Making Sain a Great Place to Work

When Randy Sain took the helm of leadership at Sain Associates in 1997 he made it his mission to build a company culture that would make Sain a great place to work. He accomplished that through investments in training, improved business practices, family-friendly work policies, encouragement of working parents and women engineers, and lots of social activities that created a sense of fun and celebration. He loved a party and surprising the staff, like the time he rented a charter bus and took all the staff out to a pizza restaurant he had reserved for lunch. He loved our Halloween costume contests and parking lot picnics. He especially loved teasing and playing with our staff’s children when they would come to the office. In addition to the fun, Randy made us a better business by insisting on solid management practices and project delivery systems.

You can measure a man by the tasks he accomplishes, but you won’t gain the whole picture until you understand his heart. In looking back through some of our historical records, we found these notes for a speech Randy made in 2009 when he turned over the leadership of Sain Associates to our current president, Jim Meads. Randy’s words in that moment give a good glimpse of his heart and the principles that have undergirded our corporate culture.

Hack formed Charles H. Sain Associates in 1972. Hack had been practicing Engineering with Peyton, Sain and Lee starting in the 60’s. They were contractors and engineers. I was a [survey] rodman, tried my hand at slope staking and wasn’t very good. Later I operated a scraper, heavy machine.

My point is this company and our family has some deep roots. No one here today understands the sacrifices Hack has made over the years. He built Charles H. Sain Associates from scratch. If you are ever around him when he talks about starting the company he will tear up. That’s ownership.

I started in 1980 as project coordinator, performed site investigations and I traveled to our sites and observed the site work. Hack asked me to become President in 1997, and he was Chairman of the Board.

I have a succession agreement . . . that on January 1, 2010 the company will buy all of my remaining shares and I will work until the end of 2010.  Along with that, Jim was to become CEO . . . . We have decided to step that up because Jim is ready.

Jim here is my advice to you before taking this position:

Everything you say will be tested, checked out, analyzed, scrutinized and people want to see how sincere and how honest you are.  Listen to your people and always be truthful. 

Your character will be tested. Everyone wants answers. We know that for most of our decisions there are no easy answers no simple solutions.

Think of your CEO / Leadership role as living the gospel by showing people your character in what you do.

You will find no easy answers, no 12 points to success or 7 steps to happiness.

Living the gospel means your character is being re-made in what you do. To re-make your character you have to talk about your inadequacies. Our team already knows what they are.

What I realized in my role as CEO is that I was over my head. I am marred, imperfect, flawed with a sinful nature. It was a struggle to be humble. This role will humble you.

Decisions as CEO are sometimes easy on paper. When you factor in our people that depend on us for their livelihood your character will be tested.

Look at these tests from the perspective that one day you will have to answer to a higher power. Try to learn through your mistakes.

You will make decisions that affect our staff, clients, subconsultants, suppliers, our bank, officers and shareholders all of which you have to answer to.

Now to the staff from someone who has been in the CEO role:

Your CEO needs your support in what he does. You need to believe that Jim has what it takes and will make the best decision possible. You need to offer him your input before he makes decisions. Don’t expect input on everything. You will have to earn the position of Jim asking you for input.  If you don’t like a decision seek first to understand by talking to Jim.

Talk positive to other staff and be supportive of what he does. If you can’t say anything good don’t say anything. Ya-Ya-ing leads to low morale and does not lead to any positive change.

Get to know Jim.  You are responsible for your relationship with him. Don’t take it for granted.

Let’s all work on being on the same team, no upstairs and downstairs or that office up there. Believe everyone is here because of our teamwork and desire to do a great job for our clients.  Focus on those things that you can control, your attitude, the quality of your work, and your efforts.

Encourage and help Jim, thank him, tell him you support him, work hard for him.

Randy Sain (on right)

Randy Sain left a worthy legacy in our company and the Birmingham community. After retiring from Sain in December 2010, he contributed his skills in construction and project management as a volunteer with Christian Service Mission.

We are grateful for all that he taught us and for his friendship and encouragement. Our love and prayers are extended to his wife, Linda, and the entire Sain family.