Published on October 17th, 2015 | by UC&D Magazine0
This is UC&D’s third year of profiling professionals from Utah’s A/E/C industry who are 40 and under. This is always a fascinating section to produce, as it allows an opportunity for us to try and capture the uniqueness of a specific individual, both in words and photos. As much as every person working within the A/E/C industry has common traits and characteristics, the strength of the construction and design community is its genuine diversity, and collective ability to create life-changing projects.
This year we profiled nine people: a controller (Howell), an estimator (Frost), three architects (Anderson, Dolan, Greene), a civil engineer (Brown), a mechanical service manager (Cowley), a Vice President of Business Development (Bradley), and a president of an A/E/C supply company (Cory Alder).
What makes these people successful? Basic intangibles like a solid work ethic, a passion for their line of work, and the ability to perform under at times intense pressure. I was impressed with each person’s interactive nature and pleasant disposition – sometimes you have to dig a little bit to extract the best quotes – but that makes the process fun.
Despite being the daughter of a prominent St. George-based general contractor, Annie Howell didn’t always see herself working at the family business. But that is exactly where she finds herself after spending the past 16 years at Watts Construction working for her father, Doug Watts, and learning the nuances of the commercial building industry.
Howell’s path to becoming a key executive at the firm came about in a circuitous way. After graduating from Hurricane High in 1993, she studied accounting for three years at Utah State University. During summers she would come back home to Southern Utah and work at the Cliffrose Lodge in Springdale – a place known for its spacious gardens and primo location a stone’s throw from the Zion National Park entrance.
That led to her doing an about face and changing majors from accounting to hospitality and swapping USU and snowy Cache Valley winters in Logan for UNLV and the lights (and sunshine) of Las Vegas.
“UNLV was the No. 2 school for hospitality and I really loved it,” Howell said. But Watts had different ideas for his daughter, and knew that Annie would be a tremendous asset as the growing company headed into the 21st Century.
Howell recalled, “Three months before I graduated, Doug called. He said ‘why don’t you come do marketing for Watts.’ I figured I’d probably get paid more than the Cliffrose…wouldn’t have to work weekends, nights, holidays. And I definitely didn’t want to live in Vegas and raise a family.
“I was jumping into everything blindly,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about construction, but I loved working with family. They eventually pulled me in and I started learning the ropes.”
Howell initially handled all marketing- related functions, and ultimately transitioned into the firm’s controller, a job with many hats beyond accounting.
“We needed the position filled pretty badly,” said Watts. “We didn’t really have a (marketing) program. She did website development, brochures, proposals…it really changed the company’s appearance.”
Watts added, “In the back of my head I had a plan, unbeknownst to her, about an eventual (ownership) transition. As the accounting came more into place, it became apparent how good she was at it.”
Watts credited Howell with helping keep the company afloat during the difficult recession years.
“She was instrumental in saving our company,” he said. “Her support role during (recession) years was incredible. She didn’t have a total knowledge of the (accounting) system when she took over so her learning curve was short. She was doing the work of two people at that time.”
Beyond work, Howell, who turns 40 in November, is married and the mother of two boys, ages 9 and 5. She is active in local business groups Leadership Dixie and the St. George chapter of Utah Business Women, something she says sharpens her networking acumen.
Howell, along with cousin Chris Boudreaux, each have a minor ownership stake in the firm, with Howell slated to ultimately take over as majority owner once Watts retires, perhaps in a decade or so. Both agree she has a lot to learn before that time arrives.
“I don’t read plans, I don’t go in the field. I’ve set foot on jobsites, but I don’t need another thing on my plate,” she said. “Work is good right now; we’re really busy.”
“She has a bright future and has more than filled the ticket,” said Watts. “I want to make sure all the tribal knowledge is handed down. She just needs to know how to close a deal.”
Growing up in the country in Caldwell, Idaho (west of Boise), Chad Brown grew to appreciate both construction and farming, a result of his family having a small farm and his father working in construction for five decades, including many years with Boise- based general contractor CM Company.
So when Brown decided on a career path, civil engineering (water resources in particular) proved a good fit.
