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Home | SAN ANTONIO | Spotlight | Spotlight - Colton Parnes, Parnes Construction

Spotlight - Colton Parnes, Parnes Construction

image Parnes Construction’s Colton Parnes

SAN ANTONIO - Colton Parnes grew up around construction, thanks to his dad, Grant Parnes, who started Parnes Construction more than 30 years ago. Today, Colton helps his father bring the company into the future, while enjoying the benefit of his father’s wealth of experience.




Share about your background and your introduction to construction.
    I’ve actually only lived in San Antonio. My family is small, and they are all also from here. In fact, there is a point in time when both of my grandparents, my dad, my mom and myself lived in a two-mile radius of each other!
    My dad’s dad worked for the homebuilder Morton Southwest. During summers in high school, my dad, Grant Parnes, was a roofer. When he graduated from Texas State University, a contractor he worked for encouraged him to do contracting on his own. So, my dad started doing construction projects and founded Parnes Construction in 1987; that’s what he’s been doing since.
    My parents are divorced, and my mom would take me to school in the morning then my dad would pick me up in the afternoon. So from 3:30 to 5, I would ride around to job sites with my dad. I was exposed to his work from a young age.

Did you think construction might be a future career?

    I didn’t really think about it much at all, to be honest with you. I went through a series of things that most kids want to do, such as be an astronaut or the President. When I got to junior high school, I thought about being an aerospace engineer. Then in high school, I considered being a lawyer and specializing in constitutional law, but while in college, I realized being so combative for a profession wasn’t for me. My general advisor was a professor in the economics department, and she suggested I take more economics classes. I ended up really enjoying those. By the time I got to my junior year at Trinity University, it was really easy to add a business major because there was an overlap in departmental requirements.
    I had several friends whose families had family businesses, which they were going to join when they graduated. I thought that sounded appropriate, especially since I graduated in 2013 at the end of the recession. I saw people many classmates struggling to secure a job. I figured if I was going to struggle to make money, I might as well do it on my own terms.
    My dad asked what I was going to do when I graduated. My mom has worked for Valero for 35 years, and Dad asked if I was going to interview there. I told him I liked what he did more; working for himself, answering to himself.

Was your dad receptive to the idea?
    He told me I could work with him, but that he was not going to hire me. He said, if I wanted, after graduation I could make some phone calls, find new customers we hadn’t worked for, and they could be my clients, so that’s exactly what I did. One of my grandad’s friends from his development days worked for a commercial property company here. He helped organize some new contacts for me and sent some work my way. I met a few people from his office, and when they left his office and went to work for other companies, they introduced me to people at their offices and a few calls later…

Did you find that making connections came naturally to you?
    In some ways, I’m a people person and in some, I’m not. It depends on the other person. I get along with people easily if someone is able to have a conversation. Some people were easier to relate to and have that conversation with than others. There’s the saying “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” People like to compartmentalize and separate the two. But in reality, business is incredibly personal. It’s the people you relate to the most who become your best customers.

What is it like working with your dad six years later?
    Now, my dad and I each have about the same client base. About 50% of the work we do is on my side, and about 50% of the work we do is on his side. On day-to-day tasks, we team up and help each other complete jobs.
    We don’t sit around in sports coats in an office anywhere. My office is in my house, his office is in his house. When you call me, I answer, not a secretary. My morning time is for computer work and paperwork; things I need to get done before 5 o’clock in case I’m not back at my desk before then. About 10 o’clock, we meet up and go deliver materials, check on jobs, look at new jobs together, do walk throughs, pick up and drop off plans, and fill/dump our job site trash trailer. We’re both really hands-on. It keeps our overhead really low, not having an office or staff. We try to do as much stuff as we can ourselves because, what else are we going to do; plus “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” It just makes sense.

Do you and your dad complement each other?
    My dad and I make a pretty good team. Overall, we have very similar directions and goals. I might be a little more of a go-getter in getting new work, but then he still has other traits where, having done it for so long, he’s still better at. I’m probably better with keeping things up to date and/or bringing them into the future. On the other hand, he can walk into a building and just see things and realize that’s not the way it should be done. He also has this really funny knack where he can remember people’s phone numbers without using a phone’s contacts feature. No one can do that anymore! But then, I’ll catch him double checking he attached a file to an email correctly. We tease each other a lot.
    Also, when it comes to getting paid or negotiating, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt if they are running late on a payment. After a while, at a certain point I can be very direct with people. My dad is just direct up front. It’s a good balance to have both perspectives on a team.
    It’s fun to work with my dad. People ask me if I like working for him, but I remind them that I work with him. I don’t think I could work for him (or anyone else, honestly), but I really do like working with him. We work very well together.

What do you enjoy about your work?
     I like the flexibility in being the only person telling me what to do. I could be irresponsible and just not go to work. I wouldn’t be fired, but I wouldn’t be successful. I like waking up knowing there is no limit to what I can do. It’s great motivator. I think that is the quintessential “like.” That’s what is great about America: you can work for yourself and if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s a choice either way. No one made me work for myself, but at the same time, I didn’t have to work for someone else. I think that’s what this country was founded for.

What do you enjoy in your free time?

    In the beginning of my mom’s job at Valero, she worked at the corporate hangar at San Antonio Airport where the company kept its business planes. When I was around my mom at work, I was around airplanes and I thought that was so intriguing. That started there and stuck; I’ve always liked planes as long as I can remember. One of these days when I’m not so busy with my other hobbies, I’ll try and get my pilot’s license. I already have several hours.
    Aviation and outdoors activities seem go hand-in-hand, and I can’t think of the last time I flew on a plane and didn’t have a rifle with me.  Every time I go somewhere, I’m going hunting. That’s something my dad and I do together outside of work. He’s not as big of a hunter as I am, but wherever I want to go, he doesn’t want to miss out on it. He wants to be a part of it even if he’s not going to pull the trigger on something. It takes up a big chunk of our free time. I was in Cameroon in February and Mozambique about a month ago and we’ll be in Alaska in a week. I think it’s gone past a hobby; it’s an obsession! I have a list of things, a lengthy list of things, I would like to go and hunt. It’s a fun goal to have.
    In short, my life is really simple: it’s either construction or hunting or fishing.

What are your future plans?
    I don’t think my dad has plans to retire soon. I think he’s happy with what we’re doing. He doesn’t mind me trying to grow the business and do more work. He’s not going to prepare the charge, so to speak; that’s up to me, but he’ll assist me in any way he can. Eventually, I would like to hire more project managers so that we can do more work. I aim to keep doing what we’re doing, but on a bigger scale.
    San Antonio general contractor Parnes Construction offers pre-construction consulting, commercial remodeling and commercial new construction. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net