Procore set out to find the companies, projects and individuals that stood out for their bold achievements in construction. Among the 27 outstanding finalists selected, nine were named winners of the 2023 Groundbreaker Awards. This article is the third in a nine-part series spotlighting each winner.
The path to the C-suite in construction is different for everyone. Some have always wanted to be a CEO and pursue degrees to help them achieve it, some carry on the legacy of a family business and still others pivot from various industries to join the ranks of construction leadership.
For Casey French, the road to becoming CEO of Clark Construction Inc. (CCI) was a unique one. French got his start in the field, inspired by his parents and their entrepreneurial spirits, and eventually founded construction companies in Oregon and Washington while continuing to work in the trades.
While French was working as a subcontractor for CCI, its founder, Rachele Turnbull, asked him if he’d be interested in joining her budding construction business.
“I looked at what that was going to do for my career path, since Clark was still a young business at that point in time. Rachele had a vision and idea of how a construction company should be run and we aligned a lot there,” says French.
French joined CCI as a superintendent, later rising to a general manager role. In 2022, French succeeded Turnbull as CEO. Committed to carrying on the existing culture without disruption, he worked closely to retain and reaffirm the trust of the team.
“What makes me the most proud is seeing that when I interact with the team, nothing has changed just because I have the title of CEO,” shares French. “We still laugh, we still joke — the culture of the company didn’t shift. It was very organic.”
A culture of collaboration
Taking the helm of a female-founded, employee-owned company, French set out to continue Turnbull’s legacy while providing his own unique perspective. After coming up in the trades and holding a variety of positions, French understood the importance of creating an environment that honors the contributions of both the field and the office. As CCI self-performs certain functions of the business, French doesn’t let the hard work on every jobsite go unnoticed.
“A good CEO has to keep a finger on the pulse of the people who make up the industry,” French believes. “It’s really about those individuals who are out on the jobsites, actually building the structures, pouring the concrete, pushing through it when it’s rainy at 6:30 in the morning. Remembering the struggles that those individuals go through and being empathic to those situations is important.”
Fostering good relationships within field and office teams, as well as with the specialty contractors CCI regularly interacts with is vital to French.
“Sometimes, there can be that disparity between the field and office. I think it’s really important to bridge the gap that can sometimes exist in construction, and we’ve been very intentional about how we do things, from our team building activities to the ways that our project teams are set up,” says French.
Opening doors and providing fresh perspectives
French champions digital transformation, crediting technology for being a key part of CCI’s growth and success, and also framing CCI as an attractive place to work for tech-savvy young talent looking to break into construction.
“We identified nearly 10 years ago that technology in construction was lacking, and if CCI wanted to reach its goals, we were going to have to implement some of these things — and Procore was the first,” recalls French.
French’s unique career path also serves as an example in how he interacts with the whole CCI team. With transparency and honesty as key personal cornerstones, French is eager to be a mentor for those dreaming big in construction. His advice is, “don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.”
By offering possibilities, French hopes to also attract new talent who are considering a career in construction, and that brings him joy.
“Not every door opens, but if I can provide that door of opportunity in front of people, and show them a way to better themselves, to build a better life for them and their families — then I feel I’ve done my job,” says French.
As French continues his groundbreaking work as CEO at CCI, he’s sure to inspire the next generation of construction.