Building for tomorrow Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2009

Adelbert “Chip” Marous remembers the feeling of having to succeed or fall flat on his face.

It was 1980 and Marous and his brother, Scott, had just founded their own company, and the two young carpenters were the only employees.

That experience taught Marous how to be aggressive and adjust on the fly. And adjust he did. Today, Marous Brothers Construction employs up to nearly 600 people during peak seasons and has grown into a contracting powerhouse.

But Marous, the company’s president, hasn’t forgotten the lessons he learned while figuring things out for himself, so he grows the company through similarly strong-willed talent. That brings in a lot of aggressive mindsets, but that also drives growth.

“We have more type-A personalities in this company than probably any other company in the United States,” Marous says. “But that’s why we’re aggressive. That’s why we’re high energy here.”

Smart Business talked with Marous about how you reward hard work with opportunities and why you throw young talent into the frying pan.

Make sure you reward hard work with opportunities. In this business, and in life, it’s called respect. You have to respect your people. We respect our people; we give them opportunities. We understand it’s a two-way street: You work hard, we work hard and good things happen and opportunities happen, and people grow and move up to different levels. And as the company grows, you need more managers, you need more people to be responsible, and that creates that good culture of growth and aggressiveness. We’re very aggressive here, and those types of people gravitate toward us. It’s amazing. We hire people who have been in the business for many years, we hire people coming out of college, too, but there’s people that have come here that have worked other places for 10 to 15 years and they come here and say, ‘This is unreal. I’ve been in the business 15 years and this is like getting on the autobahn every day.’ It’s high energy and that’s what creates opportunities and that’s why we’re successful — it’s because of our people. And it’s a lot of young people, and they’re aggressive and they work hard, and that’s the culture. Those people gravitate to us, and the people that don’t want to work hard, they kind of deselect themselves.

Find your talent, then throw him or her into the frying pan. You can tell when you sit in a meeting with a young guy and he sits back and he’s a sponge and he’s absorbing things, but he understands exactly what’s going on. He’s not the one guy sitting there being a Mr. Know-It-All, and you can look at those traits and personalities and if you see those people, stick them into some management training and make sure those people are getting thrown into the frying pan and can handle pressure.

So those traits come out early, but through our career, it’s also amazing when you see a guy, you say, ‘That guy’s pretty quiet; I don’t know if he could ever be a manager,’ and the next thing you know, he’s got a couple years under his belt, he really matures as a young adult, and he wants to take on the responsibility — because you’d be surprised how many people out there want to be a manager but they don’t want the responsibility. You have to want that responsibility.

(Once you find talent), it’s very important that you communicate to them. And as a good manager, you have to let them fail and learn from their own mistakes, but don’t let them hang themselves. So we’ve grown this company by throwing people in the frying pan and seeing how they react, and that’s how we were taught the business. Nobody taught us the business. We were very aggressive and threw ourselves in the frying pan, and you’d be surprised how quick you learn what’s expected out of you.

But make sure you tell that person, ‘I’m going to give you more responsibility; I will put you in the frying pan, you’ll have a safety net, but you know what, I don’t want to use it.’ So you communicate to them and make sure that you say, ‘You’re underneath the microscope, buddy, and we’re going to back you but …’

You have to make sure you watch them. Managers have to watch them. In our business, you have project managers, project engineers, project superintendents, so not one guy is ever controlling the job. And those other team members, because they’re dedicated to the company, they’re not going to want to see a guy fail, either. So what happens is they kind of self-police each other. So they help shore those guys up, and if there is somebody who is weak and not doing their job, somebody raises their hand and says, ‘Hey, we need a little help over here because we might be in trouble.’ That’s how we grew this company. We said, ‘Hey, everybody makes mistakes. Let’s look at the mistakes, let’s help each other out and let’s move forward.’ So that’s how you police that in making sure the guy doesn’t hang himself.

Make new people aware of growth opportunities. We don’t do all the hiring any more because we’re big, but I’ll sit in on interviews still, and it’s good to hear the managers talk about, ‘where I was 10 years ago and where I’m at now.’ Our managers are people that have walked in the door coming out of college and are now running a huge division for us. So it’s not just an owner saying there’s opportunity here, it’s actually people that have been through these opportunities and they’re communicating that to the people that are coming on board, and on top of that, if you look at the history of this company, there’s definitely growth, so growth is automatically opportunity. You’d have to be almost blind to not see the opportunities, so it’s good to see the managers because they’ve had those opportunities and they’re willing, just like we were, to give everybody an opportunity.

How to reach: Marous Brothers Construction, (440) 951-3904 or www.marousbrothers.com