Leadership + People: Episode 29 - Troy Gregory - Part 1 of 2
In this episode Troy Gregory shares his experience in running a company with diverse divisions while completing 360 projects in one year with 73% growth. Gregory advices all to be more patient and take time to learn from experience and the experience of others.
- Despite a variety of projects and divisions communication can be used to maintain aligned vision and focus on the customer [00:52]
- Creating accountability chains can prevent fractures and breakdowns [03:33]
- Check your ego and roll up your sleeves [05:10]
- Focus on the customer helps eliminate egos and strength unity in the common goal [07:14]
- The power of recognizing the good work and strengths of employees despite the effort [10:56]
- Seeking continual self development and challenges to grow, learn and think outside the box [16:05]
- Final words of advice: be patient, take opportunities to learn, and let things grow without becoming complacent [29:05]
- Carnegie, Dale, 1888-1955. How To Win Friends and Influence People. New York :Simon & Schuster, 2009. Print.
This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: April 11, 2018
Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, Senior Executives and Entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies. And what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.
JL: Today on the show I’ve got Troy Gregory, president of Hunt Electric.
TROY GREGORY: “I try to remind people of when they’re trying to tackle something. It’s the old elephant in the room, take one bite at a time. It’s the same concept. When you have very large projects or you have a lot of volume of projects, it’s really simplifying things and breaking them down into small bite sized pieces that you can go and tackle. ”
00:49 JL: Troy, thanks for making time.
TROY GREGORY: You bet. Thank you Jesse.
00:52 JL: So for people who don’t know; you guys are, you know, over 100 million dollar a year, electric company. You’ve got, you know, over 600 staff. You, you know, we obviously hang out a bit. And I was pretty stoked to hear that you guys grew by 73% last year. There’s a lot of presidents of companies that would like to do that. And these are not just run of the mill. You guys are doing solar. You’re doing mining. You’re doing the entire I-15 corridor in Utah County. You know the Vivint Smart Home Arena renovation, where the Jazz play. I guess my first question here is, for people who don’t have a company with such diverse divisions as you guys, what’s a unique thing that you have to do in leading such diverse business groups? It’s almost like you guys have 6 companies in one company.
Maintaining Focus Across Diverse Divisions
TROY GREGORY: Yea. That’s exactly how we’re structured. And we talk about it all the time, that one of our biggest strengths is having these different profit centers, that are basically the best in the industry. Specific to that side of it. They are the true professionals in these different groups. And so that’s our biggest strength. We’re able to be in these different markets and be a turnkey solution to all of our clients. But even though it’s our biggest strength, it’s also our biggest challenge. And we talk opening about that on a regular basis with our management group, making sure that communication is happening. Because when you are so spread out in a company doing all these different types of work, communication is key. Keeping everybody, keeping the straight vision in front of everybody. Letting us all- Making sure all of our team members are aligned. And we’re heading in the right direction. And a lot of how we pull that together is focusing on our clients, our customers. We- At the end of the day, you have different groups providing different services. But to our client we want it to look like one. We want to be simplified for them. Easy and headache free. So really when we all kind of get going in different directions and get fractured, we like to pull it back and focus on our client, to keep that alignment and to keep that communication going. And it has a lot of different benefits being in all those different areas. And at the end of the day it adds a lot of value to our clients and our customers.
03:33 JL: So what does that look like at a tactical level? If there’s somebody who’s running a company or they’re head of some division who’s listening to this and they’ve got diverse work forces here. What does that look like focusing on the customer? Is this at a meeting, people are coming and are talking about the customer to each other? What does that, like, nut and bolts what does that look like at your firm?
TROY GREGORY: Well when you break it down, we’re real goal oriented company and so we’re really making sure that everybody’s goals are aligned. And making sure that the communication that’s happening- So on a tactful level we have internal meetings on a regular basis that are making sure that those lines of communication are happening. We try to establish processes of who’s taking point. So that there is some kind of an accountability chain for everybody internally. That way they kind of know, depending on the type of job or the type of service, they know who’s taking point. And I think that’s a critical thing. I think when you get a lot of people eager to please and do a good job, and if they don’t know that chain of command, then that’s where things I think get fractured the most and start to break down. So we’ve established that line. So when we go into something people know who’s taking point on it. And we’re the part and piece that they played for the success of the project. And fall into it so. Hopefully that answers your questions.
