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Groundbreaker Profile

Norman Hays of Elevated Construction: “Glass Half Full” and Rising.

Norman Hayes headshot

When you marry deep skills with an unstoppable attitude, you’re onto something.

Some folks put on “positivity” and the fit isn’t that great. You pass them striding down the hallway and their manufactured gusto is like a blast of bargain cologne. Others take the easier route, authentically embracing the moments—one by one—and living in sunlight, whatever the weather. One shining example of this life-embracing outlook is Norman Hays.

It’s no accident that Norman’s robustly successful company is called Elevated Construction. Is he a yoga guy? Guru robe, work boots, and hardhat? Um, not that we know of. He is a “lift two concrete forms and grin” guy. Norman looks like he could bench press a refrigerator. His nickname in college? Moose. Positivity doesn’t always wear Birkenstocks. Genuinely upbeat, Norman draws his vibe not from strenuous exercises in attitude, but from the discernible riches of daily life. Seriously. We asked Norman if we could have a word. Not surprisingly, he answered in the affirmative.

It’s that wonderment of being a child—combined with that passion that comes with the fleeting nature of life. You don't know when your bus ride is going to end, and you don't know how long you have on this planet. So for me, your attitude every day is everything. You have to take whatever comes to you and turn it into positivity.

Norman Hays

President

Aerial shot of Kiddie Academy education center

Norman, you exude such positivity and good humor, it's actually contagious. What role do you think attitude plays in success?

One of the things that I think is very underrated is attitude. Every day I have this theme that I wake up to—I pretend it's Christmas morning, and I think of what presents are out there today, and what can I capture? It’s that wonderment of being a child—combined with that passion that comes with the fleeting nature of life. You don't know when your bus ride is going to end, and you don't know how long you have on this planet. So for me, you have to take whatever comes to you and turn it into positivity.

How does this translate into Elevated Construction’s business practice, if at all?

One of the things we post around our office is “no negativity.” We really try to focus on positivity, and that's really led to a lot of our success. Clients like to see that as well because it carries right through. You're not a general contractor who is always complaining. You're coming up with creative solutions; being a part of the solution as opposed to being a problem that they have to add onto their plate of problems.

How did you find your way into construction?

I went to college to become a wrestling coach and a history teacher. As I moved through the major, I found that I didn't enjoy the history classes as much. I was looking for an academic direction. One of my friends said, "Hey, there's a construction class, and you get four hours of credit and you build a house. You’re actually onsite, physically building. Oh—and there’s no homework!" In that construction program, they would then sell the home through the National Association of Home Builders’ local chapter, take half the profits and send the students who built the house to the National Association of Home Builders Annual Convention. I said, "If this is the program, I'm in."

Your summer job during college was also construction-related?

To pay my way through school I went out and got a job with a concrete company. There were two college kids that were working there. The boss said, "Burn them out. I don't want them coming back." And I said, "What's that mean?" He says, "Anybody who works here has to work with the heart of a lion. So far this summer, we've been through 10 kids. No one lasts." So throughout the next two and a half summers, we went through literally 50 kids, and the longest anybody lasted was three days. I came to college on a wrestling scholarship. I definitely brought that competitive edge to the job every day. I was a heavyweight wrestler in school. I got the nickname Moose because I could carry two concrete forms at a time.

Stretch Lab office

Can you name a person or persons who inspired you, or were your mentors as you were coming up?

Everybody needs somebody to look up to, someone they can draw motivation from. My first and very impactful mentor is Bob Brinley, who I met at church. Bob asked me what I do for a living and I told him I owned Elevated Construction. He asked me how things were going and I told him we were struggling with the business end of running the company. Bob explained that he was retired but had been a Group President over 16 companies of a conglomerate that had 63 companies overall. He said with a smile “I think I know a thing or two about business” and immediately offered to mentor me–we have met every 2 weeks for 2 years. Bob has selflessly shared his experience and knowledge and has shown a genuine concern for my success–both personally and for Elevated Construction. His impact has been immeasurable and we would not be where we are today without him.

Another mentor would be Brandon Dawson and the Cardone Ventures Team. Cardone Ventures was founded by Grant Cardone and Brandon Dawson with a mission to help their clients and their teams achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals through the growth of their businesses. They're a huge part of how Elevated Construction has experienced such a tremendous growth in revenue and they have mentored the Elevated Team to improve in the areas operations, marketing, finance, and people. Through working with Brandon and the Cardone Ventures Team we have grown from $7.5M in sales in 2019 to $11.4M in sales 2020 (through COVID-19) and will exceed $40M in sales in 2021. Words cannot describe the impact they have had not only on Elevated Construction but me as a leader and business owner.

One of your personal themes seems to be about rapport-building. Why is that so fundamental?

Every individual on the planet wants to be heard. Everyone. They want to feel as if they're a part of something. And if you don't have a vision big enough that they feel like they can be part of it, then they feel like they're left on an island. When you can build rapport with someone, a common ground, you're not just hearing them—you're listening. That builds a bond, and you can work with people—push them, stretch the rubber band to help them become a better person, and a better overall team member. And you become a better person in the process, too. Rapport building is essential for success.

Norman, we use a term here at Procore; "Groundbreaker". It describes an individual who inspires and leads, not from in front, but from alongside—and someone who is excited by innovation and setting new standards. How might you personally define a groundbreaker based on your experience?

If I wasn't able to be a Groundbreaker, I wouldn't want to be in the construction industry. And it is such an outstanding industry. You get to put a team together, they work as a unit, and you end up with a beautiful product that will stand there for years to come! As time moves on and technology improves, that technology in the construction marketplace will help you differentiate yourself.

You know, I was able to come to your Austin office and speak to a group of about 40 young employees there. And I said, "Do you guys realize that you're sitting in the Microsoft of construction?" Partnering with someone like Procore really allows Elevated Construction to be Groundbreakers as well.

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