Justin Baker is Executive Vice President with Gaylor Electric, Inc., a leading electrical contractor headquartered in Indianapolis with a major presence in the Carolinas. Baker was promoted to EVP last summer following five years as Vice President in charge of the firm’s Charlotte office, a hub location. In his expanded role, Baker has responsibility for Gaylor’s entire Southeast region, which is served by the company’s offices in Charlotte, Nashville, Birmingham and Tampa.
Baker began working for Gaylor Electric nearly 16 years ago shortly after earning his degree from Purdue University — known for its School of Building Construction Management program. He started out in project management, based out of Indianapolis. For the first decade of his career, Baker traveled around the country working on many of Gaylor’s largest projects. He moved to Charlotte in 2012 after one year in Gaylor’s Raleigh office.
Baker’s accomplishments extend far beyond the walls of Gaylor Electric. Recently he was named National Young Professional of the Year by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). One of three finalists from across the nation, 39-year-old Baker was lauded for “already being a champion in the industry… for giving back, serving, and mentoring future leaders.” Baker received the award at ABC’s Leadership Week Conference in Orlando, Florida in November 2017.
GroundBreak Carolinas talked to Baker about his achievements to date, why he’s so passionate about the construction industry, and his assessment of the business outlook for specialty contractors like Gaylor in the Southeast.
What inspired you to pursue a career in construction?
I have always been fascinated with how things work along with working with my hands. I went to school to become an engineer and quickly figured out this was not a good fit for me. While at Purdue University, I was introduced to the Building Construction Management program. When I learned how all-inclusive the construction industry is I knew this was for me. I enjoy the variety it offers — from business development to preconstruction to operations — and the different people you get to work with each day.
What does the National Young Professional of the Year Award mean to you? Do you have any career advice to share? To what do you attribute your success?
Winning YP of the Year is an incredible honor and it is very rewarding for many years of hard work. There is not one specific person who has contributed to this; it has been a combination of everyone I have encountered over my career. The best advice I can give is to work hard, live outside your comfort zone and continue to grow yourself. I would attribute my success to staying spiritually aligned and trusting God’s plan for me…. and knowing why I have done what I have. For me, it’s all been for my family. When you understand your “Why,” it will drive you to accomplish great things. Throughout my career Gaylor has provided me with extensive training and provided me with endless opportunity. I have been offered a variety of training from technical, leadership, sales, and personal growth.
You oversee Gaylor’s Southeast region. What are your primary business challenges (big picture and daily). Do challenges in Carolinas differ from those in Tennessee, Alabama and Florida?
The biggest challenges are keeping the resources and workload balanced. As a growing company, keeping the right mix of this is crucial. On a daily basis, it’s keeping focus among everyone and not letting the daily whirlwind distract us. Overall, the challenges in the South are pretty similar. It just comes down to timing and which city or region is booming at what time. Currently we (Southeast Region) are working in nine states.
Describe your employee profile in the Carolinas. What’s been the key to success here?
We typically employee close to 200 employees in the Carolinas. We have about 40 office employees working out of the Charlotte location. We have Project Managers, Project Engineers, General Superintendents, Design Engineers, Service Department, BIM Modelers, and Fabricators. Overall, Gaylor employs about 1,200 people. We are a national contractor focusing on customer relations. These relationships are what have fueled our growth and expansion. Our strong presence in the Carolinas comes from working closely with all our offices and the existing customer base. Our existing relationships and the growing economy in the Southeast have allowed us to get where we are today.
What sets Gaylor apart from its competitors?
In the construction industry, contractors have access to the same resources — with one exception. For Gaylor, it’s our People who allow us to stand out from our competition. By starting with the best talent and training them on “the Gaylor way,” we are able to provide superior service to our customers. We specialize in design-build/design-assist, as well as projects that possess a unique aspect. We typically pursue projects that have some type of challenge associated with them. This is where we perform the best. We are solution-oriented and look for ways to solve problems.
We understand that all Gaylor employees — regardless of role/position — are encouraged to go through the 4-year Electrical Apprenticeship program.
Yes, we encourage all of our employees across the company to go the comprehensive four-year Apprenticeship program, regardless of their role/position within the company. It takes a significant commitment to attend class 2 nights per week while working full-time. But it’s worth it. Because I completed the program, I understand first-hand what all of our electricians go through. This also helps build lasting relationships between the office and our field staff.
You recently assumed the role Chair of ABC of the Carolinas’ Charlotte Council for the 2018 term. Why do you think it’s important to get involved in such an organization and what do you hope to accomplish?
I accepted this role to give back to the industry. It is important to belong to ABC to help provide a unified voice for merit shop contractors in the construction industry. We are working to help change the perception of how construction is seen and to find ways to get more people involved in construction. As a member of ABC, Gaylor gets to network with all of the industry. We also utilize ABC for our electrical training and apprenticeship programs. ABC is also a political voice helping to fight for “right to work” states and make sure the laws allow open competition and safer work environments.
What other professional organizations do you belong to and/are involved with?
I serve on the Board of Directors for the Carolina Electrical Contractors Association (CECA).
How does Gaylor give back to communities where you work?
We believe in making a difference whenever we can. Here are just a few examples of entities and programs that we support: Adopt a Road; Toys for Tots; Iredell Sheriff’s Office; and Lake Norman High School.
Talk about some of your recent projects.
We have the ability to perform all types of projects. We recently won three Excellence in Construction (EIC) awards from ABC of the Carolinas:
- Red Ventures RV4 Project – Training Center
- DRT – Turpentine Plant
- Phillip Simmonds – High School
Other recent projects:
- US Foods Distribution Center
- Harbor Freight Distribution Center
- University Dental Office
- Baklavor – Bakery
- Charter Nex – Plastics extrusion
- Amesbury Truth – Manufacturing Facility
- Windsor Run – Assisted Living
Most influential book, favorite book, or best-read lately.
Blue Ocean Strategy.
Camping, hiking, recreational shooting, carpentry, and coaching my kids’ sports.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
New opportunities, growth, and making tomorrow better than today.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Clear communication and keeping a focus on what is the priority at the current time. As part of this always being 100% present with those around me so the time is meaningful.
About Gaylor Electric, Inc. – Gaylor Electric is one of the largest merit electrical companies in the Midwest. Gaylor is an award-winning electrical design-build contractor, which operates 13 offices in seven states across the U.S., including five Indiana locations. Visit www.gaylor.com.
About the ABC National Young Professionals Program – ABC’s Young Professionals program was founded in 2014 and aims to shape the future of the construction industry by supporting the growth of professionals under the age of 40 who are employed by ABC member companies. This program was established to develop the next generation of leadership within Associated Builders and Contractors and to encourage networking between the “best and brightest” of the young professionals in construction. In an effort to bridge the workforce shortage gap, ABC National’s program addresses the opportunities to engage both students and young professionals and assisting with leadership development at the chapter level.