Mike Trammell is the Managing Partner of the Spartanburg, S.C. office of Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG), a Top 20 public accounting firm offering assurance, tax and advisory services to clients nationwide and internationally. A leader of the DHG Construction Group, Trammell has 35 years of experience working as a trusted advisor to contractors of all types and sizes.
Trammell’s career history includes serving as CFO of a general contractor, as well as owning his own accounting, tax and consulting business, Trammell & Company, which merged into DHG nearly 15 years ago. He also holds a South Carolina General Contractor’s license.
Dedicated to ensuring the long-term health of the construction industry and its member firms, Trammell is actively involved with key contractor associations – regularly speaking about accounting and costing issues, as well as such industry issues as financial management, strategic planning and construction legislation.
In this exclusive interview with GroundBreak Carolinas, Trammell gives us insight into his background and how it prepared him for his present-day role.
You graduated from Wofford College with two Bachelor of Arts degrees: one in Accounting, the other in Philosophy. How do you use your philosophy degree in your role with DHG?
Critical Thinking. Studying Philosophy taught me to question everything, and to be skeptical of easy answers. Accounting taught me skills to earn a good living. Philosophy taught me to look beyond the numbers in searching for any answer.
You attended the US Air Force Academy before attending Wofford College. How did that experience prepare you for your career?
It taught me to balance confidence with humility. Being around “hot shots” is exhilarating. It is also humbling. No matter how “all that” you think you might be, there are always those who are more talented and/or work harder. Be on your game, every day!
You’ve written articles about the transition of ownership and leadership in our industry, as well as succession planning. How did you become a trusted source on this subject?
I saw the successes and I saw the failures. I questioned the differences. The differences were rarely about markets, or capital, or intellect. The differences were usually about character, and culture, and vision. An advisor’s role is to bring clarity to the situation.
You worked as a CFO for a General Contractor earlier in your career. Is this experience what led you to an interest in construction?
That was the furtherment, but not the genesis. I worked jobsites as a teen and thought I wanted to be an architect. I was an engineering major before I attended Wofford. So, I have always been fascinated by the building and creating of structures and machines. The financial and operational issues seem intuitive to me, as I have seen the industry from the field laborer to the C-suite.
What do you like the most about your job?
Getting to work with the people in the construction industry. Contractors tend to be interesting and forthright individuals. Most of the good ones have little pretense, and little patience for nonsense. I enjoy those people. And the opportunity to work with them as they build businesses and people’s careers, is exciting to me.
What is the biggest difference at DHG today compared to when you started with the company in 2006?
DHG is now a national caliber firm with resources in multiple industries and service lines, beyond traditional tax and assurance. When we work to help a client, the toolbox is much more plentiful, and powerful.
The coronavirus has certainly disrupted most industries. How has it affected your business?
We have been in a work-from-home environment since March 14. With technology, we have continued to do most everything that we do, just with a different delivery model. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting adapt well to most of what we do. Our contractor clients have mostly kept working and we have been able to continue to work alongside them.
Who is someone that you considered a role model early in life? How did this person impact your career?
Dave Kesler, my first “boss” after college. One of the best thinkers I have ever known. We disagreed about most everything – religion, politics, society, you name it; and we argued about it. But he lived and worked and argued with passion and intellect. And he was my dear friend until the day he died. I miss him.
What are the most important traits of successful leaders today?
Sincerity, transparency, and honesty; or in today’s vernacular, “keeping it real.” I am more of a fan of The Velveteen Rabbit than The Art of War, and I have read, and recommend, both.
What are your favorite questions to ask those that you lead?
“What are your goals in life?” I want to know what is important to them. Do they start with business or personal or relational? How do they define success? As I have watched baby boomers, to Gen X, to Gen Y, et al, these responses have evolved. I think that perspective is a powerful tool.
What is one of your goals that you’re still working on?
Allocating time and energies based on relative value. I’m not sure it’s possible.
What are you reading?
I am re-reading An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.
What do you like to do for fun?
Be a grandfather, play music, and hang out with friends and family.
About Mike Trammell and DHG Construction
Learn more about Mike Trammell and DHG’s construction services.