Access to Experience: Advice from Panel of Experts

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Access to Experience: Panel of Speakers and FLF Attendees

At the AGC Education Foundation and AGC’s Future Leadership Forum’s recent event Access to Experience three panelists answered questions that ranged from their views on higher education to tips on what to remember when economic times are tough. The speakers were Dan Barrett Sellen Construction; Craig Klinkam The Klinkam Company; and Matt Lessard Wilcox Construction. Here is a quick glance at what they talked about.

When asked how they got interested in construction and what lead them to where they are today Dan said that he loves to watch things being built and loves the smell of concrete. He said “It’s all about curiosity and helping change the landscape of the community.”

Adding to that statement Matt reminded attendees to be flexible in life and that “It’s not always what you thought it would be what you thought you always wanted to do. Sometimes you just end up where you are in a company and it’s what you become good at.”

Speaking about the AGC Education Foundation’s scholarship Craig said that the opportunity was like a hand on the shoulder a feeling of encouragement. All three speakers were scholarship recipients each from different years of the program.

When asked about higher education Dan said that it’s important to do grad school or any sort of higher education for yourself and to do it to make a difference in your life. It’s not necessarily about having a piece of paper to win over someone else. “School should be very intentional. I went because I wanted to fill holes in my expertise. I asked myself ‘How can I become a better professional?’”

Continuing on to talk about the economy and his company’s approach to dealing with down times Dan explained that the economy is always cyclical and everyone has to wait it out sometimes. “Be patient and work with the market. Be as scrappy as you need to be to get your foot in the door once you create an opportunity make the most of it.” His company believes that it’s important to not overextend past the company’s resources. They try to keep their projects diverse but they always have a strategy for the projects they bid on and the ones they turn down.

Craig and Matt agreed with Dan saying that anyone overextending their company’s resources isn’t doing their clients any favors and that it’s important to plan early and know what’s coming. Keeping positives in your finances is extremely hard or it makes all of the following projects and financing more difficult.

When asked about key things to know about business and their tips on success all three speakers focused on how important it is to know the people in your industry. “Focus on your clients and the people side of the business. Finding new technology is great but in the end of the day it comes down to relationships – who your clients are and whether or not you are paying attention to them” explained Dan.

Quickly agreeing with him Matt followed up with “Take people out get to know them personally. There are a lot of people competing; it’s easy to be forgotten. It is a constant project to keep yourself at the table.”

Taking a different approach to the question Craig brought up making sure you get to know everyone on the project no matter what job title they hold. “Differentiate leadership from management; you don’t have to be management to be a leader for your company.” He talked about how important it is to speak up if you have a good idea and how important it is for management to listen to all of the ideas out there.

Quickly bouncing to the next topic they spoke about lessons they have learned while working up the ranks in the industry. Matt talked about working in other countries and how working abroad can make you see how efficient our country is but it also makes you open your eyes to different aspects of construction. Working with different tools and expectations makes you notice that there are other ways of doing things that you might not have thought of before.

Speaking about general jobsite tips Dan said “Question your assumptions; you don’t always know all of the facts so make sure you keep asking questions. Our business is very relationship based so don’t jump to conclusions especially before getting angry or speaking badly of someone.”

The last question of the day was about standing out as a key employee in the company. Matt said “Be willing to do anything that is asked of you. If you’re driven you can work really hard but if you see your client needs something and you don’t ask for anything in return it makes you stand out.”

Dan followed up with a great ending comment about assumptions. “If an answer is ‘That’s the way it’s always been done” – that’s the first thing I look at to try and improve and take the initiative to push change for the better.”