TZL 1342 (web)


TH: Our previous managing principal left the firm to start his own company. Someone was needed to fill that role. A big responsibility of the managing principal was to hire employees. I had always taken an interest in potential employees when they interviewed, so the former managing principal always made stops at my office with new employees. I believe on his way out the door he recommended me as a possible replacement. Additionally, and probably more importantly, my partners recognized I had leadership qualities, was trustworthy, and was someone who did what he said he was going to do. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? TH: My family, especially my wife, has always been extremely supportive of my career and it started from the beginning. Mary and I married when we were in college and she quit school to work and support me in finishing both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. When I started my professional career, she accommodated me working nights and weekends when needed and understood that traveling was also part of the job. She is a rock star in that regard! I think it’s nearly impossible to completely separate work and family. I bring work home on a regular basis and Mary and I often discuss what is happening at the office and what I do each day. Mary also has always been a good sounding board to bounce ideas off of. TZL: Are you seeking some kind of financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what type? TH: We increased our credit line at the bank and we applied for a small business loan as part of the stimulus plan. We have already been approved and we are supposed to receive funding today. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? TH: For the most part, I would say I am a democratic leader – that is, I get thoughts and feedback of team members, then I make final decisions. But I also have a servant leader mentality whereby I try to share power and put the needs of the others first. TZL: Do you still run? How do you make time? Tell me a little about your routine and why it’s important to you personally and professionally. TH: I do still run some, but I am walking more than I run these days. I have a goal each week of 15 to 20 miles running, walking, or a combination thereof. I logged 825 miles

in 2019, and I estimate 30 percent of it was running. I believe that exercise is important, not only for your physical being but also your mental and spiritual being. Running (and now walking) has always been my “classroom of silence” time – a time when I can be alone, think, and really come to know who I am. It is part of my routine; it’s who I am. TZL: What novel approaches are you bringing to recruitment, and how are your brand and differentiators performing in the talent wars? TH: We try to use our culture to find the right person. We look for people who align with the company’s core purpose (why we exist) and our core values (how we behave). We set up our interview with creative questions that will determine if they share our core purpose and core values. Example questions we might ask prospective employees include: “What three qualities would you want to be known for if you were defining your personal brand?” or “What business values are most important to you?” Additional questions might include: “What is your impression of our culture and what do you like/dislike about it?” Or “What is it about you that you think you could bring to our company that would mesh well with our culture?” I don’t know if we are any more successful than other firms on getting the quantity of people that we need, but I believe we are getting people that identify with us and want be here, which cuts down on turnover and the need to hire replacements. TZL: You joined Wallace just a few years after the firm opened. Since you joined in 1988, what have been some of the most significant changes you’ve seen take place? TH: We were a 20-person, single office, structural engineering firm when I started. Our founder, Tom Wallace, was the sole owner. The most significant changes have been adding: 1) Civil engineering services 2) More offices (six in my 31 years) 3) Additional owners (currently 26) To me, these growth changes had positive impacts on the culture and created opportunities for employees. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? TH: The biggest pitfall to avoid is waiting until it is too late. At Wallace, we were



163, including a few part-

time people



❚ ❚ Atlanta, GA

❚ ❚ Denver, CO

❚ ❚ Kansas City, MO

❚ ❚ Oklahoma City, OK

❚ ❚ Tulsa, OK

MISSION: Redefine.

Advocate. Inspire.


SERVICES: Structural and

civil services:

❚ ❚ Planning

❚ ❚ Design

❚ ❚ construction,

❚ ❚ Transportation

❚ ❚ Investigation


Engineered more

than $100 billion in


construction, nationwide.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RIL 27, 2020, ISSUE 1342

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