Greg joined Nabholz in 1991 as a controller, and was promoted to CFO in 1996. Now he’s our new CEO. So how does a kid who grew up on a rice farm in Stuttgart, Arkansas become a numbers guy in college and then CEO of a leading construction company? The answer, according to Greg, is “treat everyone with courtesy and respect, because everyone has something to teach you if you just listen.”
Greg grew up in Stuttgart, Arkansas, where his family lived on the University of Arkansas’ Rice Research and Extension Center. On living in farm country, Greg says, “in the agriculture business, everything revolves around crop yield and weather, and as much as I respected the hard work of the farmers, I knew I was never going to be a farmer. I needed to go to school and find a living.”
While he never grew to love farming, there was one thing he couldn’t escape in the Duck Capital of the World: a love of duck hunting and the sportsman culture. He even claims he’s “a pretty darn good duck caller.”
Greg left Stuttgart to study at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. There, he found his home at the business school. “I realized all businesses needed accountants, but when I graduated, I didn’t know which type of business would be a good fit for me. So, I worked as a CPA for a variety of businesses – banking, utilities, as well as construction.”
“Auditing or assisting a company gives you a chance to look at their books, and it teaches you about a lot of different business models and industries, especially about the challenges they face. When you are auditing a company, you’re an interruption. I had to learn to minimize the disruption I represented. But you also realize that you need the employees’ knowledge and assistance. You had to learn how to ask for help.”
In 1991, Greg found himself looking for a new job. “I had a three-year-old and newborn daughter. I was working long hours, and not seeing my family.” So when a call came from Don Greenland, a childhood friend from Stuttgart and current COO of Nabholz, telling him about the open controller position, Greg saw his opportunity. Remembering that move, Greg says, “Nabholz has always been a family-oriented corporation, and my situation before joining the company always makes me conscious of that. It fits my values and priorities, and I will never stray from that.”
In his role as controller, Greg learned lessons that he still observes in his position as CEO. “Listen to the superintendents, because they can really teach you about the construction business. Watch the financial health of subcontractors, because that can cause serious problems for a project. Also, take all of the financial information you have, boil it down, and make sure that you present what is really crucial to the people you report to.”
His transition to CFO in 1996 brought new responsibilities, like overseeing the human resources and benefits departments, and eventually the wellness, IT, and risk management departments. It reinforced his responsibility to provide stockholders a fair return on their investment.
When Greg considers his time as CFO, he says that his biggest accomplishments as CFO were “helping the company build a really strong financial base for long term stability, helping grow capital to reinvest back into the business, improving employee benefits, and establishing the wellness program.”
Moving into his role as CEO, he looks to what he has learned from CEO-turned-Chairman Bill Hannah and Chairman Emeritus Charles Nabholz. “I admire how Bill is able to speak and connect with every type of audience in a way that engages and relates to them. He has also taught me to be more patient. From Charles, I learned the value of one-on-one relationships, and to invest time in maintaining these personal relationships. I also look to him as a role model as a gentleman.”
“I was excited to be named CEO, but intimated by the responsibility that I had to the Nabholz family, the stockholders, and the employees to continue the proud culture and tradition of the company. I want us to be known for our fantastic customer service, as well as the quality of work we produce. I want us to be known as a company that values the skills of its employees.”
Greg’s vision for the company includes improving the innovation and service it provides its clients. He looks to companies like Apple and Chick-fil-A as models in these areas. With the goal in mind to better serve its clients, Greg says that Nabholz will continue to look for opportunities to diversify and expand the services it offers.
One thing will remain the same, though. “Nabholz is going to work hard to help our clients achieve their goals, and to help them thrive. We will continue to strive for safety, quality, service, and innovation in everything we do.”
Q&A with Greg Williams
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
Cycling, hunting, and fishing.
Q: You have three daughters. What’s it like being the only man in the house?
Living in a household with that many [girls] has been educational, overwhelming, and fun. I never knew what the next conversation at the dinner table was going to be about. But, watching my wife laugh so hard she couldn’t speak about something the girls said or did made it so worth it.
Q: You and your wife have been married almost 30 years now. What’s your key to a happy marriage?
You’ve got to listen and treat each other with mutual respect. Doris grew up on a farm in Morrison Bluff, Arkansas and is one of eight kids. She is one of the hardest workers I know, and she keeps me moving all of the time.
Q: How did she feel about your promotion to CEO?
The first thing she asked when I was offered the job as CEO was, “do you really want this job?” I told her I did, and she’s been very supportive and has already given me some great advice.
Q: What’s your favorite day at this job look like?
[laughs] Friday at four o’clock. But really, any day I get to be out in one of our offices or on a jobsite talking to some of our employees, I’m happy. Plus, you never know what you’ll learn out there. It’s always surprising.
Q: If you weren’t CEO and money was no object, what would you be doing right now?
I would be a first responder for the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas.[/box]