It’s well recognized that Conco has a strong leadership group. Our transition to an employee stock-ownership program (ESOP) shows Craig Nelson’s strong faith in that team, many point out, to keep Conco on a growth path. Going forward, it’s about the trust members of the Conco team have in each other.
“This comes down to hiring the right people with strong leadership who can hold people accountable and empower them to follow a great vision,” says Natalie Dotson, HR business partner & talent acquisition leader. “At the end of the day we all have families to go home to at night. Together, we’re pledging enough blood, sweat and tears to make an ESOP really successful, so when we meet a recruit we’re asking, Can you think like an owner? Do you fit our values? Can you move us forward?”
“No one in this room,” says Trent Woodard, project manager, in a roundtable conversation, “would be where we are without Conco’s trust in us and our drive…our commitment to Conconian values. We’re in a position to succeed because we all have the capability to lead and hold people accountable. There’s nothing we can’t do if we work together as the next group of leaders.”
Seven years ago, we did everything on paper and it took a while to get guys a truck. Now, so many of our processes are digital and guys come in and get a truck right away. It’s a sign of growth.
Aaron Powers, superintendent
Iron grasp of the torch.
There is tremendous respect here for the history of Conco. Across the board, Conco managers say they see heightened engagement…thinking harder about what they do day to day.
This isn’t a check you get or a bonus. It’s about earning a better future and retirement. And yes, it makes Conco even stickier, team members admit, when other employment opportunities come along.
“My wife works for an ESOP. There’s now enough for us to retire 10 years before we thought we could. There’s enormous potential if we all do our part,” says Josh Neally, fleet dispatch manager and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in 23 countries. He says Conco hired him in the middle of the worst downturn in modern history and gave him a good job here.
“At the end of the day,” Neally says, “it takes an enormous team of talent to procure work and commit to it through project management and construction. My heart has always been with the men in the field. Conco is my opportunity today to build the country I love so much.
“I want to heavily convey to the blue-collar person, this is your company. This is all of ours. There isn’t one person here who is more important than the next.”
What it means to HR.
Conco’s candidate screening process is rigorous and that will not change. Dotson says she considers a little longer whether a prospective Conconian can think strategically. “We’re hiring for the person who understands the impact of small things on the big picture. We need people who really think like an owner and make decisions like an owner.”
Trent Woodard, who says he thinks like an owner, is in the conference room with Dotson on this day, and the conversation devolves into healthy sparring. “Sometimes Natalie thinks I’m too confident.”
Natalie: “Trent is very big picture.”
Trent: “I’m optimistic and believe we have a hell of an opportunity ahead of us. We’re moving in the right direction for sure.”
Natalie: “We have a lot of people in the right positions.”
Win the day.
There appears to be consensus that this is about pausing, no matter how small the question or decision, to ask if it is in the best interests of the company.
On one hand you hear from Conconians that nothing has changed. “We’re all very highly driven people,” says Woodard, “so this is a new perk rather than an attitude change for me. This is about holding each other accountable. Everything I do matters. Everything the person next to me does matters. It matters that we win each day.”
Conconians admit to stepping up to hold each other accountable. Can a process be improved? Can one person help another do their job better?
“We get IT requests every day that cost the company money,” says IT Manager Bill Ramsey. “We’re getting in the habit of thinking like owners and having extended conversations about outcomes. Will a decision benefit the company overall? Will it give employees a tool that will help them do their jobs more efficiently or effectively?”
The conference room has become a really important place.
“Nothing about our values changes,” Dotson concurs, “but there is more camaraderie. We’re now all moving the ship forward together.”
Conconians say the transition to an ESOP puts a fine point on the company tagline, BUILD TO LAST. They’re spending more time in teams brainstorming, collaborating, encouraging each other to higher performance. Marketing and Communications Manager Shannyn Hanson is new to Conco. She says everyone is focused on reinforcing Conco’s hard-earned reputation as a hardworking, driven company of people you can trust and who are dedicated to grow. “I hope I get to the point 10 years from now when I can say, Look at how much has happened on my watch. See the progress we’ve made.”
“I’ve been with the company a total of 10 years now. I was Conco’s first IT person, and my department was 100 percent overhead. This transition has given me a better understanding that I am contributing to the company,” Ramsey weighs in. “I’m not just a cost. My department is valued for making great decisions for the company.”