What according to you makes one a dynamic leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?
The definition of “dynamic” is “a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process”. Being a dynamic leader means being able to see and understand business trends that relate to your industry so you continue to make the business and your team successful. It means listening to the needs of clients and implementing services that the market wants. As the leader of my organization, Winston Engineering Inc, I am constantly listening to the “I wish you guys did [xyz]”.
Being a dynamic leader also means listening to the ideas of your team. They are the ones in the trenches so it is critical that you understand their needs and interests to keep the business moving.
Talk to us about your growing up years and your earliest memory as a leader.
I was born in Chicago, and I was a really shy kid. I absolutely hated having any attention on me and to a certain degree, I still don’t like attention. My first taste of leadership was on the basketball court. I became team captain in my senior year and I recall it being very awkward. It was confusing that I was made team captain because I was the leading scorer. Looking back on it, the best player on the team does not equate to being the best leader.
It wasn’t until college that I was elected for leadership in student organizations. I became President of my fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc Lambda Xi Chapter, and I was the Vice President of our local NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) chapter. In both roles I was forced to come out of my shell. You can’t sit in the back of the room and lead so I had to speak up to get my point across. Those years at Arizona State University were critical in my development as a leader.
What led to the formation of Winston Engineering Inc? What is the mission of the company?
I have always wanted to start my own business. In every organization I’ve worked for, I always saw better ways of doing things. Most companies I’ve worked for were very large and things always seemed to move at a glacial pace. I knew there had to be a better way of doing things while making a good living.
The formation of Winston Engineering Inc came out the need to do things my own way. At the time I was working for an Electrical Contractor and commuting over 3 hours a day. I had a toddler with another on the way. I spent so much time on the road that I started to become irritable. Once I fully understood construction as it relates to Electrical Engineering, I realized there was an amazing opportunity so I started Winston Engineering LLC (later became Winston Engineering Inc).
Being the Owner, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?
I have been very intentional with the building of the team at Winston Engineering Inc. I heard all the time “You want to work on the business, not in the business.” I’m finally at a point where I can focus my attention on the business development side of things. I have such an amazing team. Everything funnels through our Office Manager and once the contractual items are worked out, the projects get assigned to our Drafter, Electrical Engineer and Mechanical Engineer. My goal is to create a system that doesn’t me there everyday so I can focus on making the machine bigger and better.
What has the journey been like for Anthony Winston over the years? Looking back, what would you have done different when starting out?
I would change absolutely nothing about my journey. I literally started this company with just a laptop and an idea. Sure I could have gained experience working for another Engineering firm prior to starting the company but there is beauty in fumbling around in the dark. I think the way we operate is very unique. Had I worked for another MEP firm, I probably would have implemented some of their systems.
What is the process followed by Winston Engineering when offering its services? How do you ensure optimal client satisfaction?
The process to offering service isn’t really a straight line in what we do. A lot of it is relationship building. There are so many different clients (Architects, General Contractors, Real Estate Developers, etc.) and you have to approach them in very different ways.
Client satisfaction is a weird term. First and foremost, public safety is number one when it comes to providing Engineering services as a licensed professional. Second is the client, third is the firm and fourth is the profession. I’m not making this up. This is the order of importance in the code of ethics for Engineering. Most of our work is right or wrong, is it to code or not. There have been times when a client wants us to do something unethical or against code and we flat out refuse. In those cases, client satisfaction is obviously low.
What would be your advice for young and aspiring business leaders?
I would encourage young leaders to find a mentor. That is critical because they can see blind spots. Also, always make your team your priority. Leaders seem to forget that their team are humans with emotions, feelings, families, friends, etc. They go through life’s ups and downs and you have to be there for them. Work is secondary. If your team is doing well, the work will almost always suffer.
I’d also recommend reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and Principles by Ray Dalio.
What has been the biggest roadblock during your journey? What has been your biggest learning?
I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily hit roadblocks. Roadblocks can always be moved with enough determination and grit. My biggest learning is being able to deal with clients. When I first started out, I put so much pressure on making the customer happy. “Happy” is such a relative term. I’ve learned to do the job right and customer satisfaction will come, especially once they have built their project.
Winston Engineering Inc. has a really bright future. Every few years we add more and more services. Most recently we added Fire Protection Engineering. We now have our sights on low voltage control design for HVAC systems as well as bringing Structural and Civil Engineering inhouse. So if there is anyone reading this who is a licensed Senior Structural or Civil Engineer, we’re looking for you!
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