05:10 JL: Well, here’s the thing. You know, I don’t think that would necessarily surprise anybody, but I think the context of how, you know, how busy you guys are, that might make a bit more sense. I mean, didn’t you guys do like almost one project a day last year? Didn’t you do like 360 projects last year?
Humility and Hard Work
TROY GREGORY: We did. Yeah, a very large volume of projects and obviously that’s a bunch of small projects all the way to very large complex projects. One thing we always try to remind people when they’re trying to tackle something – it’s the whole elephant in the room “take one bite at a time”. It’s the same concept when you have very
large projects or you have a lot of volume of projects its really simplifying things and breaking them down in small bite size pieces that you can go and tackle. And I think one thing you know we had a lot of growth this last year and I think one thing that led to our success in that, is that we had a lot of great things and a lot of great people in place. And when everybody is aligned and they are energized to accomplish that same goal together. We don’t have a lot of big egos here. And that’s another key part of our team and the people here at Hunt Electric. They can check their ego at the door. They can roll their sleeves up and go to work and be a part of the solution figuring out the best way to do it. When you have that kind of teamwork and energy you can accomplish a lot of things. And we’ve been pretty fortunate that we have great people. We spend a lot of time sharing a lot of information. I think that’s a unique thing, is the amount of information that we share is probably more than most companies do.
07:14 JL: Let’s talk about that for a second. Like, okay, because you guys are doing these huge projects; Utah Olympic Park where they had the 2002 Olympics, you know, the Salt Lake Airport, the Primary Children’s Hospital, obviously the NBA arena where the Jazz play, right? You know, two things I want to pick up on and that is the humility thing of what does that look like practically. All sorts of businesses would like to claim our folks check their egos at the door. I would like to hear, you know, how it is you guys incentivize that, encourage that or set the example of that at Hunt. And then where you just left off here.
The Importance of the Common Goal
TROY GREGORY: Yeah, I, you know, it really comes down to that the common goal. Realizing what we are trying to accomplish as a company. And really I am going to take that back to the customer or the client. When ultimately everybody is working to make sure that we exceed the expectations of our client. And we are doing the very best job that we can for our customers. That kind of gives them that, you know, that ability to check their ego and realize that at the end of the day that’s what’s most important. And not so much what their success is going to be. They recognize… That’s the other thing, when you have good leadership above and management groups, they recognize what people are contributing. They are in tune to that and they usually will recognize when somebody’s not only checking their ego at the door, but they’re really putting somebody else first. And I think that is probably the more critical piece of it is They are looking at the client – what’s best for the client and then internally you know their response will be for hitting certain goals or hitting certain numbers and different things. But ultimately they are willing to put somebody else and another group in front of them. And put them in a better position because they know that the outcome for the client is going to be better. And they know that as a company as a whole that that is what is most important to us. And I think when you have good leadership that recognizes that and is really tied in and paying attention to what these groups are doing and what these different teams are doing and they can see that they are putting other people first and they’re sometimes taking one for the team, ultimately for the success of the project or whatever will working on. That’s what I think has led to our success is being able to be the best in these different industries. And being able to do all of these things. It doesn’t matter how big the job is or how small the job is. We, you know, are known for being able to tackle those very complex very difficult type projects. But if you look at you know like you mentioned, we did almost a job a day last year, so that tells you the core part of our business are smaller jobs. Your everyday type jobs and those jobs are just as important to us as these very large complex jobs.
10:56 JL: So how do you… I want to talk about this because I think that all sorts of leaders would like to claim those things about their organizations, right and it’s one thing to say you need to have good leadership at the top. That doesn’t happen by accident right? What happens normally is that so and so they want to do a good job but they want everyone to know they are the one who did the good job. You know, naturally, as organizations get bigger and get bureaucratic, it’s like, you know, they are really worried about their division more than they are worried about the organization. So thinking of you guys especially as you have grown and got the reputation you got, what does that look like, for you guys of, you know, anyone can put a poster on the wall, how do you get the kind of leadership you’ve got there?
