Defying boundaries Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2008

When Scott Isabel began working as superintendent for The Diaz Fritz Group Inc., he knew his opportunities were unlimited.

He continued to move up the ranks of the general contracting company, and 20 years later, Isabel is co-owner, partner and president of the company that does business as Diaz Fritz Isabel. And as the leader of 42 employees, Isabel never forgets his roots.

“From day one, our founders Del Diaz and David Fritz said, ‘The sky’s the limit. If you want our chairs one day, you can earn it,’” Isabel says. “And we still share that belief.”

Smart Business spoke with Isabel about how he hires good people to lead his $32.4 million company into the future.

Q. What is your key to growing a successful company?

Teamwork is the thing we focus on here the most. Everybody on the team has to play a role, and we need everybody to fulfill their role so the whole team can survive.

We don’t ask people to step out of their position here. Everyone brings value and is good at certain things; we would like you to focus on what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about.

We just finished a project, and the customer came into my office and said, ‘Your group made me feel like part of your family and part of your team.’ That’s what we strive for here. We want our customers, our vendors and everybody involved to feel like we’re all part of a team.

Q. How do you attract good people?

It starts with having a company with a great reputation. Then, it’s important for potential employees to see the track record of your current work force and how long they have stayed at the company, and finally, they see that there is no ceiling to where they could end up, no limit to what position they could hold within the company. They are not pigeonholed.

We’re not building this company for any one of us. We’re building it so it continues on past us, and we need those future leaders to continue it. We are looking for the best talent, and the best talent needs to have growth potential. They are searching for what they can be one day and what opportunities the company will provide for them one day.

We have employees who come to work here from other companies, and they say, ‘There was nowhere else for me to go there.’ That stunts growth for employees, and I think it kills their passion.

Our philosophy here is to wrap ourselves with people that are as talented, if not more talented, than we are. We’re not concerned with growing people up that may become better than us.

Q. What can prevent a company from growing?

A company won’t grow if its leader doesn’t have any appetite for trying to create an atmosphere for the future leaders of the company. From my perspective, I have to prepare a plan for the people who are going to sit in my chair in the future, and we’ve got to have a plan for that. A true leader will not be afraid to let somebody take their position.

You have a host of talented people around you, and as people grow and become more talented, they have a couple of choices: They can grow with your company, or they can go somewhere else. We would rather have our employees continue to grow here.

Q. How do you help people grow without feeling threatened in your position?

It has been a maturation process and a learning process. As our company has evolved and grown in size, we had to think differently. I don’t think we even thought about that potential 10 years ago, but as we continued to strategize and talk about what we’re trying to accomplish, it became very clear that we weren’t doing this for any one of us but we were doing it for all of us in the team. We were going to do whatever was best for the team, not for any one person or for any one profit.

I went from being a player to a coach to a leader. As the evolution happens, you have to trust other people to be able to do things, too.

Our founders had that philosophy of not being afraid of the potential of people. From the first day here, it was instilled in me. I’m not going to say I totally understood it at the time, but it became clearer as I matured and got some practice at it.

You realize you can only do so much by yourself. It’s like a sports team: Most teams don’t work out too well with one all-star.

HOW TO REACH: Diaz Fritz Isabel, (813) 254-0072 or www.diazfritz.com