Being the son of a mechanical plumber, Nick didn’t want to grow up to be like his dad. Surprisingly he wanted to major in special education and later learned that career choice wasn’t right for him. He went to Eastern Michigan University and majored in the construction management program.
I wanted to know about leadership and the skills it takes to be a someone on top. It’s not about telling others what to do and how to do it. To be a leader means to communicate with everyone in the company no matter what title they have. What is most important to Ideal Contracting is their culture. Nick said that the more money the company makes, Frank gives back to Southwest Detroit and to the company as well. Yes, this is a construction company, but this company stands for something more. Ideal comes from a family standpoint and it’s a company where there are no closed doors and everyone is always welcome to come in anyone’s office. This is one feature that “definitely sets apart Ideal from other companies”, as Nick explained.
There are hardships that follow with every company. Some of the most important decisions that Nick faces as a leader at Ideal is to keep the Ideal’s creative culture. He wants to build something people want to be a part of. However, building the right team means not stretching abilities.
Ideal had GM at a 90% annual volume, now it’s at a 53%. It’s important to, “not put all your eggs in one basket” as Nick told me. It’s good to work with other companies in case one market is down, there will always be another one to work in.
I was then curious to know how a VP keeps their team motivated and inspired despite setbacks. He told me that setbacks are actually a good way to build a strong relationship with customers. Customers will look at how Ideal deals with issues in a positive standpoint. It’s always good to keep an “eye on the game” and to “move the company forward wanting to get the job done”. I think this a great approach in a business. Once a customer sees how far a company will go to help them along the way, the more that customer is going to want to work with that company because they know the company’s work ethic.
Being in charge of a project can be a great opportunity and also a challenging one if it is someone’s first time running it. I was wondering what advice Nick would give a new employee going into a leadership position for the first time. He said that there isn’t a universal rule that solves everything. There are many different ways to solve issues in a “manner that is correct”, as he said. A leader needs to be understanding of their employees as well.
My next question was about what are the most important traits of successful leaders today. He said to visualize things others can’t see. He gave me the example of a chess player and how they always visualize their next moves. However, with every choice a leader makes there are also consequences.
Creative and innovative thinking are some of the things I think businesses are always looking out for. The way Ideal does this is by bringing people in from different committees (at least 10 members) such as accounting, estimating, etc. But these aren’t the only people that have a say in the company. If a person out in the field has a better strategy in fixing something or a more efficient way with dealing with an issue, then that is a perfect example of creative and innovative thinking at Ideal.
So what I was mostly curious about was how a VP chooses the best candidate for a company. Nick has a unique approach to the interviewing process. He said that he likes to make people feel uncomfortable, not always look at their resume, and ask people who they are. He wants to hire someone who fits in with the culture of Ideal. He doesn’t want someone who has rehearsed their answers during their interview. He wants true talent to be added to the company and if throwing people off shows someone’s true colors, then that is how he decides if someone is hired or not.
Lastly, I was interested in who shaped Nick into the person he is today. His mentors include his father, Frank Venegas, and a man from his old company. It’s important to have other people who have similar experiences to talk to and to help give advice. He believes in pushing boundaries and working harder than everyone else, but also “to be the #1 successful person you need to be the dumbest person in room”. This way a person can learn more things and ask more questions and pick up good traits to achieve their goals. Nick is young for his role as a vice president. Although he doesn’t have 40+ years of experience to fall back on, he does have a very strong work ethic and is driven to success.
Side Note: Thank you Nick for taking the time out of your busy day to sit down and have a chat with me! I was truly inspired by you and your leadership.