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Laurie La Vaque Daw

Partner and controller

Grassi & Associates

1098 Jordan Ln., Napa, CA 94559

707-255-3232

grassiandassociates.com

Age: 53

Residence: Napa

Hometown: St. Helena

Working from “the ground up” is a perfect description for the career path of construction company executive and partner Laurie La Vaque Daw. In fact, it was in the soil of vineyards and later the grit of a construction site that Daw made her name.

“Choosing not to go to college for a ‘formal’ education, I knew that I would have to seek an occupation that I could be passionate about so that work would be something I loved.

Living in our community, it was an open opportunity to dive into the wine business. Fortunately, it was there that I met my life’s mentor, Imre Vizkelety, who taught me the true meaning of perseverance, perfection and success.

Later, I started working with Mark Grassi in 1986 as he was starting his construction company from the ground up. At the time we had four employees. I began by setting up payroll and implementing systems and spreadsheets for job cost tracking, client billings and bookkeeping. Together we have grown the company to 46 employees with over $30 million in annual revenue.”

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR COMPANY

Education: Justin-Siena graduate, 1981; some college for interesting classes only, otherwise, no formal college education

Professional background: floral delivery driver, during high school, 1979–1980; winery office worker to bookkeeping and payroll, 1980–1990; independent bookkeeper for a four-employee startup construction company that developed into a 46-employee company, 1986–current

Staff: office staff, two; construction workers and others, 43

Choosing not to go to college for a “formal” education, I knew that I would have to seek an occupation that I could be passionate about so that work would be something I loved. Living in our community, it was an open opportunity to dive into the wine business. Fortunately, it was there that I met my life’s mentor, Imre Vizkelety, who taught me the true meaning of perseverance, perfection and success.

Later, I started working with Mark Grassi in 1986 as he was starting his construction company from the ground up. At the time we had four employees. I began by setting up payroll and implementing systems and spreadsheets for job cost tracking, client billings and bookkeeping. Together we have grown the company to 46 employees with more than $30 million in annual revenue.

WHAT IS THE ACHIEVEMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?

Becoming a partner of a company that I helped cultivate over a 30 year span

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TODAY?

One of the biggest challenges today in our industry is hiring new employees who are motivated, driven and most of all, have a quest for knowledge. In construction, these works are craftsmen-dedicated people who work together, with their hands, to build and achieve greatness in the finished product – in our case, a client’s project. If they succeed, we succeed and our clients succeed.

WORDS THAT BEST DESCRIBE YOU

Dedicated, dependable, honest, compassionate, humorous and humble

AS A SUCCESSFUL FEMALE PROFESSIONAL, WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES YOU FACED AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

Working in a predominately all male world of construction, building relationships with sub-contractors and being a good listener are vital. There were times that I felt like a pushover. I had to learn to be assertive but not aggressive – and always with a smile .

Laurie La Vaque Daw

Partner and controller

Grassi & Associates

1098 Jordan Ln., Napa, CA 94559

707-255-3232

grassiandassociates.com

Age: 53

Residence: Napa

Hometown: St. Helena

WHO WAS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTOR?

The only mentor worthy of the title goes to Imre Vizkelety. I met him in 1981, fresh out of high school, when he hired me to work in the winery office as a phone, secretary and order-taker. I knew nothing about business practices, international business, business banking, forecasting and projecting income and expenses, grape growing, buying and selling grapes, and making wine.

He took me with him to business meetings, banking appointments, and contract negotiations. He had me do sugar samples in the vineyard, deal with salespersons who sold our wines, arrange deliveries, attend wine tastings, and report daily business activities to him while he was regularly in Switzerland with family. He was Hungarian with a British education background. He started out tanning sheepskin hides and later, with partners, came to Napa to purchase Sawyer Tanning Co.

He then branched out purchasing vineyards, building a winery and later, owned several hundred acres of apple orchards in the central valley. He was a wealth of knowledge, a strict teacher, and brilliant businessman. Although we had not worked together for many years, we stayed very close until his passing in June 2013.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG WOMAN ENTERING YOUR PROFESSION OR THE WORK WORLD TODAY?

Be assertive, never aggressive. Be a good listener. Wear a smile. Always admit to your mistakes; it’s all part of learning. And never lose sight of your goals!

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

Typical day at the office: E-mails, analyzing cash flow and projections, and employee relations.

Best place to work outside of your office: On my own remodeling projects, landscaping ideas and concepts, mind work on next projects.

Current reading: “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” by David Sedaris

Most want to meet: Dalai Lama

Social media you most use: Facebook

Stress-relievers: Laughter

Favorite hobbies: I love being with my dogs; going to concerts; remodeling, decorating and interior design; kayaking and camping; and good conversations.