“I always was inquisitive. I liked to figure out how things worked,” said Brown, who is a Senior Engineer for Franson Civil Engineers of American Fork, a firm he has been with for more than 10 years since graduating from Utah State University with a Master of Civil Engineering.
Brown initially thought he’d study mechanical engineering and pursue a career in aerospace, but it “wasn’t a good fit”, so he went back to his roots of construction and farming and took a job with Utah Water Research laboratory at USU.
“When we started applying physical science it made more sense to go into civil engineering,” he said.
Brown also earned a Minor in Business Management, which has proved invaluable, as it made him branch out and realize the most successful engineers are also savvy, personable businessmen.
“I wanted to give myself a competitive edge as it related to project management,” said Brown. “Some of the (business) courses are just learning to work with other people. As engineers, we get comfortable working with other engineers. It forced me to work with marketing majors, accountants, general business majors and other industries. The classes pushed me to get out of that comfort zone and look at things from a different perspective.”
“In our profession, having good people skills is critical,” said firm President Eric Franson. “It didn’t take long to realize he could work with people. When we saw him in the field, he showed an ability to connect with clients early. Those skills set him apart from a typical engineer.”
Perhaps Brown’s most eventful field experience occurred from February 2010 to March 2011 when he served as project manager on the Wide Hollow Dam in Escalante, a town of less than 800 people in south central Utah. Brown uprooted his entire family (wife and three young children; a fourth child was born shortly after moving back to Utah County) and moved into the cozy confines of a doublewide trailer, which offered a few surprises as their 13-month stay wore on.
“We had an idea of what we were getting into,” he said. “When the wind blew hard the linoleum would raise up in the kitchen. When the temperature started to heat up, there were some interesting smells.”
Brown eventually had some water and sewer components fixed, along with getting a swamp cooler. His young family ultimately enjoyed the venture, which also aided Brown’s career.
“It was quite an interesting experience,” he said. “I had never experienced Southern Utah, so it was a great opportunity to see Bryce Canyon, Moab, Zion…we didn’t sit around much. I was either working or exploring.”
“That’s not an easy thing to do – pick up your family and move,” said Franson. “To run a construction job like that, it really helped his management skills and technical development.”
Another key project in Brown’s portfolio is the Helper Utility Improvement project, a $30 million project for a town of almost 2,200 people.
“We’ve been able to provide a more sustainable, reliable system, for drinking water, sewer and storm drain systems,” he said. “Residents are seeing the benefits of this project.”
Ultimately, Brown appreciates the diversity of his career. He was added to the firm’s Business Development and Marketing Committee three years ago, and figures he’s in position to ultimately work his way up to principal.
“There are a lot of components of my job,” he said. “I enjoy working with my team and managing projects, and doing some business development as well. I have a tendency to get bored, so this keeps me engaged, having several different things to do at once.
“My fear was being pigeon-holed out of college,” he added. “Franson Civil has opened doors for me and given me opportunities to do a lot of different things. Variety is the spice of life.”
Despite his ‘chill’ last name, Cole Frost has blazed a red-hot trail in his ascension to Lead Estimator in just six years for Draper-based heavy-highway contractor Ralph L. Wadsworth (RLW) Construction.
Frost said he attributes his success to a strong work ethic learned from his father, who was a civil contractor, and his wife, who tolerates his busy work schedule.
“I’d like to give a shout out to my wife,” said Frost. “I work a lot, that’s part of the reason I’m in the situation I’m in. She’s willing to put up with my bad habits of working too much.”
“He’s got a great work ethic and a great understanding of all the systems, the estimating software, the culture of our company, and what it take to win (projects),” said Tod Wadsworth, RLW’s Executive Vice President. “He’s filled some big shoes and did it with style. He’s cool and collected when it gets down to crunch time. He just finished a complicated bid on a $15 million dollar projects in a day. Not many people can do that. He has a well-rounded knowledge of all our divisional work.”
