COO of CEC Corporation (Oklahoma City, OK), a multidiscipline firm with a focus on eliminating aging infrastructure and driving community growth through innovative design.
By Liisa Andreassen
As COO of CEC Corporation, Glenn is expected to find new areas for growth and improvement within each of the company’s practices in harmony with the overall company vision. His responsibility is to maintain accountability by setting clearly defined goals and then measuring results against the goals. He is charged with creating and implementing new processes that enable CEC to best serve its clients and employees.
Glenn has also served as the Engineer of Record on numerous projects including the Tulsa Inner-Dispersal Loop (South Leg) Rehabilitation, the OSU-Stillwater Pavement Evaluation, the I-44 and Lynn Lane Bridge Replacement in Tulsa, OSU Athletic Village Phase II development, and the Creek Turnpike & Aspen Avenue Interchange in Broken Arrow.
“I think the key is to always try to improve something every day,” Glenn says. “If you look at it all at once, it will be too much for you. Just improve one thing every day.”
A conversation with Doug Glenn.
The Zweig Letter: Tell me about “Civil Servants.” How was this organization conceptualized? Who is involved?
Doug Glenn: Civil Servant was really the dream of our president, Marty Hepp. It provides a means for us to organize the giving of our time, talents, and treasure back to our communities. All of our employees have the opportunity to be involved, and we really encourage participation throughout our various work teams. Melissa Leyba is the formal director of the organization and does a fantastic job.
TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely?
DG: Those who could function at home were telecommuting full-time for 11 weeks. Our people really stepped up to the plate and kept things running relatively unimpeded, and they are all to be commended. As we have transitioned back to the office, we developed long-term options for flexible work hours and part-time telecommuting, and our employees have really taken to it.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
DG: We posed this question to our Practice and Corporate leadership just last week, and it really varies from person to person. In general, as a growing company, we are consistently facing that struggle of folks transitioning from working in every project to leading teams and leading leaders.
TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers?
DG: We are trying to be better at determining who might be good people managers in the first place. It used to be that if you were a good engineer, you got promoted out of it. As we grow, we are putting a hard focus on identifying who should follow a people management career path while also developing good rewards for those following a technical track.
TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate.
DG: The saying, “the only thing constant is change” is probably incorrect. Change doesn’t seem to be constant. It is accelerating. Just look at 2020. Moreover, trying to predict every little change is probably not a good use of time either. We focus on flexibility and adaptability. If we can react to changing environments quickly, we will have the greatest opportunity for continued success.
TZL: How do you handle a long-term principal who is resting on his or her laurels? What effect does a low-performing, entitled principal or department head have on firm morale?
DG: Maintaining a leadership team that shares our core values is non-negotiable. We can work on slumping financial performance. We can lift each other up when one part of the company is in a valley. However, we can’t do that unless we’re all in alignment and working together.
TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced?
DG: We use an outside firm to place a valuation on our business. It is just a better way to get past feelings and biases. It has worked well thus far.
TZL: You were picked as a Zweig Group 2020 Hot Firm. What do you most attribute your fast growth and positive economic outcome to?
DG: We are a very faith-based organization. We try to operate by the core values of honesty, humility, self-control, and generosity. When all of our team members are in accord to live out those values and work together, growth and positive economic outcomes will typically follow.
TZL: What have been the greatest challenges during this growth period? How resolved?
DG: Well, I wouldn’t say that all of our challenges are ever totally resolved. I think our challenges are not at all unique. Twenty years ago, we had three employees, so over time we’ve faced all of the expected tasks of developing HR policies, accounting systems, managing a vehicle fleet, etc. I think the key is to always try to improve something every day. If you look at it all at once, it will be too much for you. Just improve one thing every day.
TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way?
DG: Do not put someone into a position that is not aligned with their gifts. You both will be miserable, and it is a lot more difficult to undo it than to avoid it in the first place.
TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs?
DG: We have a class for new project managers or those that are soon to get into it. We cover everything from business development to budgeting, scheduling, pricing, communication – you name it. After a few years of that, we are starting to develop some follow-up classes for those a little further along.
TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s?
DG: We are a fairly young company. Most of our principals are in their late 30s or have aged into their early 40s. You obviously need some level of experience and expertise to become a leader, but that is secondary. There are no magic numbers set on years of experience or dollars generated. Character comes first.