2017 ABC National Chairman Chuck Goodrich Brings a Collaborative Style to Improving the Merit Shop Construction Industry

During Chuck Goodrich’s first semester at Purdue University, he found himself at a golf fundraiser that set the trajectory for his entire career. As a member of Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Student Chapter, Goodrich was waiting in the golf cart to be joined by a sponsoring contractor when down sat John Gaylor, founder of Indianapolis-based Gaylor Electric, Inc. Noblesville, Ind. Halfway through the round, Goodrich landed an internship. 

“I lived in a campground during my first summer at Gaylor Electric and worked in a service van,” he recalls. Although that was 25 years ago, Goodrich holds firm to the notion that all of Gaylor Electric’s 1,400 employees deserve the same opportunity to dream big and work their way up to executive leadership roles. 

Today, Goodrich occupies the office of the president at Gaylor Electric, a position he has held since 2014. The office itself tells quite a story: It is covered floor to ceiling in pictures, plaques and memorabilia highlighting everything from Indiana sports teams to company and family achievements, past Republican presidents and a love for ABC. This year, his passion for merit shop construction is widening in scope as ABC’s national chairman. 

“The merit shop philosophy means freedom: the right to be successful and the right to fail; the right to build a business, create jobs and take hold of the American dream. It’s common sense,” Goodrich says. 

He credits John Gaylor and J.R. Gaylor, president of the ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter, with opening his eyes to being a “freedom fighter.” 

“J.R. has been my mentor and an absolute rock. He has engaged me and prepared me for leadership roles. Without him, I wouldn’t be here.” 

Finding His Way 
In truth, Goodrich’s journey to the construction industry started long before he met cousins John and J.R. Gaylor. Like many contractors, his curiosity was piqued as a boy watching his father, who was a landscaper, and his grandfather, who was a carpenter, build an addition to his house. He took shop class during high school and enrolled in the architectural drafting program at Vincennes University, a few hours from his hometown of Roann, Ind., because his older brother was a professor there. Architectural drafting didn’t suit him, so he tried land surveying and transferred to Purdue for civil engineering, but that field wasn’t the right fit either. He finally found his home in the building construction management program and as an officer in Purdue’s ABC Student Chapter. 

After working as an intern at Gaylor Electric for two years, he stepped away to be a project engineer for Centex Rodgers (now Balfour Beatty) on hospital jobs in South Carolina and Florida. In 1996, he returned to Gaylor Electric to begin his full-time tenure, first as an estimator learning how to build the cost of an electric job, then as a project engineer learning how to build and run work, and then as a project manager and operations manager. During this stretch, Goodrich participated in ABC’s apprenticeship program to ensure he had a solid base of electrical knowledge (graduating in June 2003) before progressing on to vice president, executive vice president and finally president. 

To this day, all of Gaylor Electric’s project engineers go through the ABC apprenticeship program. It’s a nod to the company’s core values: personnel development, safety, integrity, customer service, sales growth, ROI, performance and teamwork. 
“Safety is not a priority because priorities change. It’s a core value,” Goodrich says. “Growing up in this company, those core values have not wavered.” 

Values-Based Growth 
Building off that strong foundation, Goodrich began writing the company’s vision statement in 2002—to be “the highest performing national contractor of excellence, providing unequaled project delivery, companywide best-in-class financial performance, with inspired employees being our most valuable asset, building trust resulting in continuing client loyalty”—and has been dedicated to executing it for the past 15 years. Over time, Gaylor Electric has grown from 25 employees to nearly 1,400; from $10 million in annual revenue to about $200 million now; and from one office in Indiana to 13 offices across the country. 

“Our vision is where we’re going. Our values are how we get there,” Goodrich says. And his role is to get everyone there with a high-energy leadership style infused with problem-solving, logical thinking and listening skills. The ability to compartmentalize is crucial too, as he balances corporate responsibilities related to risk management, accounting, recruiting and HR with improving jobsite efficiency and ensuring his electricians have a good work experience. 

In addition to launching an internal company-wide app to strengthen employee engagement, Goodrich spends a lot of time face to face with the vice presidents of Gaylor Electric’s 13 locations to discuss action plans, KPIs, and progress on education, quality and safety goals. Collaboration and mentorship are hallmarks of Goodrich’s approach to leadership—whether it’s helping bring down costs for clients via the design-build process or reaching out to a retiree to guide the development of a young vice president. 

“I love seeing people succeed. By making them successful, you cannot not be successful yourself.” 

A Call to Action 
In that same vein, it’s the duty of ABC and its 70 chapter to help member companies develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically, profitably and for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. In short, ABC exists to raise member companies’ level of success by defending the merit shop philosophy of open competition and free enterprise. 

“When you think construction, you should think of ABC,” Goodrich says. “We’ve made a lot of headway on that during the past 20 years, and I want to move the needle even more through political involvement, membership growth and workforce development.” 

The 2017 objectives in ABC’s strategic plan are fully funded, so that’s where Goodrich, the ABC Executive Committee and the ABC National Board of Directors are going to focus their attention. Goodrich’s penchant for collaboration will be front and center. 

“Let’s not argue about the stuff we don’t agree on; let’s have ABC National and chapter and volunteer leaders work together on the stuff we do agree on,” he says. “I encourage members to jump in and make a difference. Everyone is a member for a different reason: to have a political voice, to win more work through business development, to train and educate workers, to make the industry safer and more diverse, etc. The association allows for your own identity, and being involved allows you to help shape the industry. 

“You learn leadership skills when you get involved with a committee; plus, you have a nationwide networking group that you can go to if something comes up in your business. The educational opportunities offered are incredible, especially from a skilled trades perspective. You get more out of ABC than what you put in.” 

Such has certainly been the case for Goodrich. “It’s an honor and a blessing to serve ABC members. I went from a town with less than 300 people in a poor area of Indiana to sitting with former President Bush to work on immigration reform and now leading ABC. This industry offers endless potential for growth.” 

Snapshot of ABC’s Top Volunteer Leader 
ABC National & ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter 
  • ABC National secretary 
  • Mid-America region vice chairman for Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio 
  • Central Council chairman for the Indiana region 
  • Free Enterprise Alliance and Legislative Committee member 
Construction Industry 
  • Chair-elect of the Purdue Construction Advisory Board for Building Construction Management 
  • Member of the National Honor Society for Construction, Metro Indianapolis Coalition for Construction Safety, Design-Build Institute of America and Purdue Alumni Association 
  • Architectural drafting degree from Vincennes University 
  • Bachelor of Science degree in building construction/ contracting from Purdue University 
  • Graduate of the Clemson University Project Management Academy 
Family & Fun 
  • Married to Tricia for 23 years 
  • Father of four children: Karson (14), Kylie (15), Kole (18), who is a construction management student at Purdue, and Kaitlyn (22), who does marketing and business development for Shiel Sexton. 
  • Business Person of the Year for the City of Noblesville, Ind. 
  • Golfer and fan of the Indianapolis Colts and Purdue Boilermakers 

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email masterson@abc.org, visit constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag