Don’t be Afraid of Competition

As the third-generation leader of Frank V Radomski and Sons, Philip Radomski says he was born into the business, a privilege that he doesn’t take for granted. The company, which is approaching its hundredth year, excels in the industrial, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and communication sectors with longstanding clients including Dow Chemical, DuPont, Merck, and Verizon.

His focus is on teaching the next generation. That’s clear from his position as Trustee of the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program and the time spent with young GBCA members during a recent Coffee Chat, where he shared thoughts on success, collaboration, and competition.

Of the apprenticeship program, he says “A lot of people aren’t given opportunities. Sponsor somebody who needs that leg up and you’ll be amazed at what you get.”

To what do you attribute your success? 

The first thing is my work ethic. Then, it’s the people around me—those in the office and those in the field. I feel that our employees are like family. I will go to bat for them every single time because they are representing us on that job, and they have our best interests at heart. You need to have a great relationship, protect them, and ensure their safety. The same goes for subcontractors. Take care of them and make they are around to do the next job for you.

You’re the leader of a successful, family-owned business. What preconceived notions did other have that you had to overcome?

A lot of people think a family business is a birthright. It never is. You’re only as good as your last job and that goes for everybody. When my father passed away, they didn’t give our company two years. They expected us to be out of business by the mid early 90s, but we were out to prove them wrong. If you tell us we can’t do something, we’re going to do it, we’re going to show you how and find a hundred different ways to do it. That’s just how the Radomski’s are. It’s in our blood.

What motivates you?

You realize that there are a lot of people counting on you. These people need you to show up every day and do your job so they can support their families. That’s a hell of a motivator. My family motivates me too. I feel that I must do everything I can to take care of them.

It might sound old fashioned, but I was always home for dinner. I want my employees to do the same. I won’t let anybody stay in the office past five o’clock. Period. If you have more work to do, tackle it at home.

How can emerging professionals differentiate themselves?

Understand how to build from the day you break ground to the day you plug in the lights. Go into the field and watch the craftsmen, learn what the carpenters do, learn how to do a layout, concrete, framing, structural steel, glazing, tile and ceilings. Watch the painters, the plumbers, the electricians. Study what everyone is doing and how. When you’re in charge someday and your workers come to you with a change, you want to understand what and why.

The art of a master builder has been lost. Why do you think everyone is so quick to defer to the architect and engineer for the answers?

Most clients want that design professional stamp. I think successful projects depend on collaboration and a lot of younger professionals don’t feel comfortable giving their opinion, especially to an architect or an engineer who may be older. As you get more experienced, offer your ideas and vice versa. Getting a fresh pair of eyes on a problem is invaluable.

You said you’re open to bringing on new subs. What are your criteria?

Our biggest hurdle to adding new subs is safety. Our clients demand nothing but the highest safety records—a total recordable incident rate no higher than two, an EMR that’s not over one. Their lost time incident rate must be zero. Most subcontractors can’t get over the safety hurdle.

What’s your best advice for young professionals?

First, anybody can manage but you must know how the pieces of the job go together to manage it correctly. Second, give yourself time, give yourself experiences. Third, don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody’s perfect. You’re going to make mistakes but it’s how you react to them that separates you from everybody else. Build a network, make connections, and take advantage of them. Last, don’t be afraid of competition. Some days you’re going to get that job and some days not, but the competition is fair and it’s good for the industry.