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Communication is key to harmony at Henderer Design + Build

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It started as a summer handiwork project, and today, Henderer Design + Build, on their third generation of family commitment, is full service for design and renovations – because the Henderers were ready to adapt.

May 9, 2023

By Rebecca Barrett

It began as a way to make extra money during the summer.

A teacher and his two teenage sons doing handiwork, building decks, replacing roofs and painting.

“Dad was just happy to work with his boys,” said second-generation owner Dave Henderer, president of Henderer Design + Build in Corvallis.

Then in early 1994, a relative needed an addition built for their Eugene home. Chuck Henderer suggested they start a family business. 

“That was the idea. We had no idea how to charge for these things,” Dave Henderer said. “We were just billing hourly, and it seemed to work.”

Chuck Henderer retired early from teaching. Dave Henderer decided to stick with the family business that now includes his wife and three adult children.The simplicity of how it all started still works.

“We have happy employees. People generally like what they’re doing and they’re able to do it well,” Dave Henderer said. “That goes a long way toward having thrilled clients.”

Their earnest and humble approach is one of the reasons Henderer was selected as the winner for Family Harmony in Oregon State University’s Center for Family Enterprise’s 2023 Excellence in Family Business Awards.

Early in his career, Dave Henderer suffered a shoulder injury playing basketball. He couldn’t work for 12 weeks, and his recovery got him thinking about diversifying the business. At the time, it was only construction.

“The idea of physically doing the work without another injury was not too realistic,” Dave Henderer said.

He met with an architect and other industry professionals and started reading trade magazines. In 2002, the addition of design services was unique in the market. It allowed the company to go start-to-finish on projects, offering solutions.

His brother later left the business and his dad retired in 2016, the same year as Dave’s wife, Shelley Henderer, joined the company as office manager. After streamlining operations, she earned a certificate in leadership development from Oregon State University to become design manager.

“My role has changed a lot,” Shelley Henderer said. “I love doing design.”

She also keeps the Henderer team of employees and family aligned with the goal of making sure customers will be happy with their space for years to come.

“One of the best ways to do that is communication,” Shelley Henderer said. “We work a lot on being a family, good coworkers and good examples for everyone here.”

Shelley and Dave’s children, Caleb Henderer, office assistant, Rylee Henderer, designer, and Olivia Henderer, marketing director, represent the third generation in the family business. There have been some conversations about succession plans, but roles are still evolving.

Caleb Henderer started as a carpenter’s apprentice, but he wanted to learn sales. So, he talked to his mom about working in the office. He’s glad his parents have allowed him to make his own decisions.

“How we treat one another is reflected in the company,” Caleb Henderer said.

Olivia Henderer appreciates how her parents have stayed involved with family and the community. When she was in school, her dad’s schedule allowed him to come to sporting events, volunteer at career fairs and speak to her interior design class in high school.

“He was able to work his own schedule, which was really nice,” Olivia Henderer said.

Olivia started working in the office when she was a teenager, but later left. When the marketing director position opened, the timing was right for her to return.

Rylee Henderer is the oldest and remembers running around job sites with her dad and grandpa when she was a child. When she turned 20, she first worked as a carpenter’s apprentice, learning the different aspects of the job, including demolition, framing, tile work and finish carpentry. From there, she became office coordinator. But she had been studying design and ultimately found the right fit in the family business two years ago.

Rylee and Olivia Henderer not only work together, but they are also roommates.

“At the end of the day, we still want to go home and hang out,” Rylee Henderer said.

In the Henderer family, there’s a different level of communication, trust and support.

“If people aren’t happy here or clients aren’t happy, that’s not the kind of business we want to be doing,” Rylee Henderer said. “We are able to build beautiful projects, which keeps our employees happy, which keeps doors open and keeps things moving.”

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