Gail Warrior On Building a Construction Business and Managing the Economic Downturn
As the founder and CEO of Dallas-based Warrior Group, Gail Warrior spearheads construction projects in 30 states. Founded in 1997, the company is the largest general contractor construction firm owned by a minority woman in the US. And, it’s at the forefront of advancements in the industry, like Permanent Modular Construction (PMC), a method to build quality, sustainable buildings in less time. Committed to serving the community, Gail founded and serves as board chair of the Heart of a Warrior Foundation, which provides educational enrichment programs for underserved children. To mentor other entrepreneurs in the construction industry, Gail hosts the annual Warrior Small Business Academy.
Madame Noire: Is it true that you planned to open a Russian accounting firm after you graduated from college? What caused the shift from accounting to construction?
Gail Warrior: I did study Russian in high school and then for two years in college with the plan of visiting Russia after I completed by undergrad degree. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to do that. At one time, I did speak Russian fluently and I can still read it a little, but I don’t know it nearly as well as I used to. My degree from Clark Atlanta University was in accounting because I have always been interested in business and entrepreneurship.
MN: Are you the first person in your family to manage a business?
GW: My inspiration for starting a business was my father. He was a successful entrepreneur and businessman who was one of the first African-American independent insurance agents in Dallas. I grew up watching him work strategically and grow the Warrior Insurance Agency. After working for a big corporation for eight years after college I knew I couldn’t stay in that world for my entire career. So I was ready to go out on my own and build a business.
MN: What resources did you use to finance your business and how much did you initially invest in Warrior Group Construction?
GW: In the beginning, Warrior Group was launched on a shoestring budget by calling on friends and family to help build the company’s infrastructure. Fortunately, we had a mentor who was also a friend that owned a modular manufacturing plant. He and his wife basically gave us credit and office space inside their plant because we couldn’t afford our own at the time. The main thing we had at the start was a vision for building quality, modular buildings in the federal arena, and we wanted to be known as a trusted source with a superior product, a quality process and good, smart people.