The Power of Recognition
TROY GREGORY: We’ve been very blessed [laugh] with just get people. And you know what you’re breaking down there. If you want to get into the granular part of that is ultimately recognition. You know, if somebody is willing to put somebody else first and they’re focused on the client and they’re doing these different things. Ultimately, if they were focused on themselves and making themselves look good, might not be the decision for our customer or client or even for the company. It is kind of short vision for themselves. When you break that down to the granula side I think that good leadership is recognizing when people are doing that . I think people are more comfortable doing it when they realize that their leadership, their management group recognizes what they are doing. I think that is the more important part. I think, you know, at the end of the day, companies are in business to make a profit. And a lot of us that were responsible for having a successful business or business unit, in our cases with these different groups. But when they recognize they are doing that and their leadership directly goes to them and says, “Hey, I really appreciate that I recognize that you could have handled that completely different. And I really appreciate you being inlined with our vision and where we are going and what we are doing as a whole”. A lot of times that is more meaningful for them and that makes them more at ease that their management; the ones that ultimately were responsible for holding them accountable behaving certain numbers or doing certain things, that they know they were recognized. I know that sounds fairly simple. But I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. I think a lot of people get busy they get running 100 miles an hour. And they maybe miss some of those things and don’t recognize them. Or they recognize them but maybe they don’t verbalize them to the people. And that’s something we’re focused on. You know, we are definitely not the best at everything. We are continually, just like everybody else, trying to get better, do a better job at it. But I think that’s what is unique with our management team. I think they do a great job at that . I think they’re willing to go to work and help someone else succeed. That’s the other thing too, is, I think most companies, when you are working towards a common good, they know that that that’s gonna come around someday. They know that ultimately they may put somebody else first and help that person succeed and they know that’s going to come back someday; that person will do the same thing for them. And I think that’s kind of the common thing. I think back to when we started this conversation on how we’re structured. We have all these multiple divisions. We do solar, renewable energies, we do high voltage transmission distribution substations. We do traffic, heavy highway, infrastructure. We do technology which is all your av systems, telecom, fiber. We do mining and industrial. We do electrical automation. And a full engineering group internally. We have a service group. So when you have all these different groups that are truly the best in the industry, and they are working, and having to be responsible to performing at a high level for their groups at a speratate profit center- it takes that constant, you know, back to checking your ego and that constant focus on realizing that ultimately we are going to focus on what the whole company and the whole, what the vision is there, what the goals are there, and I’m going to play my part in that. But, I am confident in doing that because ultimately I know leadership recognizes what I’m doing.
16:05 JL: It’s interesting, this idea of; so often we get what we pay for. I don’t necessarily mean with money. Although bonuses and stuff like that all that can be great too. But what we pay for with recognitions, what we pay for with promotions, right? Like because everybody in the company sees who’s getting promoted and the guys who work with him know what he is really like, right? Is he somebody who just makes the numbers or is he somebody who makes the numbers and actually treats everybody like a real live human while he does it. You know, you think about, you know like you said, it takes that extra bit of time to go tell somebody that you recognize that they took one for the team. Right? It reminds me of that- You know Warren Buffett always talks about using the Dale Carnegie book as his leadership manual. The How to Win Friends and Influence People. And there’s that quote of “once I did bad and that I heard ever. And twice I did good but that I heard never”. And like, you pay for it with your time too right? And what leaders pay for with recognition, with the time to give that recognition, like, with the promotions. Like people clue in, oh that’s how you get ahead here. And I know that you are being humble here and not talking about setting the example of self development. Maybe in episode 2 we will go into that a lot more. Well we may as well now. We’ve got a few minutes left on this episode. Obviously, you guys are doing great. You grew with a 73% revenue this last year. You’ve got this incredible reputation in your marketplace. But yet half the time when I’m calling you to go to lunch, you’re like, ‘Oh jess I’m flying out to that national peer group to hear what the other guys are doing to see what I can learn’. Talk about taking the time to set the example in self development there, and why you incur the cost and expense to go to groups like that or you know you and I are obviously both in Corporate Alliance and go and talk to other executives there.
