Q&A with Brent Reid, CEO of Winter Construction

Kim Wade

Monday, June 20th, 2016

For more than 53 years, Winter Construction has tackled some of the industry’s most challenging projects with expertise. The company is ranked as one of the ENR Top 400 Contractors in the United States and provides a comprehensive range of commercial construction services to the hospitality, retail, government, education, student housing, aviation, religious, healthcare, industrial, multi-family, recreation and historic restoration market sectors throughout the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions. The privately owned and operated firm is based in Atlanta, and Brent Reid is the current CEO of Winter Construction.

While Reid admits he may not be the handiest guy around the house, it’s obvious he has a good grip on what makes for a successful construction company. The construction veteran reflects on his 34 years in the business and where he sees Winter Construction heading in the future.

How long have you been in construction, and what was your first construction job?

“I have been in construction 34 years. My first project was with Fluor Daniel as a construction engineer on a $2 billion hydroelectric project in western Virginia. 

Where did you grow up and were you always into building/constructing things when you were a child? Was the progression to get into construction a natural fit for you? 

“I grew up in Atlanta, Ga. until middle school when my family moved to Habersham County in northeast Ga. I never really thought about construction as a career as I was growing up. I attended Georgia Tech and majored in civil engineering; in part because I liked math and was good at it. During that time I was exposed to construction at Tech. While I was not one of those kids who grew up building things--I am actually not very handy around the house--I loved solving problems, and I still love the challenge of what we do every day.” 

How would you describe the culture and values of Winter? 

“We are very focused on our employees and their well-being: physically, mentally and emotionally. We came in second place this year in the Business Chronicle’s Best Places to Work--we were in the top 20 last year. And, we were also rated the third medium Healthiest Place to Work by the Business Chronicle--we were number one last year in the small category. We have a chaplain service that is available to all of our employees and their extended families. Our safety program is constantly ranked as one of the best; there is nothing more important than our employees and trade contractors returning home safely to their families every day.

“We believe in keeping our word. We are always looking for new and better ways to do things. Everyone understands the importance of helping each other; construction is a team effort and that philosophy flows throughout our company. We have intensive and frequent training for our people to help them grow with Winter and individually. 

“We also provide plenty of opportunities for our employees to socialize with each other and create that sense of teamwork and family. We believe in giving back to our communities and are proud that we have supported Special Olympics of Georgia for the last 10 years, having raised more than $500,000, as well as volunteering thousands of hours helping with their annual Summer and Winter games.”

What changes have you seen in the construction industry over the years?

“The two major changes I have seen are the use of technology and the influx of women into construction. Technology has changed so much and has become such an integral part of what we do. Seeing the integration of Building Information Modeling, laser scanning, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), 3D printing and virtual and augmented reality in our processes is exciting, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming technology innovation tools. 

“When I started three decades ago, the industry was solely comprised of men. I am pleased to see so many women in our field now, and especially in senior positions, like we have at Winter. For example, our Vice President of Operations, Margaret Rauber, has been with Winter for more than 15 years. 

“Additionally, the construction management delivery method, where qualifications and experience are important factors in winning work, is a major change from the lump sum bidding approach that was prevalent 35 years ago.” 

Was there a change you expected that didn’t happen? 

“I am somewhat surprised and disappointed that more people haven’t returned to construction after the recession. While it’s not entirely unexpected, it would be great if more qualified people were available to help us take on all of the opportunities there are.”

What changes do you want to see in the future?

“As an industry, we have to find more ways to attract young men and women to the industry. We have to convince these bright, talented and hard-working individuals that construction is a great career and that whether you are in the office or the field, it is very rewarding with family-friendly and supportive cultures and excellent salaries and benefits like here at Winter.”

How has Winter Construction evolved during your tenure? 

“I have been at Winter for 32 years, so of course we have evolved a great deal. Today, we have two main businesses; Winter Construction, which was the original business, and Winter Environmental, one of the Southeast’s largest environmental cleanup and site control services companies, which did not exist when I first began my career at Winter. 

“Today, we have evolved into a company very focused on building long-term relationships with our clients, trade contractors/vendors and employees. We are in many diverse vertical markets from education to hospitality, government to senior living, multifamily to office, to name a few. Our range of expertise and experience has proven invaluable through the years.”  

What is next for Winter and where you do see Winter in the next few years? 

“I expect both of our main businesses, construction and environmental, will continue to grow. I strongly believe our culture, our employees and our approach to doing business naturally foster growth. Our goal is to bring additional senior managers into ownership, which is very important to the success and longevity of our company.”