains Ventures warehouse in Wichita.
Credit Courtesy

It’s not hard to see the undercurrent of faith that runs through the company, which was the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Small Business of the Year.

Young once served as a youth pastor after getting his degree from Friends University, and he and his wife helped open a Christian-based coffee shop in Sedgwick.

When he talks, Young will sprinkle in the occasional proverb to explain or reinforce a point he’s making.

Mahaney Group President Damon Young
Credit Courtesy

"I find my faith informing a lot of the things I do and in the business world," said Young, who was promoted to president last month. "And I think one of the things you'll see is (putting) … others first is one of our values.

"And I think that that's a definitely a Christian value that I've brought into the work is just to look at yourself as a leader and know that employees aren't there to serve you, that you're there to serve the employees. And then together you're both there to serve the customers."

Young has been the public face of Mahaney since joining the company more than a decade ago. He’s active with several business organizations in Wichita and across the state.

He often speaks to groups about how Mahaney runs its business and why it chose the strategy it uses in dealing with its 150 employees.

Young says early in his career, he sometimes followed the theory "that the meaner guy wins," which he knows now isn’t true.

"I'm not saying you can't get results by being the tough guy. You probably can get some results," he said. "My question would be, are you going to have joy along the way? Are you going to create followers? Are you going to create other leaders?

"And so we really believe that … leaders don't create followers, leaders create other leaders. And I really believe that that will lead to exponential growth."

Tom Shine is the director of news and public affairs and host of The Range. Follow him on Twitter @thomaspshine. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.