Continual Challenging and Self Development
TROY GREGORY: Yeah, I think it is absolutely crucial to continually grow and learn. I think as you are in business, that is really setting the example for your other team members and other people around you. They want to see that you are focused on continuous improvement yourself. And you are open about it and you are trying to focus on- I’m a big believer on focusing on your strengths. Less on your weaknesses. And less capitalizing on those. But I think when your team members realize you are willing to invest in that, Corporate Alliance has definitely been a great partnership to be able to surround yourself with like minded people. I think that’s one of the fastest ways you can learn is just surrounding yourself with amazing people. That not only have had success but have also gone through some of the challenges and the different things. And ultimately that is where you learn. We are members of peer groups that are more industry specific to electrical. And I have learned so much from those groups of individuals. And when they are willing to sit down and connect and truly want to help make you better as a person and help your organization, in turn you hope you can do the same thing for them. That does a lot. And when you bring that back to your people, and you know, it’s difficult to tell your team or your people around you, that you want them to grow, you want them to progress, they need to focus on these areas, here are some of their strengthens and here is how they can best improve on those, and those types of things. When they don’t see you doing it yourself, right? I definitely think it’s better in a group setting. I know a lot of our leadership meetings we lead here, I’m heavily involved in them. And I’m leading them myself and I’m not the teacher in it. It’s more a group and we are all the teachers and we are all together helping each other become better.
20:34 JL: Well, you know I think most leaders would love to go do stuff like that. At least that’s what they say. But you know you’re doing 360 projects a year, your growing at the growth rate you are growing, you gotta track your 600 employees. Can you talk for just a minute, and maybe we’ll close the episode with this, can you talk for just a minute about having the discipline to build the kind of organization that allows you as the president to do that and just the discipline that when the whirlwind of life, the vortex is trying to suck you into ‘oh it would be great to go to that Troy, but you gotta stay here and put out this fire’. How it is that you stick to that long term vision over the short term phone ringing, fire alarm going off.
TROY GREGORY: Yes, it’s a challenge. You know at the end of the day, if you have a clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve, where you’re going and what you are doing, it’s easier to invest that time. I think probably, you know, if you were to ask multiple leaders what their biggest challenge is – it’s time. It’s that balance. Where do I focus my time, my energy. And you know too- For me I have a clear vision of; I need to be able to- myself as a leader, I continually have got to challenge my team. I’ve gotta be able to challenge them with new ideas, provoke thought that is going to get them thinking outside the box. I need to constantly be stretching them and helping them grow. And ultimately if I’m not investing in that time to go out and work with people who are doing the same for me, who are causing me to stretch and think outside the box and challenging me on a regular basis, ultimately I’m not going to be positioned well to do that for my team. So,when I make those time commitments, you know, I think ultimately, we’ve got great people here. That’s another thing that allows me to do that, is having good people that- and they recognize the value there. so, I think that ultimately it comes back to that. It comes to knowing where we are going and what we need to do. Understanding the value that on self development and me as the leader in challenging my people. I think that’s probably the most important part of leadership in my mind is that you are ultimately helping those leaders become better leaders. And I wouldn’t sit here and say I’m the best leader in this company. And I would say I’m definitely not the smartest either. We have some incredibly smart people here, some fantastic leaders. But I would be willing to say that I challenge them on a regular basis. I stretch them and make them think outside the box. I Make them look at things differently. I Try to get them on a regular basis to see what things are changing in the industry and not get complacent with how things have been done for years after years. Especially in the construction industry technology and how quickly things are progressing and growing, staying focused on those things. So, I think that’s what It comes down to. They realize I’m doing it and I’m bringing it back. And I’m going to help them grow because I’m going to challenge them.
24:15 JL: Can you give us one specific of: you went to one of these things and this was the thing that really challenged the way that I’d always done things and the status quo and I really had to consider maybe we should be doing that too? Is there any big aha that you had by spending this time that you can think of in the specific?
TROY GREGORY: You know, I think a lot of it is, yeah, labor challenges. Right now, every industry right now is challenged for hiring; being able to hire enough help and good people. And you know, there’s- So we’re focused on that. We are focused on hiring people and that’s difficult right now.
25:08 JL: So what’s something that someone told you that made you think about it different?
