From Al Antoniewicz (former president and COO of Spancrete)
What have been the highlights of your career? At Spancrete?
I went to technical school to be an electrician after high school, I never would have imagined at that time where my career would lead. I enjoyed taking on tough assignments and enjoyed “mowing tall grass” as far as business challenges. I relocated during my career and also operated a global business with 100% global travel, that was certainly a challenge. Earlier in my career, I implemented a 24 X 7 shift in our heat treat operation. That was a challenge as it was a union shop and we had to develop a plan that was acceptable to all parties. Also, I personally transitioned from a “cost” thinker to a “throughput” business mindset. That transition enabled me to see the “big picture” more clearly and develop better processes and long-term strategies. Working up the ladder and changing along the way is a sense of pride for me.
At Spancrete, I’m very proud of the business reengineering we accomplished during the recovery after the 2008-2009 recession. We had to get smaller, leaner, agile, and nimble. It allowed us to build a strong foundation for growth and we used the principles of the book “Good to Great” as our guide for building our operations. I’m also proud of the fact that we evolved technologically over the past 10 years, implementing better production tools such as 3D CNC scanners, but also regarding our engineering and modeling software and its application in business development and early design build processes. Over the past few years, we also evolved and continue to emphasize virtual construction. We invested in the training, tools and people—as we see this as the future for construction. Because many of these tools were used in previous businesses I’ve worked at, I’m a very strong and energetic supporter of this change in the construction industry.
With 40 years of professional experience, what makes a good leader?
One of the essentials of a good leader is to recognize that people, processes, and cultural expectations change constantly. A good leader recognizes these shifts and adapts to the changing times. Also, it’s key to surround yourself with very talented people. I was blessed throughout my career to have worked with top notch talent. Our team at Spancrete worked very hard, but we also had fun along the way. Always keep a sense of humor!
Would you say you cultivated an “executive presence”? Would you say you are an influencer?
Having a blue-collar upbringing, I took pride in being able to relate from the shop floor to the boardroom. Also, I’ve been exposed to tools throughout my career like the DiSC profile. My profile is of a driving leader with high influencing skills. The key is to be able to adapt to the situation and recognize the proper button that needs to be pushed depending on the situation and variables. Experience taught me there are two sides to every story, so it’s important to listen to the facts and act appropriately. I tried to use a Socratic approach as much as possible, because the outcome will be better when the people involved are part of the solution, learning throughout.
Following the recession in 2008, how did you use your skill for seeing the “big picture” to move the company forward?
I’ve worked through some very difficult financial situations throughout my career. When I got to Spancrete in 2009, the actions we needed to take were very obvious to me. Although very difficult, I knew what needed to be done. It’s always difficult when having to close facilities and reduce staff. However, if the tough calls are not made, we may not live to see another day. On top of this, we also required significant improvements in our talent pool. We worked very diligently on our organizational development processes, developing internal staff as much as hiring from the outside. Every hire is vital and must be a cultural fit, not just hiring based upon current skills.
What’s the “one thing” you would tell a young general contractor/manager regarding how to be a leader for their team?
Recognize that in the big scheme, we are all either assets or liabilities. It’s important to recognize we are in a “for profit business” and we need to make money today, but also keep one eye on the future. Additionally, it’s very important to recognize the value your business brings to the industry, and be sure we are protecting the company, in addition to our employees, customers, suppliers and local community. Surround yourself with talent and let them run!
What are your plans in retirement?
I’m on a number of for profit and not-for-profit boards. I intend to continue to serve in those capacities and will probably add a few assignments. I also mentor a number of professionals and enjoy helping people in their careers. I look forward to spending more time with family and friends as well as doing some traveling.
Construction is a very dynamic and exciting industry that is changing rapidly. Be an active part of driving the exciting future, and don’t rest on your laurels. Your career is a journey, with many lessons along the way. Make a difference!
about the author
Alan Antoniewicz, president and COO of Spancrete, retired February 1, 2021. Alan leaves Spancrete with over 40 years of professional experience, with a broad background in multiple industries, including construction, mining, industrial and energy. Early in his career, he worked for Harnischfeger Corporation, now known as Komatsu Mining, and Manitowoc Crane Group as general manager. He also spent time with Dresser, now known as GE Power and Water/Innio, as president of global operations. In retirement, Alan is looking forward to spending more time with family and continuing to serve the community with his various board positions, as well as other consulting and mentoring engagements.