At 25 years old, Anne Coursey, owner of Champagne & Marx Excavating, began working in the family business in a temporary position meant to last six months.
“The goal was to see if I could thrive in the family business. That was 32 years ago,” Anne recalled. Anne took on all tasks given to her, whether it was making a pot of coffee or running to Sears to pick up a tool they needed. There was no job beneath her, and she completed all tasks that came her way. Armed with a good attitude, she learned accounting functions, then project management and estimating.
Anne’s father, who started Champagne & Marx Excavating as a partnership with Frank Champagne when Anne was ten years old, began with the office in the basement of their home. Anne’s sister, Christine Davis, began cleaning the office when it moved to its current location. Anne never planned on working in the construction industry, and even got a degree in computer science, the field she worked in for three years before returning to Champagne & Marx Excavating.
“Working in a family business has its own set of challenges, especially when your parents are your bosses. You work for them during the day and have dinner in the evening. I’ve been blessed with a great cooperative family. When my siblings, David Marx, Christine Davis, and I took over the business from our parents we had been running the company together for ten years. All three of us bring a different skill set to the company, so it was easy to work together. Christine and I now own the business together and are in the process of buying our brother, David’s stock. He retired three years ago. David was a great mentor to me. He taught me how to estimate projects and took me along to project procurement meetings. He taught me what to look for on a project site, how to decide on scheduling, how changing the operation could make a difference in the success of the project. He picked me up when I was down and encouraged me and gave me the confidence to succeed.”
When asked about the best career advice she’s ever heard, Anne explained, “Never over-promise, but always over-deliver. My father explained to me that the business was built on integrity. The integrity of the bid. The integrity of your word, and staying true to the expectations of the customer. Integrity is who you are. Surround yourself with a team with the same value system you have.”
One skill that Anne Coursey would love to master is operating and running an excavator like the operators on the Champagne & Marx Excavating team. “When I watch my team operate excavators with precision, it’s as if the controls are an extension of their arms and hands,” Anne explained, “I don’t like to ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. In this case, I can ‘drive’ the equipment, but not operate it at this level!”
Anne Coursey’s advice to other women looking to go into the same career field as she has chosen is, “Don’t try to be one of the guys, be yourself. The guys will see right through the act and you’ll come off as trying too hard. If you don’t swear, then don’t swear. Dress for the job you have. If you can wear it to the country fair, don’t wear it to work. Learn while you earn, don’t come in and expect to know everything about the trade. Align yourself with someone to learn from, find a good mentor. Early is on time in the construction trades. The team will discuss the usual small talk and go right into the tasks of the day. You don’t want to be running from to the job site from your car and have to ask someone else what we’re doing today.”
With her sister Christine, Anne Coursey is providing opportunities for people in the community to earn a great living. Champagne & Marx is well known for giving back to the community through projects that include ‘Pushing for a Cure’ to end MS and establishing a foundation for engineering students at Saginaw Valley State University. Champagne & Marx has built for Habitat for Humanity, Emmaus House, and Camp Fish Tales.
“What makes Champagne & Marx Excavating a great place to be employed is our mindset of ‘You come here to earn a living and go home to live your life.’ We make every attempt to not work on weekends. Our team works hard during the week, they need time to recharge and spend time with family. Building trusting lasting relationships extends from our team to our customers and community. Our clients count on our drive, focus, and high integrity and we will remain fair in our dealings with clients, vendors, and partners. Being charitable, honest, and sincere is the backbone of our success and how we plan to build our future.”
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