The Best Parts About Being an "Owner"
John Clark ’79, BS Civil Engineering
After graduating from SCU in 1979, I immediately went to work for a small (six employees) company. There, I was mentored by the owner who addressed my complete misunderstandings about how to apply my academics to the real world. He was a good man with a good company that mirrored his personality.
When the recession hit in the 1980s, the company was reduced to the two of us. At times, I was left in charge. Ack! This was the last thing I wanted. I survived, but the idea of running my own show was no desire of mine. So I moved to Colorado and went to work for a civil and surveying firm where the work was plentiful and the owner was clearly in charge. I was happy to remain safe in my office working my designs, but larger projects required more management and I soon found myself again "in charge." While the skills and values developed during my time at SCU served me well, this wasn't what I wanted.
When the economy slowed and the company fell on hard times I began looking for another job, but work had dried up. I believed my only option was to start my own company; create my own work! Ack! Be the boss; in charge?? Although I had little training in running a business, I relied on the work ethic and values developed from my parents and my training at SCU, which had become ingrained into habits. My small company puttered along even through difficult times.
When the economy started to perk up, it was time to grow and become a "real" owner. But as we added offices, the company's identity became vague. Pockets of the company took on the personality and values of local managers, not always fully representing me, as the owner.
I knew I had to formalize the values I believed would serve as the best foundation for a well-run company, where staff would know there was consistency and integrity. These values had come naturally when we were smaller and enabled our early growth. We needed to keep them working in the larger version of the company.
After years of fretting about "being in charge," this was the best part of being an Owner. I implemented into this business Eight Core Values that had always served me well:
- Technically Proficient Staff
- Innovative Thinking
- Every Client Appreciates our Value
- Every Project is Profitable
- Respected Reputation in the Community
- An Enjoyable Place to Work
- Integrity is the Cornerstone of Our Entire Workforce
- Teamwork is the Key to Success
These values, formally defined, transcend the personalities of individual leaders and serve as the basis for all large decisions and strategies for what is now RMG Engineers, a company with 77 employees and 5 locations. Creating, presenting and implementing them has been one of the best parts about being an Owner!