Frost learned about construction via his father, and initially worked in a variety of industry-related jobs after high school, including at a crusher, at a hot plant, and on heavy-highway road crews, before making the decision to study engineering, which he considered a broader field of study than construction management.
After graduating from Utah State University with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 2006, Frost worked for a local civil engineering firm for three years before deciding to switch gears and move to construction.
“After I got a good (engineering) foundation, I wanted to get back into the construction industry,” said Frost. “At (RLW) we do a lot of design-build – I liked the fact they had the design and construction side of things.”
Frost’s mentality and engineering background fits in well at RLW. Ralph Wadsworth was a structural engineer years before he founded his construction company in 1975, and continues to design projects even after turning 80 (see Bear Canyon Bridge article in Industry News section on page 10).
“Most engineers love solving complex problems and having a challenge figuring it out,” said Frost. “It’s the reason I wake up every day. You want to figure out how to save time and money and still have a great product. It’s a challenge figuring out innovative ways that provide a better solution than what was thought of initially. That’s the mentality we have here.
“We try and steer in the direction of the larger, more complex projects,” he continued. “Once you win the project, you try and figure out how to build it better. We have some latitude on design-build. We provide (the client) with different variations, making it more cost-effective to build. Those are the projects we like.”
Frost said his firm uses a variety of estimating and 3D modeling software, which offers a better way to visualize projects, but ultimately you have to know design basics to achieve the best outcome.
“We can quantify (projects) more accurately and transfer that to the operational side, but with some of our younger guys, even though they can operate the software, they don’t always use logical thinking or guard against the pitfalls that simple math can prove a model wrong. It’s great to have technology, but you still have to step back and use logical thinking and common sense.”
Frost appreciates not only the industry he’s in but also the experience of working for members of the Wadsworth family and their collective competitive drive.
“(They) have the work ethic and the attitude of ‘I don’t want to lose, I always want to be winning’. It’s about having the mentality and enthusiasm to do better.”
After 16 years working for the family business, Cory Alder was named President of Alder’s Sales Corporation of Murray on September 11, officially marking the 80-year- old company’s transition of leadership to its fourth generation of Alders.
Alder takes over the reigns from father Matt, current company CEO who himself had served as President since 1975. Cory admits he has big shoes to fill, but is confident Alder’s will continue to thrive well into the next generation.
“We’ve better defined our sales people and their focus,” said Alder. “We used to divide up products evenly, where everyone could sell, but it wasn’t specified. We’re also trying to stay focused on specific products and not straying too far from where we are.”
Alder is unfazed by national statistics that document the success of family-owned companies that are passed on from one generation to the next. According to the Family Business Institute of Raleigh, N.C., only 30% of family businesses make it into the second generation, 12% are viable into the third generation, and a paltry 3% survive into the fourth generation and beyond. Alder said the collective experience of his firm and its employees, and their commitment to improvement in operations and customer service, is more than enough to keep current momentum rolling.
“Right now we’re on pace to have our largest sales year ever,” said Alder. “Our backlog is the biggest it’s ever been. Last year to this year, we’re up 25%, conservatively. I don’t see 25% (growth) every year, but I do see steady work in the future.”
“As a child he knew he was going to be here and stay here,” said Matt. “My other children didn’t have that passion. Cory has a passion for the business and a desire to continue the company into the fifth generation. I look forward to him being in charge and taking us into that 100th anniversary.”
Alder’s was founded on September 13, 1935 by Alfred Alder, Cory’s great-grandfather, and eventually passed down to Don Alder (Matt’s father), who managed the firm through four decades. Don’s declining health in the mid-70’s thrust Matt into the role of President in 1975, at the mere age of 22.
The company is an exclusive distributor and service agent of various A/E/C building materials and systems, including daylighting, space management, fire and smoke containment, and large commercial openings (overhead doors, screen-walls, etc.). Besides Utah, Alder’s territory includes Southeast Idaho, Western Wyoming, and Eastern Nevada.
The firm’s product line has remained consistent through the years (they’ve been selling Modern Fold products since 1936), while at the same time constantly evolving with the latest technological innovations. Alder said he and his sales team are constantly brushing up on their knowledge of new products and how they best operate in the built environment.
