Providing Employees Clarity: Nolan-Thomas Construction

Today, we’re diving into the crucial topic of providing employees clarity on the significance of their contributions. We’ll also explore how to decide what areas to cut back on, going beyond the strict cost-benefit analysis. Our guest, David Robertson, the owner of Nolan Thomas Construction shared many wonderful insights. 

Meet David Robertson

David Robertson is the president and co-founder of Nolan-Thomas Construction, established in 1978. With over 30 years of experience, David transitioned from residential to primarily commercial work. His journey from a young handyman to a successful contractor offers valuable insights for small business owners.

The Early Days: From Handyman to Contractor

David’s career didn’t start with a clear vision of becoming a general contractor. Growing up, he loved building things—bicycles, minibikes, go-karts—with his father. This passion led him to Fresno State, where he met his future business partner. Together, they started a handyman business during college, putting up handbills around campus. Their work quickly evolved from small jobs to larger projects, leading them to obtain a contractor’s license and dive into construction.

David Robertson, owners of Nolan-Thomas Construction in Fresno, CA talking about providing employees clarity on projects.
David Robertson, owner of Nolan-Thomas Construction in Fresno, CA talking about providing employees clarity on projects.

Transitioning to Commercial Construction

Initially focusing on residential work, David eventually shifted to commercial projects. He explains how commercial construction is generally larger in scale, more efficient, and involves collaborating with various professionals like architects and engineers. This transition allowed his company to take on bigger projects with better profit margins and less emotional involvement than residential construction.

The Origin of Nolan-Thomas Construction

The name “Nolan-Thomas” comes from the middle names of David and his business partner. Early on, this name gave their young company a sense of age and credibility. Over the years, the name has become synonymous with quality and trust in the construction industry.

Providing Employees Clarity on Projects

One of the biggest challenges in any business is providing employees clarity on the significance of their roles. David emphasizes the importance of clear job descriptions. While these should provide a framework of expectations, they shouldn’t be so rigid that they stifle flexibility. 

David shares his approach from the construction industry, where various trades must work seamlessly together. By sitting down with his team—plumbers, electricians, carpenters—David ensures everyone understands how their work impacts others and the overall project. This fosters a sense of teamwork and value among employees.

Building a Harmonious Job Site

Creating a positive work environment is crucial. David ensures direct communication among all team members and sets clear expectations for behavior and work standards. This includes sharing contact information and maintaining a culture of respect and collaboration. Such practices not only improve job site harmony, but also reduce mistakes and enhance the quality of work.

Overcoming Disjunction on Job Sites

Addressing a Visioner question, David explains how he noticed a lack of communication and harmony on job sites. By fostering better communication and making sure every worker understands their role’s importance, David built a more cohesive and efficient team. This approach can be adapted to various industries to enhance teamwork and productivity.

Managing Business Growth and Avoiding Burnout

Another Visioner question touched on managing business growth and identifying areas to cut back. David shared his personal experience of scaling down his business to focus on what truly mattered. He cut out less profitable and more stressful areas, allowing him to spend more time with his family and enjoy his work.

Personal Lessons and Business Decisions

David’s story of building and eventually selling a cherished car taught him not to let possessions or the business own him. He applied this lesson to his company, focusing on profitable, enjoyable work aligning with his personal and professional goals.

Encouragement for Business Owners

David offers valuable advice for business owners facing challenges. He emphasizes resilience and kindness, noting successful people are often those who maintain their integrity and compassion. He encourages business owners to analyze their strengths and goals to make informed decisions about their business direction.


Providing employees clarity about their roles and the significance of their contributions is essential for any business. David Robertson’s insights and experiences offer practical steps to create a harmonious and productive work environment. By focusing on clear communication, teamwork, and personal goals, business owners can build successful, resilient companies.

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