Get to Know McKinley: Meet Chad Hodges, COO

Chad Hodges

Professional Journey and Role

Can you tell us about your journey with our company? What roles have you held over the years?
After graduating in 1998 from ECU with a degree in Construction Management, I served in the roles of Historical Cost Engineer, Estimator, Assistant Project Manager, and Project Manager for a couple of commercial general contractors. I was introduced to Ken Dull and McKinley Building Corporation by a mutual friend in early summer 2005. After getting to know Ken and the company over the course of a couple of months, I knew this would be the right work home for me. Later that summer, I accepted the position of Project Manager and served in that role for 16 years. In 2022, I was promoted to Chief Operating Officer of McKinley Building Corporation and still serve in that capacity today.

What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the company since you started?
Two things come to mind, with the first being how we acquire work. Our experience and capabilities have grown tremendously in the past 20-plus years. It used to be when projects entered our door for the first time, the owner/design team had their project pretty far along in terms of concepts and design. Today, many projects enter our door with just an idea of what a client would like to pursue, and we come alongside them to reach their goal. Another significant change I have seen over the years is the advancement of technology and software tools available to us. It is truly amazing how technological advancements have made it possible to bring projects to life at their conception, which helps clients to really hone their vision and make quality decisions.

What does your new role as COO entail, and how does it differ from your previous positions?
Previously, as Project Manager, my day-to-day responsibilities were driven solely by the projects I was responsible for and the clients specific to those projects. My roles today include a much broader picture. I need to know the details and parameters of all projects and clients. In addition, my role as COO requires me to facilitate the operations of McKinley Building Corporation with respect to managing not only the business aspects but also the relationships that play a large part in what we do every day. Though I focus daily on these responsibilities, I am continuously looking ahead to position ourselves for the future.

What are your primary goals and objectives as the new COO?
My goal is to continue moving McKinley Building Corporation forward based on the principles and values to which we hold ourselves accountable. We are always striving to be the contractor clients can know and trust.

Achievements and Challenges

Can you share a major project or accomplishment you’re particularly proud of during your time here?
All the projects I had the privilege of managing over the years had unique hurdles and memories. One of the great things about what we do is that you can see the fruits of your labor and never have the same experience twice. Building projects that you can ride by and know you had a hand in completing is very rewarding. One of the things I enjoy saying is that I am going into my 19th year at McKinley Building Corporation. I am very proud of having the bulk of my career in one place. Not only a place that has provided for my family but one that I can call family.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
Early in my career, the biggest challenge was being the young face in the room. These days that happens a lot less because somewhere over the past 26 years, I have moved to being one of the older faces in the room. Aside from that, I have experienced a wide variety of challenges due to the highs and lows in the construction industry. Examples include the dot-com boom of the late 90s, 9/11, the housing explosion in ’05, the downturn in ’08, the monotonous years around ’11 & ’12, and most recently the COVID years. During those times, we experienced low interest rates, high interest rates, labor shortages, material shortages, and inflation, all of which affected construction one way or another. Life has taught me a couple of lessons along the way that I always try to apply during these challenges. The first would be to treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Everyone can bring something to the table, and the best idea can come from the most unsuspecting person. You just have to be open to it. The second would be that when everything starts to move fast, you move slow. Really think about what you are doing, know the details, and think strategically.

How do you plan to tackle the current challenges facing the construction industry?
By adhering to our principles and core FIRST values (Faith and Family, Integrity, Relationships, Service to Others, and Teamwork).

Leadership and Vision

How would you describe your leadership style?
Being a sports guy, I relate a lot of what we do to sports. One of the things I like to say is that you can’t be the head coach from the press box; you have to be on the field. I would describe that as my leadership style here. You have to be with your team day in and day out on the field, both cheering them on and making sure we are all lined up in the right spot to execute the next play.

What is your vision for the future of our company?
As I think about what I believe our area will become over the next couple of decades and the growth/development that we will experience, I see McKinley Building Corporation uniquely positioned to help guide that growth. We will continue to seek opportunities that will shape our community. One of our favorite sayings is, “We chase people and not projects.” Although we have the skill set to take on any type of project that comes our way, our desire is to make sure we are working for the right client. As for the vision for our company, we want to continue building on the principles and philosophies that have made us successful thus far. Given the projected growth this area is expected to experience, we will grow with it!

How do you motivate and inspire your team, especially during tough projects?
I believe every coach must be the biggest cheerleader for their team. I also believe the coach must put each player in the best position to succeed and exploit their talents. Construction projects are a lot like life. There will be highs and lows and the occasional curveball of something no one expects; however, as long as everyone stays disciplined in communication and doing enough of the right things, those “tough projects” will be broken down into manageable pieces. We really have a great team here at McKinley Building Corporation that does an excellent job of staying aligned and communicating.

Personal Insights

What initially drew you to the construction industry, and what keeps you passionate about it?
What initially drew me to the construction industry was the fact that there is such a mix of experiences and responsibilities. On any given day, I can be on a job site, somewhere around town meeting with potential clients and their design team, or in the office working with our team. This industry allows your day to bring about something new. I really do enjoy my job and coming to work every day. It is gratifying to be a part of watching projects come to life. In addition, you get to build relationships with unexpected people and learn how other people do business through the projects you are involved with. Learning what is important to them and how they operate keeps work fresh for yourself and your team.

How do you balance work and personal life, especially in such a demanding role?
Number one is my personal belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That keeps everything else in perspective and brings a purpose to what I do every day. I also have an amazing wife who has endless responsibilities yet helps keep me on track. That combination brings about balance.

What advice would you give to new employees starting their careers in construction?
Everything about construction cannot be learned in a classroom or a seminar. It takes a certain amount of time in the field to be able to think and anticipate how information and decisions affect a project. Communicate in a way that is borderline over-communicating. Make sure you know and understand all expectations. Lastly, say what you mean and mean what you say. This industry is all about sticking to your word.

Company Culture

How do you ensure that our company stays ahead of the competition and remains innovative?
We must have a mindset that is constantly seeking ways to improve ourselves. Being intentional with team discussions, listening to client feedback, and collaborating with external teams that bring their knowledge and innovative strategies to our company are all key.

Can you talk about the company culture here and what makes it unique?
When asked this question, either by clients or through conversations with people, one of my favorite things to say is, “We do more than just build buildings; what we do has a purpose.” That purpose means a lot of things. For us, it is not just a transactional relationship. We care about the projects we perform, the impact they will have, and the people we do them with. All of that speaks to our core FIRST values (Faith and Family, Integrity, Relationships, Service to Others, and Teamwork). We talk about it a lot, and our culture can be identified in those values.

Closing Thoughts

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our employees and clients?
To the McKinley team—I am very thankful for what we have at McKinley Building Corporation and the opportunity to work alongside each of you every day. We have all shared in the successes of our projects through hard work and caring about what we do. We have built some amazing projects over the years! I feel that our culture and team chemistry are at an all-time high, and we are just getting into our stride! I cannot wait to see what is yet to come! To our past, current, and future clients—I am excited to talk about any needs you have and come alongside your project! We care about you and have all the tools and relationships needed to make your project a success. Thank you for trusting us and valuing what we do and stand for.