“We have to know how (products) attach to other parts of the building – architects can’t know every little detail and the engineering capabilities of a product,” said Alder. “How far can a skylight reach? How tall can we build a wall with it still being structurally sound? We have to understand acoustics. We have to get involved and know the details of the products.”
Cory and Matt see a lot of similarities between themselves, which is why they believe the leadership transition will be seamless.
“His main strength is his salesmanship,” said Matt. “He brings good direction to the construction marketplace and has excellent relationships with architects and general contractors, as well as the manufacturers we represent.”
Cory credits his father for the position Alder’s is in right now.
“He’s been my hero my whole life; I found we have a lot of similarities in how we go about work,” he said. “We have the same goals; we’re customer service oriented. Just learning from him and how he works with people and gets involved in associations has been important. This is what we know, this is what we do.”
David Anderson has certainly traveled one of the more unconventional routes to becoming a successful Salt Lake-based architect – but it’s how he ultimately ended up in the Beehive State that is the real kicker.
Anderson grew up in Oahu on the Hawaiian Islands and ventured east for college, earning a Bachelor of Architecture in 2001 from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He also spent one summer in central Oregon during his college years working for a residential architect who did some small commercial work.
“I think it’s important to get away from your hometown for a few years, go out on your own and see the world,” he says. “It was a real adaptation, it was a change.”
Upon graduation, Anderson decided to head back west. Fate came knocking.
“My car broke down here,” he says, rather matter-of-factly on landing in Salt Lake. “I was driving out to do some job interviews in San Francisco…made it about halfway. I had a friend here, figured I’d crash at his place. A couple of events happened, and it’s been almost 15 years now.”
One of those ‘events’ was meeting his wife Greta, who is a Principal at Salt Lake- based FFKR Architects. The two worked together at VCBO Architecture in Salt Lake, and Anderson said their relationship “was obviously a big reason to stay” in Utah. “I interviewed with VCBO…I wasn’t planning on working in Salt Lake City. She was my first project manager/boss.”
“It was really great because he did everything I asked him to do,” said Greta. “My expectation was set pretty high from the beginning.”
“We talk a lot of architecture, that’s for sure,” Anderson said when asked about the dynamic of being part of a married couple who are architects working at different firms in the same city, even though they individually work in different market segments (she works in K-12; he’s in commercial office, retail, industrial). “It’s great to be with someone who knows the industry and challenges you to think differently. We can bounce ideas off each other.”
“It’s easy for us to put ourselves in each other’s shoes…we understand the highs and lows of the profession,” added Greta. “We’re interested in the same thing – when we travel we want to see architecture.”
Anderson is a Project Manager with Salt Lake-based Babcock Design Group and said he enjoys the diversity of projects he’s been able to work on during his three years at the firm.
“Babcock has given me a great opportunity to work on a variety of different things,” said Anderson. “The fact that every day there is a different challenge…it’s not the same problem over and over. I work with a wide variety of clients, use different construction methods…that lends itself to exploration of design opportunities.”
“He has a nice cross-section of abilities that makes him versatile in terms of being able to put him on different kinds of projects,” said BDG President Rob Cottle. “He also has a strong marketing ability. He’s one of those rare people who are strong in all areas.”
Anderson recently designed a couple of notable projects in Idaho, including a 300,000 SF office/manufacturing facility for Clif Bar in Twin Falls and the 150,000 SF City Center multi-use project in Boise.
“A lot of the look of (City Center) is his influence,” said Cottle. “He is a very knowledgeable architect from the technical perspective and has a nice eye for design.”
Anderson hopes to continue working his way up BDG’s ladder, all the while staying committed to designing great projects while riding the same wave that brought him to town.
“In the next few years I’m hoping to be a partner here at Babcock. Generally speaking, I want to influence the quality of architecture in Salt Lake and the other areas we work in,” he said. “Mentoring is important to me. I’ve learned a lot working with young architects. I want to provide collaboration opportunities for the younger generation. I’m loving the opportunity here and feel primed to be in a good spot going forward.”
