The Newman file Featured

11:48am EDT April 28, 2006

Born: 1934, Yonkers, N.Y.

Education: Bachelor of science degree, civil engineering, Bucknell University; master’s degree, civil engineering, Columbia University; graduate, Executive Management Program, University of California, Los Angeles

First job: Library page in high school

What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?

Financial discipline is very important. Somebody once told me it’s OK to make mistakes as long as they’re not fatal ones.

But a successful company does not put profits above all else. Whether you’re in a service business or making widgets, public or private, the object must be to create value for clients and employees.

What is the most difficult challenge you’ve faced?
AECOM started out owing a great deal of money to various creditors. I knew we had to get it right, right from the beginning.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
If you have a problem, spend as much time thinking about how you got into it as on how to fix it, and develop a process so you only fix it once.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?
My father was a self-made man, a banker, who taught me about integrity. I got my discipline and work ethic from him.

My father-in-law was in the import-export business and a real entrepreneur. I learned management skills from him.

Al Dorman, CEO of DMJM when I joined them and later our first chairman of AECOM, insisted on finding the process for precluding future problems as well as solving current ones.

I’ve been inspired by the way CEO Steve Baum at Semper Energy leads, taking time to build vision, consensus and excitement, and by Jonathan Lovelace Jr., chairman emeritus of the Capital Group of asset management companies. He has a philosophy that every employee is an associate and that it’s better to be a small part of a winning team than a superstar on a losing one. All these people have been my role models and mentors.