Q: What are your typical daily responsibilities as the President and CEO of Sargent Corporation?
A: I do assessments on weekly reports, record our weekly internal podcast, and check in on the estimating, equipment, and operations departments. I generally keep an eye on what’s going on around the company and I spend a significant amount of time working on visions for the future of this company.
Q: What are some of the big challenges you encounter in your role?
A: Setting the general direction of the company is tricky, as is knowing which markets to penetrate. The biggest challenge for me is figuring out which types of markets are going to be growing versus shrinking, and then trying to ascertain how that works within our company’s vision.
Q: What does your education and work history look like? What was your path to your current position?
A: My education is pretty much just that of a high school graduate. I did attend some college as well, but I did not graduate. I’ve been with this company in some fashion since I was 14, with the exception of a couple of short stints outside the company when I was in high school.
I started here as a laborer, then worked my way up to a training foreman, a foreman, a superintendent, a project manager, and an estimator. Today, I’ve been in my current role since 2005.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part of the job is knowing that we are bringing value to not only our employee-owners but also our customers. I also really enjoy the fact that, due to our employee ownership plan, I’m working for and serving our employee-owners.
Q: Looking back through your career, is there anything along the way that you’re especially proud of?
A: In 2005, buying my grandfather’s former company back from a European firm is something I always look back on with pride. Other than that, I’m proud of establishing our employee ownership program. At the time, I knew that we needed to define ownership succession because my children aren’t in the business.
There are only a few options. One is to sell to another company, which had already been done here once before and didn’t go well. Another option is to just close the whole thing down, which benefits no one. I could also sell the business internally, but that requires the people who buy it to have substantial capital to keep the business running.
The only other option at that point was to do the employee stock ownership plan, which allowed me to keep running the business while the company paid me off as the owner. It was the least disruptive option and it created the most value for our people.
Q: How do you think the construction industry could do a better job of attracting young people?
A: We need to brush off the stigma that the construction industry is just some dead-end job when in actuality, it’s not a dead-end job at all. It’s one thing if you go to college and then work in construction, but there’s a lot of stigma in our society associated with not going to college and working in construction.
In reality, there are ample opportunities in this industry — and you might even say equivalent opportunities — whether you go to college or not. There are so many opportunities for advancement, and we need to do a better job of highlighting that.
Q: Is there anyone in your life that you’ve looked up to or considered to be a mentor?
A: I’ve had an embarrassment of riches in terms of people taking an interest in me and mentoring me. Honestly, when I think about how many millions of young men don’t ever have anyone take interest in them, it’s almost embarrassing for me to think about how many did take an interest in me.
There were times in my life when I didn’t show a lot of hope, but I still had folks who supported me and wanted the best for me. My grandfather was a really central figure in my life. Along with my dad and my uncle, he cast a pretty good template for me to follow.
Q: How do you like to spend your free time?
A: I like to spend my free time with my family — I’m married to Tristine and I have two adult children, James and Savannah, and a step-son, Colby. I love to be on the water. It doesn’t need to be a big yacht or anything like that. Just get me in a boat on the water and I’m happy.
I also like to cook. I’m all over the place in the kitchen. I have a pizza oven, so I like to do fire-roasted pizzas. I also enjoy smoking meat. Getting together and making a meal with friends and family is always fun for me.