Battle Ground-based Tapani Inc. celebrated 35 years in business in 2018, and today is on the cusp of expansion throughout the region and in its own backyard.
The family owned and managed company is a model for businesses of its type, having successfully passed the reins from the first generation to the second over a painstaking two decades, completing the transition in 2015 when founders and original owners Iner and Beverley Tapani retired. At the same time, the second generation was already preparing the next to bear responsibilities at the company, exploring ways to competently plan for succession and success.
“Leadership is a continuous transition and really should be focused on every day,” said Kevin Tapani, the eldest son and vice president and Chief Financial Officer of Tapani Inc., which also also owns several subsidiaries, including Dependable Computer Solutions; Tapani Materials, which includes Battle Ground Rockery, Section 30 Materials and Tebo; Tower Rock Products; and Tapani Trucking. According to its website, the company has over 60 active projects and the capability to manage an individual project in excess of $100 million.
Six brothers are in leadership positions at Tapani, and two brothers have independent businesses and are not involved. At 47, Kevin is 22 years older than Benji, Erosion Control Supervisor, who is the youngest owner. Having a generational gap even within in the single generation of owners is part of what allows such a purposeful leadership transition. Shane Tapani is vice president and estimator, Tod Tapani is vice president and business unit lead and Lance Tapani is a project manager.
Second eldest Leigh Tapani is president.
“The fundamentals of the business have not changed at all. We’ve always had a focus on family unity, family values and hard work,” Leigh said. “We never expect our employees to do what we won’t do. We all have our God-given gifts and abilities to perform duties. There are people at the top, in the middle and at the bottom. And like a triangle, we need a top, a middle and a bottom in order to have unity and strength in the structure.”
Third-generation Tapanis must interview with and hold a position for two years with another company before coming to seek employment at Tapani Inc. Currently, there are six of the younger generation at the company, said Kevin.
“They start in the business at the lowest possible point, and based on their ability to be leaders, they rise on their own merit, not on the merits of us driving their career paths for them,” Kevin said. “We started that conversation 15 years ago when the kids were between 5 and 10 years old. The middle generation wanted their kids to know they wouldn’t be owed something, or have an entitlement. When they apply, they are thankful they get a job here. We don’t interfere with the hiring process; they are working with their direct supervisor.”
Strong Teams, Successful Projects
The company is unwaveringly focused on its employees, extending far beyond the circle of staff with the same last name. The company employs about 500 people in the summer and 475 during the winter. Tapani’s target is less than 10 percent variability from season to season, said Kevin.
“We want to keep them working because they take care of the company if we take care of them,” he said.
“Our goal is to offer a full time career path,” Leigh said. “We are very committed to year-round work. They have families too, and they need year-round stability.”
The company is currently discussing ways to offer nonfamily key leaders a vested stake in the company to share in the profitability gain.
While Tapani is deeply rooted in Battle Ground, its reach extends far from home. To that end, the company is currently siting a regional office in the Tri-Cities, as well as scouting for space in Portland, near the junction of I-5 and I-205.
“We have about 10 employees who live in the Tri Cities, and we want all employees home every night, so we are setting up a regional office in the Tri Cities,” Leigh said. The next phase, he said, is building a “regional dynamic” and working to maintain the company’s core values and people-first focus across the region.
At the same time Tapani Underground is expanding through the region, it is in the design phase of building a new headquarters on property adjoining its current operations.
“It’s a big deal,” said Kevin, “and another investment in the local community.”