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Meet Steven Sattler: 2019 ABC Young Professional of the Year Finalist

West Point graduate Steven Sattler grew up on a Michigan dairy farm, where he witnessed firsthand mad cow disease wiping out the entire farm. That eye-opener made him realize that he wanted to find a viable plan and a sustainable future career path. When he got out of the Army, construction seemed like a good fit.
By Maggie Murphy
July 26, 2019
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Workforce

West Point graduate Steven Sattler grew up on a Michigan dairy farm, where he witnessed firsthand mad cow disease wiping out the entire farm. That eye-opener made him realize that he wanted to find a viable plan and a sustainable future career path. When he got out of the Army, construction seemed like a good fit.

Armed with an environmental engineering degree, Sattler walked through the doors of Casco, Michigan-based excavating contractor, Robert Clancy Contracting, and asked for a job as an engineer. Robert Clancy replied that he needed a general laborer more, so Sattler took the job.

In just a year and a half, Sattler worked his way up to a project manager role—an impressive accomplishment for an industry novice, and one that earned him the attention of Associated Builders and Contractors as one of three finalists for its annual Young Professional of the Year award.

Robert Clancy Contracting began running into environmental issues on a particular jobsite, and Sattler saw his window of opportunity. “No one knew how to read the analytics reports or call the Department of the Environment except for me,” he says. “That’s how I became a project manager.”

One day, Clancy approached him and asked him to get involved with the local ABC Southeast Michigan Chapter. Sattler admittedly didn’t know much about ABC at that point, but he promised to give it a try.

“I reached out to Ashley Weaver, communications specialist for the chapter, and next thing I knew I had talked myself into being the chair of the young professionals committee,” Sattler says. He helped recruit 20 members to the committee and remains the current chair.

The committee holds educational, social and networking events and supports Team Red, White & Blue, a nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Himself a veteran, Sattler believes very strongly in the organization’s mission and leads the charge in supporting fundraising efforts.

If there’s one thing Sattler credits his time and mentors in the Army with, it would be teaching him to place the welfare of others before his own. “I believe there are two types of leaders: leaders by authority, and leaders by respect,” he says. “I want to be a leader by respect.”

To do so, Sattler keeps the lines of communication open with his subordinates at all times. “The foremen and the employees drive the company—without their respect, nothing will get done,” he says. “I have a good rapport with them and there’s mutual respect.”

That respect has led to a culture of openness and willingness on the part of employees to speak up about project issues, knowing they will be handled with care. This approach is no doubt tied to another impressive accomplishment: Robert Clancy Contracting has not had a recordable workplace injury since Sattler began his time as project manager.

Outside of work, Sattler enjoys giving back to the community by coaching wrestling at a local high school. He loves watching the kids grow into mature young men and women. Sattler didn’t know what trade school was in high school, and he wishes he had been more involved.

“I wasn’t the best-behaved person in high school, and I like to mentor other similar kids and show them that there are many different paths to success,” he says.

The single most important key to his successes, he says, has been to put God first in absolutely everything he does.

“God, family and loyalty—those are the three most important things to me, in that order,” Sattler says.

Looking ahead, Sattler has some big goals for Robert Clancy Contracting, namely adding a number of new employees, getting Trimble excavating up and running and adding two crews. Thinking long term for ABC, he hopes to double the young professionals membership for ABC Southeast Michigan and stay heavily involved with Team Red, White and Blue.

According to Sattler, the worst answer you can give in business is, “that’s the way we’ve always done it so that’s how we’re going to do it.”
“I know I’m not a perfect candidate for all these things, and I do things a little differently,” Sattler says. “But at the end of the day, I’m just thankful and blessed to be part of an industry that has afforded me so many opportunities.”

by Maggie Murphy
Maggie manages all of Construction Executive’s production, scheduling and digital assets, in addition to editing our print content and writing feature articles, industry new briefs and a variety of topical columns. She’s a native Marylander and a graduate of Salisbury University, with a background working on the marketing team for a large general contractor.

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