Name: Tommy Palmieri
What company are you currently employed with?
Tilden-Coil Constructors, Inc. Tilden-Coil is a builder of high quality educational, institutional, commercial and industrial facilities throughout Southern California. The company has been in Riverside since 1938 and has built many of the schools, college facilities, and historic icons you may recognize throughout the city and greater Inland Empire.
What is your job title?
Business Development is my job title. It is a combination of sales, marketing and client services. However I also have other responsibilities throughout the organization – my role is very diverse.
What was your title when you first started here?
How long have you worked for this company?
It will be 10 years in January
Could you describe one of your typical workdays for me?
A “typical” day can be somewhat hard for me to define. One day may be entirely dedicated to completing a sales proposal for a new project. Where another day I may dedicate to advancing a more long term strategic initiative such as creating a business plan for rolling out a new service, entering a new market, or advancing a subsidiary brand (all of which we are currently doing right now). The challenge is to balance advancing long term strategic initiatives with critical short term deliverables.
What do find most enjoyable about this job?
First and foremost I enjoy the people I work with. Tilden-Coil has a very family-like atmosphere and places a high emphasis on its employees. I feel this is one of the most important aspects of the work environment because if you don’t enjoy the people you work with, at a very honest and personal level, than you are probably not going to like your job – no matter what you’re doing. Additionally, in this position I have the opportunity to work with people throughout the organization, at every level. A new sales proposal takes a team of people contributing which includes our experts who work in the field (out on the jobsite) every day.
I also enjoy the diversity of my position in business development, and the challenges we overcome. I have an opportunity to work on new projects all the time. We have proposed on up to 40 new projects in a given year, and this means developing a specific strategic approach to each. This can be a huge challenge in the construction industry, because construction in general is often viewed as a commodity where many owners place less emphasis on quality, and more emphasis on the lowest price. We need to overcome this challenge by providing creative and innovative solutions to our clients’ needs.
Of course we don’t win them all, but we do win a good percentage of our pursuits. This is very fulfilling to know that when we do win a new project, not only will our production teams have future work, but we will be enriching the lives of our clients through new and renovated buildings.
Describe one of the toughest situations you’ve faced in this job.
It’s not just one situation, but in this position you must learn how to fail and how to learn from failure to make you stronger. This is difficult when you are so emotionally invested in pursuits which can be months long, but it’s the reality of sales – you can’t win them all.
For a competitive person this is hard to get used to. However you shortly realize that you can learn just as much from a failure as you can from a win, and sometimes more. The key is to study what went wrong, document it, and use this information to make you and your team better the next go around. You can ALWAYS learn something from failure, you can either ignore it or leverage it.
What do you wish you’d known before you entered this field?
Honestly, I wish I would have known how much I would end up enjoying it. When I first started as an intern I didn’t expect to be here 10 years later. If I would have targeted this industry while in college, as opposed to falling into it, I could have made a few adjustments to my education. Not by eliminating any classes that I took, but by adding some construction management related courses. This would have helped me eliminate the learning curve associated with working in the construction industry. It is a very unique industry.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I am lucky to be a part of a group of people from Tilden-Coil, Riverside Unified School District, and Riverside Community College District, who in 2010 developed a public-private partnership to teach approximately 400 disadvantaged elementary students every year how to swim, free of charge. The program is called Starting Blocks and is now on its sixth consecutive year, which means after this summer 2,400 students will have benefited from the program. The program is great because it teaches water safety, healthy living, and exposes students to a college campus since the lessons are held at RCC. Every year at the end of the 8 day summer program the more advanced swimmers are allowed to swim in the new competitive swimming pool at the RCC Aquatic Center, which was constructed by Tilden-Coil. Although I only have a small role in the planning of the program every year, it is my most significant contribution to our community and something I’m very proud of.
What do you know now that you wished you had known in college?
I wish I had known how important both statistics and accounting are. Its funny these were two of my weaknesses in college, but now I find myself constantly involved in generating and interpreting statistics, and working with accounting data / financial models.
Are there any recommendations you would make to someone who wants to get into this type of work?
When many people think about construction they think about digging holes and pounding nails. Many don’t realize that in this industry we need accountants, marketers, information technology support, human resources, and all of the other important positions that support successful organizations. There is truly opportunity for everyone, but the industry is not for everyone. It is unique, fast paced, highly competitive, and can be volatile, and subject to ebbs and flows of work if the organization is not sound.
I recommend the following to those considering a business position within in the construction industry:
- Expose yourself to the industry early (through an internship if you can) so you have a feel for how the industry operates and if it is right for you.
- Develop your communication, and relationship management skills. One thing I have learned in this industry is that relationships are everything. People want to work with, and will hire, those they know and feel comfortable with.
- Develop your leadership skills. A great way to do this is by reading books on this topic.
- If you are committed to this field, then take some construction management coursework so you can eliminate the learning curve.
- Find a mentor as soon as possible, someone who is willing to teach and guide you as you develop professionally.