From getting a Political Science degree and aspiring to be the President of USA, to becoming Executive Vice President and Partner of a renowned construction firm called Friede & Associates, Scott Truehl’s journey is inspiring and filled with learning. “I have been incredibly lucky with my career and had great mentors and people who gave me chances to grow, succeed, and fail,” shares Scott. Since childhood, Scott was never afraid of challenges, doing things in unique ways, or dreaming big.
Speaking about ambitions, in high school, Scott thought he wanted to become the President of the US. That’s huge, right? Well, to get that political career started, he spent two years working part-time in the Wisconsin State legislature during his college days. From there, Scott then served as the Governmental Affairs Director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce for six years and realized that he really enjoyed working with the business community instead of working in the political arena. He then joined Wisconsin Power & Light (now Alliant Energy), a growing regional gas & electric utility and held several leadership positions in Economic Development, Local Field Operations, Director of State & Local Governmental Affairs for the next eight years.
“During my last couple of years working with community economic development agencies, I assembled a group of general contractors to help me put together building proposals for many of my prospects looking to locate in Wisconsin. A number of these firms offered me a chance to join them, and here I am,” reveals Scott. An upward career trajectory such as his is worth taking notes from.
A Trusted Name for Four Generations
In 1945, Friede Brothers started its journey as a hard bid governmental and commercial general contractor serving a 30-mile service area. More than 40 years later, the company switched gears, and changed its focus towards design-build projects, and took the name of Friede & Associates. This was when Scott joined the company as its Executive Vice President & Partner.
“What really excited me about Friede & Associates was the sense that I could really make a difference,” says Scott. Roger Friede represented the fourth generation of his family to run the company, so he knew the company had the staying power to be successful. What Scott brought to the table was the vision and uniqueness that would make Friede & Associates stand apart from its competitors. Scott adds, “We discussed how together we could create a professional services company that could help businesses looking to expand with much more than just building or renovating their buildings. We knew we could do much more.”
Assisting Clients at Every Step of the Way
Based on his previous experiences as a realtor, city council member, and economic development specialist, and, Friede & Associates’ 40 years of commercial experience, Scott, and his team noticed that building is just one part of the overall expansion project for their clients. Pointing out client limitations, Scott says, “We realized that for most of our clients, the building is the largest investment they will ever make, and most of them have never done it before. So this is where we come in. We can take the entire burden off our clients for the construction process so they can continue to focus on their business.”
Today, under Scott and Roger’s leadership, the team of Friede & Associates is helping clients every step of the way – right from finding the right site to constructing their building, to arranging financing, to building the building, and so much more in the middle.
A Hands-on Leader
“I see my role as helping show our team where we are going and how they can make that happen,” mentions Scott. When it comes to his leadership style, Scott is a hands-on leader who invests himself in the day-to-day needs and operations of the business. Most days you will find Scott knee-deep in conversation with either project managers or estimators, or key subcontractors, trying to find the best building solution for their clients and partners. These discussions revolve around the challenges they are trying to work through on specific projects, and the variety of potential solutions. From a team’s point of view, this is extremely important: being heard and understood. Hence, Scott’s team knows that they can approach him for assistance and support at any time.
One of Scott’s “catch phrases” is “bad news doesn’t get better with age.” “By this, I mean don’t put off the tough calls to our customers or being hesitant to bring my partner or me in on issues early if they need help. We can help work through the problems and get to solutions, rather than having an issue continue to cause problems and affect everything else they or our crews are doing,” explains Scott.
A Typical Workday
Scott is an early riser. His typical day begins at 4:45 a.m. and then includes a 75-minute commute to the office. On his drive, Scott typically handles calls from subcontractors and field supervisors who are just getting to their job sites and are looking to discuss their work for the day. “Typically, I split my days evenly between meetings in my office, at client or prospects offices, or on our job sites,” shares Scott. He is the type of leader who makes every minute count. His day usually wraps up in the office between 5:30 – 6 p.m. and Scott heads back home and wraps up the day by getting updates on his projects or communicating with clients. Scott then catches national news on the radio or listens to audiobooks or podcasts to always be learning and to wind down his day. It is his way of striking a work-life balance.
