Pat Zollars of Contracting Solutions: Five Things Business Leaders Can Do To Create A Fantastic Work Culture
An unhappy workforce slows down company productivity. It drags down the company and drags down the individuals. This can impact the entire company — also consider that you may have to let one unhappy employee go if they are impacting everyone around them and causing issues to the organization.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Zollars, President of Contracting Solutions.
Pat Zollars has been the president of Contracting Solutions for over 20 years. He built a commercial construction business that manages a multimillion-dollar portfolio of contracts and a team of over 20. He built his company on developing individuals into leaders.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My dad sold insurance out of our house, and I knew that I always wanted to own a business because of his example. I thought that I would own a business of some sort but always thought that it would be a sporting goods store. When that didn’t turn out, I went into the corporate world, and then started a business with my brother which did not work out. I eventually got into commercial construction as a business owner, not just as a construction individual. I started the company from scratch 22 years ago.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Yes, I met my wife through the company! She lived out of town but is a partner in a real estate firm that managed a few properties in my city. I started working on her projects and we would meet for lunch to discuss business. We ended up falling in love and getting married and we still work together today. We ended up being a great partnership through the business and in life.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our team is working on a local drug and alcohol rehab facility. We’re remodeling the whole wing to make it more aesthetically pleasing and more functional to help their patients in the transition into society. Our work will provide a space better suited to personalized treatment and less institutionalized to help them get out of the patterns of addiction.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
Lack of ownership. People today do not have a feeling of ownership in their work. Employees do not feel they have enough say in what they do or in the direction of the organization. I feel you must own what you do, enjoy it, and take responsibility for that. This is important from an ownership and management level, as well as a baseline level. If management doesn’t function in a way to let the staff feel like they can own their work or have a stake in it, then they probably don’t feel a sense of ownership. The staff has to get on board with that feeling of ownership as well. My team lives by the philosophy of having fun and making a couple of bucks along the way. You have to put everything in perspective that we are here to get a job done and make some money, but you have to have fun while you do it and you have to own what you are doing.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
- An unhappy workforce slows down company productivity. It drags down the company and drags down the individuals. This can impact the entire company — also consider that you may have to let one unhappy employee go if they are impacting everyone around them and causing issues to the organization.
- To keep employees engaged and reduce unhappy employees, which improves productivity and profitability, we make decisions as a group. This gives employees a chance to have their voices heard and feel they have a stake in the direction of the company. Without this process, we would have lost hours and wasted time.
- We keep the health and well-being of our team at top-of-mind by organizing committees that our employees run to determine the direction of particular needs and issues that need to be tackled. Everyone from the ground floor up takes part in a committee and some of our decision-making. By involving our whole team, we are able to keep our employees happier and that helps their overall well-being. During work hours we are a family; we may not always get along, but we treat each other like family which means that we check in on each other daily.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Holding events or activities that are not work-focused. We have a kickball team that some of us play on, and the whole company shows up for the games. We won the championship a few times and keep the trophies in the office. These activities forge relationships and support a “team” environment. We sponsor the team and provide uniforms. This goes back to the idea that we are family and we make sure to have fun.
- Hiring work appropriate — be thoughtful in what you are looking for with each hire. Managers and executives set the standards and examples of the type of team member we want for our staff. The candidates must align with the company and desired work culture. Follow that goal and you will find a team that will fit together and do the job required.
- Hire the person, not the position. We have hired people that do not “fit” from a background standpoint, but they stood out and have a good work ethic. For example, we brought in temporary employees for a large job that we were working on and some had difficult backgrounds that would have led other companies to not hire them. But we took a chance, and they are excellent employees to this day.
- Think about how you are branded for your customers. We require all of our staff (as they are going into businesses performing construction tasks) to wear logo gear. This is to identify our staff so that we are not called out at any of our off-site locations and to give our staff ownership that they are representing our company when they are on a job site.
- We give back to our community together. We have provided to the Alzheimers Association and installed items to help those recently diagnosed by making their homes safer. We support the local police and first responders. When we give back, it helps us appreciate what we have and how important our job is to many.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture.” What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the U.S. workforce’s work culture?
Hire who you believe in, not just based on age or experience. Don’t let what they have on paper be the only determining factor, but look at each person and believe in them no matter what they have been through. Give your employees opportunities for leadership or even ways to grow within the company. If everyone would give others a chance, we would have a much better workforce.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I am high level — 30,000 feet. My style is high-level thinking and then bringing it down and spreading it out to the employees and committee leaders. We are all collectively on board or on the same page with all of our projects. Everyone knows I believe in being transparent with our decisions and where we are going as a company.
For example, we recently completed a design-build project — it was an empty space, but we had to come together to complete it. I saw the vision, and employees each took ownership of a part and we were able to come together as a team. We took a completely blank space and made it a beautiful workout facility. I would not have been able to achieve that without teamwork.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
God — I always give thanks to God
My Dad — he got three kids through college and showed us how to work hard, maintain a strong ethic and how to achieve success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dream was to have enough money to help the homeless; that didn’t happen, but I have provided opportunities to some who are down on their luck by hiring them. I am able to help others by taking chances and improving lives.
“Through Christ, all things are possible,” and “Work hard, have fun, make a couple bucks along the way, and everything else should take care of itself.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Take chances on people. My movement would be to give opportunities to people who don’t have anything. You never know what this could lead to.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!