Joshua Greene has some words of advice for young people interested in pursing a career in architecture: Learn CAD/3D modeling first.
“I recommend hands on training as soon as possible – that will help you get through school,” said Greene, who learned the intricacies of CAD and graduated from ITT Technical College in 1995 before attending the University of Utah and earning a Master of Architecture in 2004. “I’m a big advocate of technical schools and having a hands-on approach to learning. If you can hone the craft of (CAD) drawing and 3D modeling, if you can learn to communicate an idea, it’s a powerful process. Once I did ITT, it opened up my world. I was ahead of the game in architecture school; I knew how to draw and was able to focus on theory and thinking and process.”
A native of Brigham City, Greene took an architectural drafting class in high school and was influenced by the course teacher, Mr. Solomon, who also turned Greene onto the book ‘Siddhartha’ by German author Hermann Hesse.
“I read it and we had an instant connection,” said Greene. “It influenced my (interest) of drawing.”
Greene spent 18 years at ajc architects of Salt Lake before joining Method Studio in January 2014. He appreciated his time at ajc working with founder Jill Jones, and the many projects he helped design.
“Jill taught me the business of architecture,” he said. “I learned the best projects come out of a collaborative process and understanding the creative vision each client has. Always be a professional, and pay attention to the bottom line.”
One project that stands out from his past is the Central High School Visitor’s Center in Little Rock, Ark. for the National Park Service, which pays homage to the ‘Little Rock Nine’ and the 1957 desegregation crisis.
“It was amazing to work on a project that had such a rich story,” said Greene. “We got to meet the nine people – they were a part of the design process. Just awesome.”
Other notable projects Greene worked on include Tracy Aviary at Liberty Park, USTAR at Utah State University, USU Strength and Conditioning Center, and Petzl’s North American Headquarters. Since his arrival at Method less than two years ago, Greene has adapted quickly to the firm’s culture and even recruited a handful of employees. Business is brisk and the company is thriving.
“We’re growing really fast,” he said. “(Owners) Joe (Smith), Becky (Hawkins), and Kelly (Morgan) did a lot of groundwork to make people happy. They’ve always been committed to doing great design. They support project designers rather than making us run lean. No ego – we just like to do good work.”
“Josh is a rare talent and has made a significant impact at Method Studio since he joined our team,” said Hawkins. “He brings multi-faceted talent in both management and design, and a humble, proactive leadership style that endears clients and staff.”
Among Greene’s current projects with Method include the $30 million renovation of USU’s Maverick Stadium and a $32 million, 150,000 SF Dixie ATC classroom building in St. George.
He said right now is a great time to be working in the A/E/C industry, both economically and technologically.
“We are embracing technology and trying to understand how we can leverage it to our advantage, able to show a client a 3D model and make changes right there. We’re at the beginning, on the precipice
of how the digital world transfers to the field.”
It took Kevin Cowley a few years after graduating from high school in 2001 to realize that working in the construction industry – and specifically for his father, Rick, at Salt-Lake based Mechanical Service & Systems – would be the best long-term career for him. Cowley was in his early 20’s and trying to help a friend start a travel agency, when he realized it just wasn’t going to work out long-term.
“I just said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get a real job’, something that was not commission- based, and got into an apprenticeship program that has a reputation for providing long, steady work,” said Cowley, a 10-year veteran of the mechanical contracting industry who has been MSS’s Service Manager since early 2014 and currently manages 25 service technicians, three of which are field supervisors.
Cowley started out as a technician in the field, and despite lacking confidence in his natural abilities, slowly learned the ropes of the industry, one he says is demanding and requires workers to physically work hard while constantly learning new systems and technologies. He said the diversity of work piqued his interest and kept him motivated.
“With some of it, I never felt like I was mechanically inclined, but it’s something you have to learn and progress with,” he said. “My family was a driving factor, and the industry provided a good life for us. It took a few years to gain confidence. I didn’t feel like a natural and that was discouraging for me, but just providing for my family kept me going. Three years in I really started to enjoy the job, then I saw opportunities for growth – there are so many opportunities in this industry.
