The leader of this Falls Church, Virginia, turnkey construction company and general contractor encourages young workers “to never stop learning and seeking new challenges.”
HITT Contracting provides a wide range of services, from base building construction and renovation to corporate interior fit-outs and emergency work. For 2018, it projects revenues in excess of $1.9 billion. The company has more than 1,000 employees working at its 10 offices across the country. HITT attributes its success to its strong relationships with clients, partners and subcontractors.
Development: What is your primary role as CEO?
Roy: As CEO, I am responsible for defining key initiatives, identifying emerging markets and business opportunities, as well as executing the strategic vision for the company. I provide executive oversight for all corporate operations including HR, finance and risk management. Additionally, I lead the corporate steering committee and the firm’s strategic planning committee. One of the elements of my job that I enjoy the most is developing our talent; in particular, mentoring senior managers through our corporate leadership counsel program.
Development: With women only representing about 10 percent of the construction industry, have you found your role challenging?
Roy: It has been challenging at times to be a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated industry. My hope is that my visibility as a female construction leader will attract other women to the industry.
Development: What qualities do you look for when hiring senior staff?
Roy: When I seek leaders for our company, I look for excellent communication skills, sound judgment, passion for the building industry and a strong desire to mentor.
Development: What are some things you have discovered that you are not very good at personally or professionally?
Roy: I struggle with saying no, but I have grown more comfortable with it in the past few years.
Development: When one of your employees makes mistakes, how is it addressed internally?
Roy: I embrace the adage that if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t growing. Our team members are supported by their senior managers to take risks, self-correct and find solutions to their mistakes.
Development: What was one of the biggest mistakes your company made?
Roy: When the construction market slowed in 2008 in response to the recession, HITT did not hire entry-level construction professionals. Because it takes roughly five years to gain the critical knowledge and field experience to manage construction projects, by 2013 we had a major talent gap. As a result, we have become more forward-thinking in our approach to developing talent.
Development: Could you tell us how you go about developing talent today?
Roy: HITT University is the foundation of our internal development program and is based around three key principles: elevate, educate and empower. The university provided nearly 14,000 hours of instructional time in 2018, focused on areas such as safety, risk management, construction operations, software and systems, leadership development, culture and values, and emotional intelligence.
HITT provides other development and training platforms such as the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), where high-potential team members from across business units and around the country collaborate on an annual research project. The group is then responsible for implementing the results and outcomes across the corporation. The CLC exposes our developing talent to executive leadership and helps them grow key business skills critical to their future roles as firm leaders.
Development: How is your company preparing to weather the inevitable economic downturn?
Roy: We have formulated and documented our approach for handling shifts in the market. This plan addresses critical responses such as corporate rebalance, which allows for shifting our team members to service sectors or markets with stronger performance. Our geographic and market sector diversification are key to ensuring HITT successfully weathers market downturns.
Development: Looking out three to five years, what do you see that will impact the industry? What are you doing today to prepare for those challenges?
Roy: In the past 15 years, we have invested in the infrastructure of our company (leadership, tools, and processes). We are invested in R&D and seek to unlock a way to build smarter for our clients. We continue to research and study key innovations such as 5G, "internet of things," artificial intelligence and robotics.
Development: What is the best advice you have been given over the course of your career?
Roy: Ask the question. If you don’t understand the plumbing detail, ask the foreman to explain it. If you want more runway in your career, ask for it. If you think there is something missing in your business, ask why. Co-Chairman Jim Millar taught me to always take care of the clients — relationships are everything.
Development: What advice would you give someone entering the commercial real estate industry today?
Roy: The commercial real estate industry, specifically the building industry, is full of opportunity. I encourage young talent to never stop learning and seeking new challenges. Find a great mentor and take risks!
Development: How do you de-stress?
Roy: When I get really stressed, you can find me at a local cooking class. I also love to read and travel, both of which help me recharge.
Ron Derven is a contributing editor for Development magazine.