THE TRAIN OF INCOMING PRESIDENT CHUCK GRECO’S STORIED CAREER WITH LINBECK HAS NEVER REMAINED IN ONE STATION TOO LONG, BUT AGC HAS BEEN ALONG FOR THE ENTIRE RIDE. COMMUNICATING ITS IMPORTANCE TO MEMBERS IS ONE OF HIS MANY MISSIONS FOR 2015.
BY AMY DREW THOMPSON
A president is a conductor of sorts. And so it’s quite fitting that incoming AGC President Charles L. Greco’s career with Linbeck has been a study in forward momentum, built in part on his own “first train out of here” policy.
“Houston is where I started my career,” says Greco, a proud Texas Aggie, but Linbeck often obliged his requests to be a company traveler. He and his wife, Brenda, have endured 13 household moves on his 36-year odyssey from entry-level employee to chairman.
They’ve even created new employees aIong the way — Greco’s son and son-in-law are project managers for Linbeck, a title he himself once held.
Greco’s unpinnable strategy, in fact, is figuring into his presidential theme for 2015 in that he doesn’t actually have one. Not in a traditional sense, anyway. While he describes the themes selected by recent presidents as “relevant and on target,” Greco’s interest lies in continuing to act specifically on what the members are asking their executives to do similar to his predecessors and without a bias. “The role of the AGC president is foremost to serve the needs of our industry as requested by our members as a spokesman…. My personal bias should not be of much consequence.”
That said, he believes the association’s ongoing mission is securing a brighter future for its members.
“Chuck is a leader,” says outgoing President Al Landes, who considers Greco a very close friend. He jokes that although all his AGC predecessors are particular in their own way, “Chuck is very process-oriented, very organized, very by-the-numbers – he may take it a bit farther than most.” But all for the good of the association.
In fact, Greco sent a typewritten response ahead of his interview for this very piece. Landes laughs about it, but says it points to the thoughtfulness of the man he’s served alongside for years. “His leadership skills are already well demonstrated based on where he is right now With Chuck you get 24/7. There’s no in between.”
Greco’s construction science track at Texas A&M was inspired in part by a summer spent working as a carpenter’s apprentice in his teens.
“I came away with lasting impressions of not only the skill and knowledge required to plan and perform a simple home addition and the self-reliance that instilled, but with [the carpenter’s] dedication to his craft union and honesty with his client.”
Greco graduated in 1978 and, like most newbies, cut his teeth on less-than glamorous work that at first made more use of his barista skills than the physics, design and drafting he’d learned earning his degree. “It was mostly administrative,” he says, beginning with making coffee at 6:30 a.m. for the superintendent meeting and ending with paperwork, phone calls and locking the gates, often more than 12 hours later.
“But I was on-site, with things happening all the time.” He loved every minute.
Several years later, as a manager on projects as diverse as a children’s hospital and a space museum, Greco found his expectations exceeded not only as a construction professional surmising the success of a job well executed but also as a human being — eyes and heart wide with wonder and pride.
“We took a medical facility that had always operated in the red and, after being involved in its design, budgeting, scheduling and management, it was able to operate in the black from then on. That enabled profitability, which enabled the facility to do all kinds of outreach programs that don’t make money but contribute profoundly to the level of care these children can receive …. You’re a part of giving them a beautiful environment.”
His follow up was to be Linbeck’s first Build America Award: Space Center Houston, an interactive space museum built in conjunction with Walt Disney Imagineering as the team leaders.
“You hear it from contractors all the time: ‘We came in on schedule, on budget and made a really beautiful facility,’ but the owners were truly astounded we were able to deliver it for so little money — just in shock. I’m paraphrasing, but the outcomes of these kinds of projects allow a community to have a first-rate space museum that’s affordable. There’s a lot of passion put into that.”
Since then, Linbeck has racked up a total of 13 Build America awards under Greco’s supervision, along the way embracing his personal passion for workplace safety. Its Behavior-Based Safety program has become an industry model. Through it, Linbeck has maintained one of the best workplace safety records in the industry. The company’s 17 safety awards include an AGC of America Construction Safety Excellence Award — First Place.
Greco’s introduction to the association came back in college, but over the years he noted its considerable influence on the late Leo Linbeck Jr. “And the considerable amount of time he spent on AGC national and local initiatives,” he’s quick to add.
And the “traveler” nature of his positions with Linbeck over the years may have been what helped solidify its importance in his career. One of his earliest moves with the company took him to the city of Beaumont, Texas, for a project.
“While I was visiting the Southeast Texas Chapter Office, I was called in to meet the board of directors.” Greco’s project, it turned out, was larger than the combined revenue of the board. “They asked if I would serve on it while I was in the community and I agreed to do so.” He was 26 at the time.
After that, it became Greco’s policy to stop in to the local chapter as his work moved him throughout Texas — and even into Louisiana and Oklahoma — to see if there was anything he could add. Fort Worth was the next to take him up on the offer. He worked his way through the chairs, eventually becoming chapter president.
“The first National Chapter Leadership Convention we attended in Washington, D.C., was a huge awakening for Brenda and me,” he explains. Sitting among industry leaders he’d heard of or read about set off a light in his head. “I realized that in conjunction with Linbeck, AGC could facilitate all my career aspirations.”
He believes it can do the same for every single member.
AND NOW …?
“I’m very upbeat about where the industry, where the economy, is going,” he says emphatically. And motivated and inspired, he says, by the young blood on its way in.
“The way this newer generation works is very different from the way the boomers work,” he says. “We did what we could with what we had and the legacy we were handed, but the millennials? They are spurred on by technology, they work together better — they’re collaborative by instinct where we had to be trained.”
Greco, a longtime proponent of Lean construction, believes the newcomers will get behind these sciences, and with the technology that’s second nature to them, outperform the boomers.
“I’m confident they’re going to be better builders in a more complicated world,” he says, cheerily. And with 26,000 members counting on him, he says there’s no room for his personal agenda. It’s all about doing what they’re asking the board of directors to do:
Encourage healthy economic growth: “Strategically, we hear and understand that it’s a primary concern,” says Greco, and it’s going to happen through government interaction. “It’s through this that we’ll be able to create more predictable opportunities for work.”
Create human capital: And that goes hand in hand with recognizing the need to make careers in construction a viable consideration for young people. “We’ll do that through education,” he says, “but there are 95 chapters across the country, all of them independent. They each have different ways of solving the problem, advertising or interacting within their communities. AGC can’t facilitate that.”
It can, however, make suggestions on where to start that are predicated upon the successes of other chapters that have seen growth as well as help communities facilitate the educational opportunities required for the development of students into constructors.
“The chapters are looking for initiative and support,” he says, “and we can give that to them in the broadest perspective by helping influence society to say, ‘Building is a career. It’s a rewarding career. And by being a craftsman I can support my family.’”
Embrace progressive technologies: It’s necessary for enabling industry effectiveness, says Greco. “Building Information Modeling, project delivery strategies such as P3s and scientific processes like Lean construction are going to create more value for our customers,” he explains, noting that AGC needs to continue to support research and development.
And always, he says, AGC needs to continue to grow the membership so that it can continue its role representing the entire industry and encourage the involvement of younger members as leaders.
All, he notes, must be done with ever more efficiency and regard for member dollars, continuously creating more value.
His presidency may be “themeless,” but he can find one, he says; it is collective, member expressed.
“It might be for AGC to focus on the future of our industry with an emphasis on advocacy, employee development, competitive advantage and the way constructors will contribute to society as an industry.”
Summarized: “AGC today, for a better industry tomorrow.”