“One of the things that kept me going is the variety of different buildings we work on, and the different customers we have,” he added. “It definitely held my interest as I gained confidence.”
Cowley said his father has been a major influence on his career, while also being somebody who was a patient, steadying force, particularly early on.
“My dad was a big influence; he kind of did the same thing, stared out as a technician,” said Cowley. “I’d get discouraged with my progress, but he was very patient, composed, compassionate. It’s a tough industry, but with a lot of hard work you can do anything.”
“Kevin comes from a family of strong leaders who give tirelessly of their time and talent,” said Bob Bergman, Executive Vice President of the Utah Mechanical Contractors Association. “Kevin has quickly become a real asset for our industry and is teaching our future craftsman at the Utah Career Center. “He undoubtedly will leave a mark on our industry and association with his leadership and character that he exhibits with his committee work for the UMCA.”
“Kevin started as an HVAC service technician, went through the apprenticeship program…and he’s grown into a management role and dealing with people and personalities,” said Ryan Jorgensen, Executive Vice President of MSS.
Jorgensen said Cowley is slated to earn a business-related Bachelor degree at the end of January and is gradually learning more about the overall business of mechanical contracting.
“(College) is helping him understand the big picture of the business from a financial side,” Jorgensen said. “He works closely with myself and our management team to build our customer relations. He is slated to play a big role in our company moving forward.”
Cowley is encouraged by the current economical outlook of the industry, and also at how new technological advancements are making the industry more attractive to a new generation of potential workers.
“Technology is a huge draw to younger people,” he said. “No one realizes the technology being utilized in our building trades. We have refrigeration tools and gauges that transmit data via Bluetooth. We need to utilize this information more because a lot of people don’t know about it.”
If it’s cliché to say that brain surgeons are among the most intelligent people on earth, then what should be said about a person who designs spaces where brain surgeons perform their complex work?
As a Senior Associate for Salt Lake- based FFKR Architects, Michael Dolan is one of the firm’s healthcare design specialists,a role he was thrust into when he began working for the firm in 2008 – despite feeling initially inadequate of his ability to design such intricate, complicated spaces like a modern-day operating room. Dolan remembers being interviewed by FFKR President Roger Jackson, and the immediate confidence Jackson instilled in him.
“I came in with a limited amount of experience, and he just said, ‘if you can (design something) at this scale, you can do it on a big scale’. That gave me encouragement,” said Dolan. “I literally went from designing space for a deli to designing neurosurgical operating rooms. It’s a pretty big difference.
“(Surgeons) are incredibly bright people,” he continued. “It’s interesting consulting with them, walking them through the process, showing mock-ups so they can see what (a project) is like. They’re very particular on exactly how the space is laid out. There is a lot to track.”
Dolan is a native of Maynard, Massachusetts, and upon graduating high school felt a need to “get away” from his small hometown and explore life in a bigger city. He had some family members in Salt Lake and headed west to attend school at the University of Utah. He had taken a drafting class in high school, but didn’t really know what career path to focus on until taking an Intro to Architecture class from professor Martha Bradley.
“I was interested in (architecture) but doubted I had the creativity to make a career out of it,” he said. “She convinced me to take the architecture class and I loved it.”
Dolan, who graduated from the U of U with a Master of Architecture in 2007, worked for a couple of small firms before joining FFKR. He said he enjoys the fundamental, problem solving aspects of design.
“I enjoy taking something complicated and breaking it down into simple parts and figuring out how it all goes together – that’s what I get satisfaction from,” Dolan said. “It’s an interesting field. We get to meet clients, talk to them about what they need and solve their problems in ways that work for them.”
Dolan has worked almost exclusively in the healthcare market, with a particular emphasis on behavioral health and neuropsychiatry. He has worked for various private clients, along with public entities like the University of Utah and the State of Utah. Among his most memorable and satisfying projects was the renovation of Utah State Hospital’s (USH) Pediatric Facility, which was completed in 2014.
