Stephanie Gebhardt, Chief Financial Officer.

It’s day 4 of Women in Construction Week! Today is the perfect day to highlight Stephanie Gebhardt, as tonight she will be accepting the CFO of the Year award from Puget Sound Business Journal.  This high profile honor recognizes her for all the incredible work she has done for MacDonald-Miller since joining the company in 1998.

Having the opportunity to participate in the lives of my teammates is the most exciting part of my job. I thrive on ensuring the people and community of MacDonald-Miller are fulfilled and in alignment with our mission and strategic goals. Where there is imbalance, there is tension and a lack of productivity.

Stephanie Gebhardt has overseen a 35 percent year-over-year growth rate during her five-year tenure as chief financial officer for MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions. She helped guide the company through the recession and, in 2016, revenue topped $281 million.

Here is the full interview with Stephanie Gebhardt by PSBJ:

Before joining MacDonald-Miller, you worked with the company as a management consultant with Moss Adams. From an outsider’s perspective, what did you find enticing about the opportunity at MacDonald-Miller?

While with Moss Adams, I participated on several engagements with MacDonald-Miller. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the industry, organizational complexity, and most importantly, the people. The community of MacDonald-Miller was then, and continues to be, a diverse group of talented individuals who are passionate about their work, the company and its culture. You will often hear in the hallways “we bleed MacDonald-Miller red.” The community is tirelessly committed to the company’s success.

In hindsight, what do you wish you had known before taking the CFO role?

I wish I had known that the CFO’s role is so much more than numbers. As a controller, most of my days were spent on the operational aspects of accounting and financial reporting, with a historical perspective and mindset. As the CFO, I am a forward-looking, strategic partner to the executive team and contribute to many business decisions that may or may not involve numbers. Given that our employees are our most important asset, we commit time to discuss the organizational design of our departments, divisions and how to optimize for efficiency and collaboration.

What’s been the most significant change in your role as CFO since 2012? 

We are on the other side of a recession and have just experienced the company’s best year in its 50-year history. With success brings opportunities for expansion, new technology, increased employee development programs, and new initiatives that allow me to stretch and gain knowledge and experience that would have been tough to gain through a recession.

In 2016, MacDonald-Miller moved its computing services to the cloud. How long had you considered this and what’s been the impact of that transition?

We became curious and eager to learn more about what the cloud could offer MacDonald-Miller three years ago. It was unfamiliar territory for our IT team so we engaged John Hughes, author of “Haunting the CEO” and a consultant. John initiated the move to the cloud and a search for the company’s first chief information officer. We were fortunate enough to find Bradd Busick, who came on board about 18 months ago and started our digital transformation and successfully finished our cloud migration.

MacDonald-Miller has over 1,000 employees and 75 percent of those are remote, working on a job site. The cloud has given each employee the ability to access information, regardless of the location, while providing us with the ability to introduce new revenue models like wearable technology and enhanced decision-making capabilities in real time.

Aside from fewer capital expenditures and a predictable spend, our maintenance costs are lower and we have enhanced our disaster recovery capabilities plan through the elimination of downtime, as our infrastructure is now geo-redundant.

What is the biggest new challenge you face in 2017?

MacDonald-Miller has just experienced an increase of 26 percent in full-time staff. The executive team is passionate about maintaining and enhancing the company’s culture and indoctrinating new employees into the “MacDonald-Miller way.” As a result, the company launched MacTed in January 2017, a training and employee development program. The program ensures we meet training needs at all levels while providing flexibility for professional development catered to the individual. New employees have the opportunity to take advantage of robust sessions centered around our culture and business operations.

Can you describe the MacDonald-Miller Leadership University?

MacDonald-Miller’s Leadership University (MMLU) initially launched in 2015 and is now an offering through MacTed. The intent was the same as MacTed, but focused on employees who have demonstrated leadership qualities and are new to management, new hires in leadership roles, or individuals who have been in leadership roles for a number of years that could benefit from the offerings in the program.

MMLU is a six-month program that provides cohorts with an opportunity to learn about the company’s 50-year history, high-performance leadership and teams, communication, coaching and mentoring, and leading and managing change. The cohorts also receive one-on-one coaching and participate in an assigned project that is presented to the leadership team at graduation. The results from the project are taken very seriously and have contributed to a number of important decisions made by the executive team, resulting in new opportunities for revenue, expansion and operational efficiencies.

Did you see dividends from the Leadership University immediately or was the payoff something you noticed over time?

Because cohorts are invited from various areas of the business, we saw immediate dividends from MMLU. The program created an opportunity for cohorts to engage with people outside of their normal circle, develop lasting relationships, and helped bust silos that were once in place.

Over time, we have also noticed that cohorts, because of their increased awareness, receive advancements and opportunities to participate in initiatives that they wouldn’t have been able to do so without the exposure received in MMLU. One example of increased business acumen and associated responsibilities is Rylan MacCay. Rylan is a former project manager who participated in MMLU in 2016. He now oversees our 100,000-square-foot fabrication shop and a detailing department of 40-plus people.

What characteristics do you look for in the next generation of leaders?

A future leader is curious, eager to explore all areas of the business, open-minded, motivated, competitive, humble, and has strong interpersonal skills. Technical competency is important, but the ability to play well in the sandbox with others can make or break a potential leader.

You participated in the BizWomen Mentoring Monday event last year. What was your biggest takeaway?

It was an honor to participate in the BizWomen Mentoring Monday event. I had the opportunity to meet many women, especially those early in their careers, who were trying to figure out how to be successful in industries that were typically male dominant.

I was surprised to hear that a typical solution was to create networking opportunities with other women in their companies. My question to many was, “Why wouldn’t you create opportunities to connect men and women together in your company?” If there is a perceived imbalance, then you can improve the situation by breaking down that wall. Don’t build it by intentionally separating yourselves!

What’s the best part of your workday?

The MacDonald-Miller community. A group of driven, talented and sometimes quirky individuals that together make MacDonald-Miller great and one of the best companies in the Pacific Northwest.

Interview by Ryan Lambert, Creative Director Puget Sound Business Journal.

 

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