TROY GREGORY: You know in some of our peer groups it was recognizing that there are things you can do to eliminate labor that would help that situation, rather than just hiring people. So when you can drive more efficient processes you can…. We do a lot of internal manufacturing, prefab, pushing the limits there to reduce that in the field labor. It helps us with that labour shortage and it helps us be more competitive and it helps us drive those different things. It think that’s a specific one. I think we have always done that to a limit, but taking it to the next level. Having that be part of the solution moving forward for an aging population that the construction industry is dealing with. Because that’s part of one of the keys there. So we have definitely been challenged with that to think outside the box. We are currently ,right now, we’re adding to the size of our manufacturing that we are going to do. And we are going to look at things a little differently. We are going to turn that into part of our training platform. And ultimately we think that’s going to be part of that solution. Hopefully that’s a good example for you.
26:33 JL: Yeah, why do you think? I mean I remember going on a tour and seeing spools as big as we are, sitting there on your floor, right? Out in the warehouse. Why do you think it took going to a group like that to realize that we can double down on this?
TROY GREGORY: That’s a good question. I think some of the most valuable takeaways isn’t sometimes a road map. It’s not the exact ‘oh, this is what somebody else is doing. Here’s the road map. Here is how we’re going to come back and do this. There are definitely takeaways that are that kind of scenario. But I think more it’s a lot of times, as a group, as a think tank, once again, when you are challenging each other to look at something differently, you have that aha moment. You have those different things that are takeaways. And it’s like, okay, we are going to leave this. We’re going to come back. We’re gonna change and we’re going to invest heavily into these types of things. And we are going to get ahead of it. You know, just a lot of times, you know, when you are constantly looking down the road, and you’re analyzing what the challenges are going to be, and what those things are in front of you. And then you have the opportunity to have people who are going to challenge your thought process and how you look at things. And then just culturally we’re a company that thinks outside the box. And are always looking at how we can improve things.that ultimately is what has led to that decision. Some of those different decisions come back and say; okay, we are not going to sit around and wait for someone else to figure this out. We’re going to figure this out ourselves. And not be afraid to jump in and go for it.
28:30 JL: Well listen, let’s close here. This is a great place to end part one of the interview. Maybe let’s end with either one of the best pieces of advice you have every receives or something you wish you could tell a younger version of yourself.
TROY GREGORY: Are you asking me which one I want to do.
28:49 JL: Yeah pick one of those and give us an answer.
TROY GREGORY: Man, I’ll go with what just immediately popped into my mind. Let’s go with a younger version of myself.
29:05 JL: Yeah, what is something you would tell a younger version of yourself?
Advice to His Younger Self: Be Patient
TROY GREGORY: You know, for me, it’s being patient, It’s you know, just by nature I’m an energized person. I’m a really aggressive, go get it type of person. I look at some of these younger generation kids, you know, I think millenials get kind of a bad rap in my opinion. I think there are some very hard working, smart intelligent great individuals in that group that generation. And I think the biggest advice I would give to them is be patient. There is a lot of opportunity to learn on the road. And I think people get moving too quickly or they want certain things too quickly and they don’t take the opportunity to learn those different things that you learn along the way that ultimately are going to allow you to be successful in the long run. And stay in a successful position moving forward. I think that’s probably the biggest piece of advice I would give somebody, is be patient, take the opportunity to learn along that path.
30:20 JL: I Love that. I’m kind of chuckling at this end because, you know, people are not seeing you here in our audio interview. There are going to be a lot of people that don’t know you’ve got biceps as big around as my waist. That you like, you know, you go bear hunting with just a bow and arrow and like get 20 ft away from a bear. In this interview you sound like this calm nice guy. You know it’s funny…
TROY GREGORY: I am a calm, nice guy!
30:49 JL: Right. I don’t think that people just by listening would know that you are a hard charger. So I think that’s great advice and who couldn’t benefit by being more patient. It is just so universal yet conquering ourselves and becoming that way is certainly not universal, right?
TROY GREGORY: Right. Absolutely.
31:11 JL: Love it, what?
TROY GREGORY: Oh you know one thing I have been taking the opportunity to do is sit in with a lot of our new hires, some of our potential young people. I give them a lot of advice. But that is one I hit the most; is be patient, let things grow and happen for you. And don’t take being patient for being complacent. You know, definity grow and stretch yourself and learn but be willing to put in the time. That’s where the lessons come from.
31:47 JL: That’s great. Ok folks, thanks for listening. Tune in for part 2. We’re going to ask Troy how to grow a 100 million dollar company. Thanks for your time Troy.
TROY GREGORY: Thank you Jess.