USH caters to patients suffering from various mental health conditions and historically was known as a dark, dreary institution, certainly not a place for healing. Dolan said throughout the project he felt tremendous empathy for the children who inhabited the old facility.
“I just imagined my daughter, who was six at the time, in a place like that,” he said. “They had children in dismal, old settings. To put them in a brand new facility was amazing. When you see people who are struggling in their lives, and then watching them in a place I designed and seeing how it changes them,it is humbling as an architect. We’re creating spaces that are more adaptable to what the patient needs.”
“We are, understandably, really high on him,” Jackson said of Dolan. “He embodies and practices exactly what we try to do – he focuses on the client and helps them through the obstacle that these projects can be. Plus he’s a really nice guy – he’s approachable, helpful, willing, and everyone likes him.”
Dolan points to the remodel of the U of U’s Clinical Neuroscience building as a recent project that illustrates the intricacies of modern healthcare, and the immense amount of technology that is required in such projects, such as an intra-operative MRI system that is suspended by a large magnet that can move between operating rooms.
“It’s a highly unique design,” said Dolan. “There are all sorts of technological advancements that really intrigue me. I’m designing spaces that are making a difference.”
When Spencer Bradley was first hired on in 1998 at Ogden-based Wadman Corporation as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, firm CEO David Wadman remembers a kid who was shy and not particularly confident. Through hard work, diligence, and a desire to continually learn, Bradley is now one of Wadman Corp.’s key executives and one of five people working in the firm’s business development unit.
Wadman said Bradley’s career progression illustrates his firm’s ability to train people – even those who have absolutely no previous construction experience – to be successful in a highly competitive industry.
“He’s an intelligent, bright person and a real up and coming leader of this organization,” said Wadman. “We pride ourselves on bringing people in and training them through our system, and they stay loyal to us. We hired Spencer off a recommendation from one of our guys and he got some experience on the jobsite and through Weber State’s Construction Management program, and the rest of it was our (in-house) training program. We certainly embrace all types of schooling, but one of the greatest schools is working under those who have been down the road. Spencer, he’s homegrown.”
Bradley initially worked in the field doing things like pushing a broom, carpentry, tying rebar, pouring concrete, etc., while also attending Weber State University. In April 1999 he was moved into the estimating department after just a year in the field, and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and experiences of the new job.
“I learned it on the fly,” he said. “I didn’t realize what I was getting into, but I was good at computers and helped get us onto that track. Bidding (projects) is awesome – I love that rush. I’m very competitive and I love that competition. You either love it or hate it.”
By 2001, Bradley had become Wadman’s Chief Estimator, a position he held until being promoted in January 2014 to Vice President of Business Development. He considers his ascension up the company ladder to be a combination of recognizing opportunities and working diligently to seize them, along with being at a firm that rewards such efforts.
“Dave Wadman has been somebody I’ve looked up to the whole time I’ve been here,” said Bradley. “It’s about hard work, dedication, and not expecting something to happen overnight. It’s about putting in your dues.”
Bradley said his time in the estimating department, particularly during the recession period, helped expose him to the ups and downs of the industry, and how quickly things can change from good to bad.
“We went from landing any job you wanted, with all sorts of (profit) in it to where you couldn’t buy a job,” he recalls. “We were chasing work all over the U.S. just to keep busy.”
Bradley sees the construction market now as one that has been steadily gaining momentum the past three years, as company revenues have risen from $90 million in 2012 to $150 million in 2014. He said 2015 will end up being another banner year, and he’s optimistic about the next two years, at the very least.
“I think we’ve got a good couple of years coming up, with what we’re seeing with architects and prospective owners,” he said. “I don’t see it slowing down. We’re looking at being more efficient as what we do and providing opportunities for current employees while growing at as sustainable rate.”
Bradley recently moved into the office that was formerly occupied by company founder V. Jay Wadman, who passed away in January 2013. He said it’s interesting to work every day in a space once inhabited by a man who is a true pioneer and legend of the industry.
“It definitely carries some weight, some pressure. I had a personal and business relationship with Jay and knew him well,” said Bradley. “He was a great guy. He’s the reason we’re all here.”