Growing up, the school bus picked up and dropped off Nick Morgan at the lumber yard because his family owned a building supply company in Auburn. He has always loved and worked in construction. First, he was a carpenter, and then he studied and worked in project management.
In 2013, he was working on a big project with a construction crew when his fellow colleague John Scott approached him about creating their own company (JF Scott Construction Company). Nick pounced at the opportunity. Shortly after joining the new company, Nick began his Master’s in Project Management at Thomas College.
They immediately landed a $13 million project to renovate the Thayer Center in Waterville. Since their Thayer job, they have been doing well with other jobs, including other college campus projects.
Luckily, both Nick and John have worked in the construction field for many years.
“The relationships that we established over the years are what got us going as a company and have kept us going,” said John. “We don’t have a marketing department. We do all the proposals and presentations ourselves. I went from being a project manager who had a small world to owning a company, which made it a much bigger world.”
John earned a Bachelor’s in Engineering, but has worked in the construction field for more than 30 years. He completed an MBA at Thomas many years later. It took him seven years to complete because he had young kids at the time and was coaching youth sports, so he only took a couple classes a year. For John, it was worth it.
John said his Thomas education gave him knowledge he needed to be a business owner, from financial statements and marketing to accounting and employee management.
Nick completed an MBA in three years while working full time at their growing company. He took online and night classes and commuted to campus a few nights each week. Nick said what he gained the most was interacting with classmates who had drastically different backgrounds than him.
“A lot of the people in my classes worked in IT. Construction typically trails in innovation, where IT is on the cutting edge of innovation most of the time,” said Nick. “So, having those people in my classes to bounce ideas back and forth really showed me that we are on the right track with how we are trying to develop our company with innovative processes.”
One way John and Nick are separating themselves from the competition is by having an employee-owned company. All 20 employees of JF Scott Construction Company own a part of the company and have a say with how things are done.
“We wanted to run the company with everyone’s input. By giving them ownership, they will be more incentivized and willing to give their input and come up with innovative ways of doing things,” said John.
John said it did take a while to get to the point of being 100 percent employee owned.
“I think that everyone has good ideas and when you work for someone else, you don’t necessarily get a chance to try those news ideas or to be heard,” said Nick. “By being an employee-owned company, everyone knows that if their ideas can benefit the company, it will benefit them as individuals. And, we are more likely to let people experiment and try new processes because everyone has a piece of the company.”
John said that this is a trend in the industry right now, and he is glad that by creating his own company, he is able to provide this for his employees.
“What’s nice about being an employee-owned company is that it positions the company to have an exit strategy.
What often happens with privately owned construction companies is the owner works until age 70 and then wonders ‘What am I going to do now?’ When my wife and I are not in the company anymore, it is still its own entity. That was a big step for us. It kind of settled any sort of exit strategy discussions.”
Nick said he thinks it will also help garner new talent.
“Because of the market right now, the unemployment rate is extremely low and there are very few people looking for work. Qualified employees are hard to find, so it’s a really good recruitment tool to be employee owned.”
John encourages his colleagues to pursue an MBA. When someone expresses an interest, he makes sure to support them 100 percent.
“The Thomas Master’s is good for non-business majors because it’s a broad education. They help you with the big picture. They help you be an executive. And, it caters to people who have 40-hour-a-week jobs.”
John said he loves bumping into other Thomas grads while working. He said there are lot of them in his world.
*This story was originally published in the Winter 2018 Thomas Magazine.