It’s no surprise that EDA Contractors has been named a Philadelphia Inquirer Top Employer for three years running, and was named to the national Entrepreneur list of “Top Company Cultures.” That’s because company founder Edward DeAngelis makes cultivating culture a top priority, including training all employees in emotional intellligence. “Emotional intelligence isn’t ‘touchy feely,’ it’s badass,” he told The Inquirer.
Ed founded roofing company EDA Contractors, Inc. in 1999, growing it into a complete exterior envelope contractor serving clients from Maryland to New York. He spoke with young professionals in the construction industry about his career, his philosophy and how he has led COVID-19. The conversation was part of GBCA’s popular Coffee Chat series.
Tell us a little about your career.
My father started and owned an HVAC business which provided me exposure to the construction business. During high school, I was looking for some summer work and my friend recommended working for his uncles who were in the commercial roofing business.
What was my motivation for starting EDA? Entrepreneurship was something that was in my genes from a young age. I was a Philadelphia Bulletin and then The Inquirer paperboy at the age of 12. I loved making money which provided me independence as my parents rarely handed me anything. It was difficult, but it just felt right.
I started EDA with one employee, which was me. Technically, I was not even an employee as I did not pay myself for the first six months to a year. Today, EDA and its affiliated entities are close to 300 employees.
What excites you about what you do every day?
I love to come to work to innovate, work with people, and help guide our future. I love my job.
EDA has been named a Top Workplace for the last two years. What does being a best workplace look like?
Three years…to brag . . . and we were just recognized nationally. The best workplace is a place where people feel valued, cared for, challenged, rewarded, and pleasantly positive. You can’t see it but you can feel it and hear it.
What were the most important steps you took personally to help you achieve where you are today?
I humbly realized that I constantly needed to be better. Don’t ever be satisfied because growth opportunities will be forever. One of the Core Values at EDA is “striving to improve” and if you combine that with one of our other Core Values “demonstrate humility” then you will achieve success. Don’t ever think you’re the best but work to be the best. The journey to success never ends; the reward is the actual journey.
What is your definition of leadership?
Leadership is helping others reach their greatness. I always want to be known as a Servant Leader and a Resonant Leader.
What do you look for when hiring employees?
The first item must be matching an individual’s technical ability to the position requirement. If they do not fit that criteria, then they don’t go to the second phase. The second phase is the EDA Way. Will they fit our Culture and how we work? Do they have the moral foundation to meet our high ethical standards? Hiring and firing are the worst parts of being a leader, so you want to get the hiring right. I have been very good, and horrible bad. It’s all part of the journey.
A valuable employee is a fully committed person who sees that their best success is doing things together. They’re a goal-oriented employee who is always striving to improve and builds trust with the entire team by humbly accepting that we need each other to meet the highest success.
Keeping things going through COVID-19 must have been difficult—and stressful. How have you been able to stay optimistic and keep your team positive as well?
The construction industry was so lucky to avoid the significant impact caused by COVID as we were deemed essential for most of our work. My executive team and I did a tremendous amount of work educating ourselves and communicating with our staff to help them manage the fears of this unknown. When your staff is better informed, then their stress level comes down and their positivity goes up.
What leadership skills have you found to be most important during a time like this?
Understanding that things could be worse. Always be empathetic to others and you will find the path through any problem by using your head and your heart. You can’t go wrong if you proactively plan and care. You may have made a wrong decision but if it was done with thought and care, then people will forgive you.
Where do you see the industry going in light of COVID?
The industry must embrace the fact that office buildings will be reduced by people working efficiently from home. Our industry must adapt to this new way of doing business remotely, which will change our revenue and expense stream.