Darrin Wilson is an entrepreneur and construction professional from Southern California. He grew up in San Diego and attended USC. Later, he settled in Orange County in Los Angeles and founded Studio Dardo, his own construction company, which handles development, construction, and architectural design for its clients. Studio Dardo has grown significantly since its early years, having started out as a contractor and fee builder but later evolving into a firm that provides spec homes. Now, the company designs homes, builds them, furnishes them, and puts them on the market for sale. 

Darrin Wilson has always been interested in building construction, whether it be residential houses, restaurants, or commercial office spaces. He is primarily self-taught with regards to most elements of construction, although he does possess a general contracting license. His firm is well-known for taking the extra step to make their projects into something special and interesting. As they have ventured more into the design side of home construction, Studio Dardo now handles material procurement and finding unique applications for different types of buildings, including specialty flooring, radiant heating, and making sure that certain styles of architecture are represented within new developments.

Why did you decide to create your own business?

I just knew from an early age that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in charge of my own path. 

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

I love being able to design a house or commercial building on paper and then overseeing every step of construction along the way until it is completed in the field. That is really satisfying to me. 

What keeps you motivated?

My family keeps me motivated. The thought of providing for them, making sure they have access to all the things that are important in life, and leaving them a healthy and well-funded legacy gives me all the motivation that I will ever need.

How do you motivate others?

I work on motivating my team and my clients across the board. I want to make sure my team members become the best versions of themselves. It’s constantly on my mind. I think about it all the time. 

At my company, we always say that we spend more time being a counsellor to our clients than anything else. We want to help them create their ideas, not just agree to our own ideas. We want to take their ideas and make them better through hard work and creativity, but ultimately we still want it to be their vision. That involves making sure that they have different options and that they understand why a certain option might be the right one for them, rather than it being an option that they wrestle with later on. We don’t want them to later question, “Why did we do it this way? Why didn’t we do this another way?” We try to really problem solve at the beginning and find lasting solutions. Most of the time we think of ourselves as being counsellors and being solution-based. 

How has your company grown from its early days to now?

It has been constantly changing and growing. It keeps evolving. In the early days, we had projects that were of smaller scale, as opposed to now when we handle projects that are a variety of different sizes—big, small, and everything in between. The projects that we’re taking on are constantly changing and presenting new challenges. The bar keeps getting raised. For example, lately the company has been tapped to enact a lot of historical restoration. We did a historical renovation of the Brooks Institute in Montecito, as well as the Harvey Mudd estate in Beverly Hills. I’m very proud of that work.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My father has been a role model to me. He was with The Boys Clubs of America for most of his career. He was a great example to me.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

I live what we do. I live the company. I’m always involved with it. In the past, I have struggled with maintaining a balance between work and my personal life, so as a way of addressing that, I have started playing golf. That has been a change for me. 

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

To begin with, I work hard. I do not ever hesitate to roll up my sleeves and do whatever is necessary to complete a job. While I happen to be involved more with the management side of things at this point, I have been around long enough to know how to accomplish pretty much all facets involved with a construction project. I think that’s an important trait in a successful leader—knowing every aspect of your trade inside and out. I also think I know when it is okay to push and encourage employees and clients to get a different result than is typical. I developed that instinct after years of owning the company. But, by and large, I really try to keep my focus on maintaining our standards of high quality. 

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

I think it’s important to align yourself with people who have similar goals and interests.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

Always maintain a good work ethic. That piece of advice has served me very well over the years.

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

My family. Nothing is more important to me.

Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?

I just want to continue moving forward with interesting and challenging projects. I want to always be challenged. From designing a home to building a home to furnishing it to marketing it for sale, we handle every project as a turnkey operation. We often take something on and change it or add to it or to take it to a different level upon completion. I hope that never changes. 

Some people purchase a home and then they find themselves looking for an interior designer, or an architect to perform renovations, or a contractor to complete odd jobs. We bring all of that together.  The company’s modus operandi is buying a piece of property and designing what we think is important. We have architects in house that are employed to essentially build the environment that we have already designed and then the company brings it to market, as well. Some of our team are brokers and work on listing the houses. It is all-encompassing, and we love all of the challenges it brings to our firm.