Jon Pahl, former president of Nabholz’ Kansas operation, was recently named Nabholz’s first corporate director of innovation. In this position, Pahl will foster innovation at Nabholz and create systems that challenge business norms. In addition, Pahl will lead a company-wide effort to develop and implement LEAN practices that save money, time, and other resources.
Pahl joined Nabholz as an intern in 1997. His time at Nabholz has earned him experience in nearly every aspect of the construction process, including project management and preconstruction. In his most recent role as regional president, he oversaw revenue growth, staff increases, and construction of a new office facility. We sat down with JP recently to learn his plans for innovation at Nabholz.
Construction is a game of profits, narrow margins, and overhead vs. production. Yet, our executive team has decided to devote funds and time to make you a corporate director of innovation. Why is this a good investment for our company?
Nabholz has long been an organization full of innovative and bright minds. But as we grow, both in size and reach, it becomes challenging to share great ideas across the organization. I’m very excited to serve as a conduit for these ideas and to enable our professionals across the company to speak up when they imagine a better way.
Your position is a new one for our company. Why was creating your role essential to maintaining Nabholz’s status as an industry-leading firm?
We’ve all seen the world changing at an exciting pace. Businesses that aren’t proactively dedicated to change management or those that fail to create a pipeline of new ideas will lose competitive advantage and relevance in their industries.
We offer arguably the most diverse service line of any firm in our region. How will you handle the challenge of implementing learning materials and ideals across several different crafts?
Although our business lines focus on very different aspects of construction and facility management, the message of innovation doesn’t change. If I boil my goal for our innovation program to a single goal, it is quite simple. In essence, we’re seeking new ideas that solve our age-old challenge — to continue to safely deliver the quality, service, and customer experience that Nabholz is known for in our ever-evolving industry. I also expect some ideas and processes to affect various Nabholz service lines. Some new ideas can transform our environmental group just as they would our excavation and civil group or railroad services group.
Who is your professional role model?
Bob Nabholz. He was an innovative force in our industry from the very beginning. He embraced new ideas that added value for his customers. He anticipated market opportunities and created new lines of business, including ones that are very successful today, such as our custom millwork division, equipment rental, industrial operation, and excavation operation. He purchased an IBM in 1980 to streamline estimating and payroll. His innovative warranty response became our specialty service and facility maintenance business.
He also made innovative investments in people. Nabholz was the first in our market with retirement benefits, a formal safety program (long before OSHA), and carpentry apprenticeship training. He encouraged innovative jobsite solutions, and he challenged project teams to find a better way.
How do you plan to reach our craftworkers? How will you make them care about innovation when they are working against a deadline?
That’s actually what excites me most about this role. Great ideas spark all over our company every single day. The best new ideas often come from highly-skilled men and women working in the field. I’m eager to spend time on our jobsites, interact with our project teams, and act as a conduit for good ideas to be tested and implemented. Innovation will improve our workplaces, enhance our safety and quality, and secure the future of the company.