it off. The client had their clearance early, and we even earned an early completion bonus from the client. That, there, is PaleoWest. “We’ve driven some underperforming big dogs out of the firm, and I don’t recall ever regretting it. I like feeding the vegetables in our garden, not the weeds.” TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? TM: Last year we put in place a “Diversity Task Force” of employees to really take a hard look at ourselves with respect to diversity. What we found is that we have some real challenges in developing and maintaining a diverse workforce. Although anthropologists study and celebrate the diversity of human culture, they are overwhelmingly white. And while women enter our industry at a clip that’s on par with men, we lose a lot of women to academic and federal agency positions, usually owing to the real strain that field archaeology puts on raising families. We’ve expanded our leave policies to give women a career path that is more family- centered and doesn’t require them to pause their careers. With regard to minority inclusion, we realized that we can’t hire what’s not there. So, we sponsor a Native American scholarship to push young Native Americans through the anthropology program at my alma mater. We’re also just finalizing an African American scholarship program at a university in the Southeast to help diversify our industry from that direction. We hope to hire and train some of these scholarship recipients and challenge our colleagues at other firms to follow suit. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? TM: We were pretty lucky on this one. We had already developed a solid system of communication and running marketing and project work remotely. It’s at the core of our coast-to-coast collaboration among our offices. So, we didn’t need to develop a remote-work system from scratch. Still, we need to do fieldwork in person. We wrote to the governors of our states
and were fortunate to get nearly all our work classified as “essential,” keeping us afloat and able to bridge our core staff through the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. With some pretty strict safety procedures in place, we’ve been able to go about our business very effectively. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” TM: I’ve never been the “Exalted Hero” type who needs to be at the center of every project and business decision. I spent all our money early on recruiting and training a solid leadership team. As far back as eight or more years ago, I started taking my hands off the wheel a little more each year. Now, I spend very little time on projects and not much more on day-to-day proposals. This leaves me in a great position to focus on our outward messaging, strategic planning, acquisitions, and high-end recruiting. TZL: After 24 years in the business, what prompted you to form PaleoWest? What was the main impetus? TM: I learned the business as I helped build an archaeology department in a multidisciplinary compliance firm for 15 years. I lost the “CEO sweepstakes,” and the job went to another colleague who wasn’t an archaeologist. Shortly after he got the top gig, he came into my office and said, “Tom, I don’t understand archaeology.” I replied, “Well, it’s 60 percent of our revenue and 70 percent of our business. I’ll just keep doing the understanding for you.” He decided, instead, to de-emphasize it, so we agreed on me leaving. I had six months of professional invisibility as I burned out my executive non-compete. All the while, I was plotting PaleoWest’s launch. I knew there was a market for an archaeology- only firm that lives, breathes, and bleeds problem solving rather than esoteric research. So PaleoWest gestated in that kind of nourishment. It was born on January 1, 2006. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? TM: Well, I did it right by starting the business when I was single so I could go all in on the effort. Then, as Elvin Bishop sings it, “I fooled around and fell in love.” I married a terrific woman who was very successful in another industry. She
HEADQUARTERS: Phoenix, AZ NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 170 YEAR FOUNDED: 2006 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 11 SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Archaeological surveys ❚ ❚ Archaeological excavation, testing, and monitoring ❚ ❚ Ethnographic consultation ❚ ❚ National Register eligibility assessments ❚ ❚ Architectural history ❚ ❚ Section 106 consultation ❚ ❚ National Historic Preservation Act ❚ ❚ Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ❚ ❚ National Environmental Policy Act compliance ❚ ❚ Expert witness testimony ❚ ❚ Paleontological studies ❚ ❚ Database development ❚ ❚ 3D modeling ❚ ❚ Low Altitude Aerial Imaging and Mapping WHAT’S THE “PALEO WAY?”: The PaleoWay system streamlines data collection, eliminates re-work and error, and produces report-ready data from the start, significantly reducing report preparation, production, and post-production time.
See AUDACIOUS, page 8
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RUARY 8, 2021, ISSUE 1378
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