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30 Years at Pray!

Mark Grigsby sitting at this desk.

30 Years at Work for Pray

Pray Construction Company has had a long and strong history since its inception in 1984 and Mark Grigsby has been a part of the company’s fabric for most of it. Grigsby celebrates an amazing 30 years at Pray on April 27th, an impressive milestone in an era of rapid job jumping. He arrived at his thirty-year mark the old-fashioned way, through hard work, discipline and courage.

Grigsby claims he got his education at “Al Summers University,” referring to his first industry job with local real estate developer and property owner. “The school of hard knocks has nothing on Al Summers,” recalls Grigsby. “He made you work hard and taught you all the tricks of the trade along the way. And not just about construction and maintenance, but about people,” he adds.

When Grigsby started is journey with Pray in 1987 after seven years in “Summers’ School,” he went to work in the field.  To land as president, leading an intellectually driven, customer-focused, design-build company is a worthy accomplishment. Pray Construction remains a strong contributor to the community with an annual $2 million added to our economy in labor costs. Leading this commitment to excellence is a testament to his focus and common sense, perhaps trumped only by his deep concern for the well-being of others. In a matter of ten years, he went from a new field assistant to a senior manager. In another ten years, he was moved to President.

In the late 80s, in Grigsby’s early days with Pray, the country had an appetite for retail stores and restaurants in enclosed suburban malls and Pray Construction was there to fit them out. Locally based Steak Escape travelled the country opening in malls and Grigsby was on the traveling bandwagon. Steak Escape took them to Florida, Pennsylvania and everywhere in between. The real travel came when Kay Jewelers expanded their growth to California they put their trust in this small, West Virginia builder and used them for their West Coast expansion. Though Pray was known as the Hillbillies in Hollywood, it was Pray who was building in Los Angeles, San Diego, Culver City and other California destinations. Grigsby was a part of the team in which this national retail chain had so much confidence! This fast and furious, high quality work was the foundation of Pray and Grigsby’s next few decades of work with the earned reputation of a tradition of building excellence.

Following the retail boom, Pray Construction made a significant strategic adjustment and Grigsby played a key role in the shift. Pray’s value to customers and the market, it became clear, was well beyond the work performed. The intellectual capital possessed by the group of managers and field personnel who cut their teeth on fast paced retail, gave Pray a competitive advantage in all types of work. “It became clear where we make the most difference is in our ability to find solutions for our customers in many ways that do not involve hammers and nails. We understand estimating, human resources, budgeting, financing, contracts, labor, scheduling and all the pieces that are the backbone of great projects, be them small or large. We know how to solve problems before we start building.  We can help customers negotiate the treacherous landscape that can be building projects,” Grigsby explains. “Our intellectual capital and how we leverage that to the benefit of each customer is what separates us from the pack, “he continues.

As the company grew in this period, Grigsby was mentored by the company’s founding father, David Pray, whose entrepreneurial prowess forged the solid business that bears his name. Like a skilled horse trader, Pray saw the complete skill set Grigsby possessed and groomed him to lead the company into its next phase. The transition came in 2003 when he identified a core group of leaders to purchase the company when Pray sold to pursue other ventures. Perhaps it wasn’t a clear vision when he started in the field of construction straight from school, but Grigsby took leadership of a major, successful design-build firm.

Grigsby’s deep concern for the well-being of others gives him an advantage in the business strategy employed at Pray. In the end, it is about people. His ability to listen to and understand customers’ needs, desires, fears and constraints allows him to shape a project that exceeds their expectations. His years in saddle give him a great understanding of the business, but it is his ability to build meaningful relationships that sets him apart.

Grigsby has maintained the core values and business strategies on which the company is based and has made adjustments and improvements along the way. On Grigsby’s watch, leveraging intellectual capital has grown to become Pray’s key value.  The culture that has been created over the years remains since Grigsby took over in 2007. Repeat customers remain a major focus. Significant new lines of business have been introduced and grown under Grigsby, including medical facilities and faith based organizations, both of which are major business lines for Pray today. Grigsby’s gentle leadership style has resulted in a very stable workforce, full of long term employees both in the office and in the field. Grigsby plans to continue building a bright company that leverages brainpower in an industry known for brawn.