Game Plan during the Pandemic
“We immediately identified and invested in the technology we needed to operate completely remotely,” claims Scott. During the pandemic, Roger & Scott held a quick 30-minute meeting each day with the office staff to stay connected and to deal with the numerous issues that the team faced each day, in both their personal and professional lives. Sometimes, they were about the pandemic, how supply chain breakdowns were affecting their jobsites and other days the discussions focused on how the team dealt with home-schooling and remote learning for their children. Towards the end of the morning huddle, everyone shared their work plans, objectives to be achieved for the day, and if any assistance or inputs were required from other team members.
Moreover, all the superintendents from various projects sites we also asked to join the call once a week to keep everyone in the loop about what challenges they were facing in the field. “By taking these actions, we could keep everyone in our company informed of what was going on and let everyone know that we all were in this together and each of us was dealing with unique challenges,” continues Scott.
Building a Boat in a Bottle
A few years back, Scott and his team of Friede & Associates took on an ambitious project in the Wisconsin Dells. This project involved constructing an indoor go-kart track and an amusement center in a building that would fit within the three wings of a large resort. They were also required to create an indoor/outdoor pool and swim-up bar in an adjacent waterpark at the resort. All the construction would replace a large outdoor pool and deck area surrounded by guest rooms. Their main challenges, according to Scott, were an operational deadline of 6 months (November to May), restricted 5 days working along with late morning shifts starting after 9.00 am. To top this off, the crews faced record snows and frigid temperature for the entire month of January.
Soon after its completion, a state construction magazine wanted to do a feature story on Friede & Associates and the project, where Scott, the project manager, and superintendent were interviewed and questioned about their challenges. “As I was thinking to myself of all the challenges and hurdles our team had faced, I suddenly realized that the other guys were still sitting silently and looking at each other. I spoke up and said, “guys, what do you think?” They smiled back and said, “Hey, it’s what we do. We’re used to doing the weird and exciting projects like this.” And that was the moment that our “We Do Weird Well” tagline was created. “Anyone can build a box, but We Do Weird Well,” says Scott with a smile.
Present Plans & Future Goals
Now, Scott’s number one priority is recruiting employees and adding them to the company’s foundation. For Friede & Associates, numerous opportunities are coming their way, but the limited staff is posing a hurdle. Scott actively converses with high school industrial arts students and makes them aware of the construction industry’s benefits and avenues as a career. From conducting job fairs to posting job vacancies on recruiting sites, to talking with head-hunters and some of his key trade partners, Scott is leaving no stones unturned in finding the future workforce.
Scott says, “While most construction firms cut back on their sales & marketing expenditures during the pandemic, we opened a new satellite office in Madison in September of 2020 and added sales & marketing staff.” Today, they are witnessing this investment’s first-hand benefits, opening doors to multiple avenues for growth and expansion. In this regard, Friede will continue to hire and build their talent pool in the coming years.
A Sage Advice for the Aspiring Leaders
Over the years, Scott has learned many important lessons on what it takes to be a leader. He suggests, “First, realize that you cannot do everything yourself. You need to surround yourself with the best team you can and then do everything you can to get out of their way.” Teamwork is more paramount in the construction industry than in other sectors. Therefore, Scott’s idea is to hire the best team and take every possible measure to help them get better.
Sharing an anecdote about his initial days in the company, Scott says, “When I first got to Friede, I used to go out and work as a laborer on our jobs, helping place concrete or help with demolition or basic carpentry. After a few minutes, when the guys realized I was there to work, it was amazing to see how they let down their guard and talked about ways we could improve as a company and about things they didn’t like or understand about their jobs or processes.” Therefore, Scott asserts that getting out of the office and talking to employees on the job sites is essential.
Scott recommends young leaders never stop the learning process and continue to strive for growth opportunities. In today’s marketplace, someone is always doing it better, faster, or more economically. Hence, one must never get caught thinking they are the smartest in the room. And if so, find a different room. Lastly, Scott asks the leaders to never be afraid of knowledge sharing with industry peers. A healthy exchange of thoughts and experiences benefits everyone. This also increases possible collaborations and helps build a community network. To this end, Scott was also involved in the creation of the Construction Leadership Network, and international group of contractors that meet annually to share best practices and to support others in the industry. Scott’s a regular presenter at these conferences on topics ranging from sales training, to working with realtors & developers to creating a positive work culture…truly a man who walks the walk when it comes to helping others in the construction industry.