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Spotlight - Steven Simpson, President

image Steven Simpson, President of SB Contractors LLC

AUSTIN - Steven Simpson always knew he wanted to run his own company, work with big, heavy equipment, and move dirt. About two years ago, he finally made his dream come true.

Tell me about your early years.
    I was born in the valley, in Falfurrias, TX and lived there until my family moved to New Braunfels when I was in the first grade.  I lived there until college.

What did your parents do?
    My dad worked for Exxon Oil, and Johnson Oil Company later on.  He’s pretty much done that his whole life.   My mom did a lot of different things.  She worked at Southwest Texas (Texas State University) for a long time.  She also worked for the Comal school district as an administrative assistant,  probably since I was in middle school until she retired. 

After high school, did you go straight to college?  What did you major in?
    Yes, I started out at Texas Tech and then transferred over to Texas A & M.   Early on I started out in civil engineering until I realized I wasn’t very good on the computer and switched over to construction science and got my degree.

Tell me about the companies you have worked for that helped groom you.
    I got married about a week before I started working for Keiwit. I was in their heavy civil department, basically roads and bridges.  After we had our first son,  we wanted to get back to this area and I was lucky enough to get a job with Hunter Industries between New Braunfels and San Marcos.  We did some jobs along I-35 in New Braunfels, Comal and Bexar Counties.
    Zachry picked up a large job on 410 in San Antonio.   I always enjoyed the bigger jobs at my time with Keiwit and wanted to get back into larger projects, so I went to work for Zachry.  I spent about five years on the 410 project, between Airport and I-35 in San Antonio.  They put me in their estimating department for right under a year, which really helped me learn the estimating side of construction.  I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of good people who have taught me a lot of things.  

What made you decide to start your own company?

    I had been kicking the idea around for about 12 years.  While working on the Waller Creek project in Austin with Zachry, which took about three years, I decided it was time to stop kicking it around.

Why did it take so long to start your own company?

    For me, I felt like there was a lot more I needed to know.  I got a lot of good experience with the people I’ve worked for at different times.  It wasn’t until I got the estimating experience with Zachry that enabled me to do what I do.  At Zachry, they really teach you how to be a complete person as far as the ins and outs of the business;  the construction, the estimating, and all sides.  I was a utilities’ superintendent, dirt superintendent, estimator; I’ve done structures with them.  They gave me a lot of opportunities to learn a lot of different things.

Once you decided to make that jump to start your own business, how difficult was it?

    The most difficult part of it was making the jump with the family and the unknown.  I was lucky enough to find partners with Beard Drilling.  They’re a good family.  They had a lot of faith in me.  As far as the business side goes, they really helped out and understood how to get it going and what it took to start.  I was mainly the road building experience.  I had built a lot of things, and with what they had and what I had to offer, it really worked out.

How did your wife feel about you branching out on your own?

    She was very supportive.  She has always known that’s what I’ve wanted to do.  For us, a lot of it was the timing.  We have four kids, so it was always when to do it, when’s the right time.  There’s really no right time, you just have to commit yourself and do it.

What challenges have you faced getting your business started?
    Early on it was the recognition, the company recognition.  A lot people knew who we were individually, but not necessarily who SB Contractors was.  We fought some of the battles early on as do these guys know what they’re doing, which was hard for us, because we could pull up in our Zachry trucks and everybody just assumed we knew what we were doing; so we were a little taken back.  On the labor side, we were real lucky to have some guys come to work for us right away and then they were a few that were a little leery to come on over because for them it was kind of an unknown too.  Some were worried about how long we were going to be around and what were we going to do.  And we had some guys that really believed in us and still do.  A lot of those guys that started with us are still here.  I plan to be here for a long time.

Tell me about your kids.  How many kids do you have?
    I have four kids.  I have a 13-year old son, Reid; a 12-year-old daughter, Bryson; a 9-year-old son, Gram; and a 5-year-old son, Hunt.  They are a full-time job as well.  We spend seven days a week at a baseball field, and my daughter is a cheerleader.  That takes up quite a few weekends, as well as evenings.  Sometimes you have to get to work to relax.  We know this isn’t going to last forever, but for now, we just go.  I think this week from this afternoon through Sunday, we have six or seven baseball games scheduled.

Do you and your wife have to tag team to fit it all in?
    A lot of it is taking one here and one there.  We try our best to be at every event, but sometimes there are two games at the same time, different places or  there’s a cheerleading competition in Austin and a tournament in San Antonio so we have to split things up.  But we’re also very blessed to have parents that live in New Braunfels, both her parents and mine, so we’re able to call them up and say can you take them here and be there for that.  It’s been good.  We’re glad we came back down here.

You mentioned your parents and your wife’s parents are very involved in helping you with your kids, how much more do they offer you as far as supporting you in your endeavors?

    I can’t begin to tell you how much they support us.  My mom is probably my biggest supporter.  Aside from my mom, my aunt works here, and I have two cousins that work here, so we have this family thing going on here.

Tell me about your wife.
    My wife, Brittany, is probably the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.  I met her when I was 15-years-old.  She was going to be a freshman in high school and I was going to be a sophomore.  We dated all through high school and most of college.  She was going to Southwest, now Texas State University and I was going to Texas A & M.  We broke up for about two years and ended up running into each other in Dallas, got back together and were married within a year.  It’s been great; she’s amazing.

It sounds like the two of you have a good, strong family life, which helps in having a good working career?

    Yes, she has always been very supportive, even when I was working with Zachry and Keiwit, working seven days a week, nights, just a lot of hours, she really took care of the family and really understood that we had to work to get things going.
    She actually went back to school to finish about four or five years after we got married because she was probably about a year from finishing when we got married, then had to move to Dallas so I could go to work with Keiwit.  She got her degree and started teaching.  She taught fifth grade for a year or two until she realized that she really wanted to be with the kids, so she got her real estate license and has done really well.  She tries to work two days a week so she can be home with the kids.

How much time do find yourself spending at work now that the business is established?
    At the office, I still estimate every job, but I try to spend as much time out in the field.  Being out on the jobs is more my passion.  I enjoy being out there with the guys building stuff, trying to solve issues on the project and just getting out.  The guys, I think when they see you working, they tend to push a little more.  I try to balance it as much as I can.  We work as much as we need to.

Who was your biggest influence when you started in the industry?

    That’s a difficult question.  For me it was not so much influence, it was more about survival.  I had a kid, I was married, it was more about supporting them; the harder I could work, the more I could provide.   To me, it’s my family.  They are my influence.  –cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net