Nexen Construction’s CEO Eli Ace always knew he had a vision of something bigger, of being a part of something greater than himself.
Now, with an upcoming #Serve2024 initiative where employees take a year off to give back to the community, he’s making that vision a reality.
Having founded Julian-based Nexen in 2009, for the first several years of the company’s existence, he primarily managed the labor portion of large construction jobs arranged by a management company.
“The management company did the leg work, put us on projects and I just had the guys,” Ace said.
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He was looking for something more.
“Since I was a young kid, I wanted to work and be part of something bigger than myself, but I didn’t really know how. I didn’t think it was going to be in a business aspect,” he said. “I always really wanted to work for a business owner that (already) had the resources. I wanted to be a right-hand man to a really, really good leader.”
A new way of doing business
But Ace could never quite find the leader he was looking for. So, frustrated with Nexen’s way of doing business at the time, when his now-project manager Vitaly Glushak told him to go build the business he dreamed of while Glushak took over the field team management, Ace set out to become that leader himself.
“Three years ago, Vitaly pushed me out into the CEO role and he took the responsibility of the field. That’s when I realized I was actually in a role I enjoy. I get to network, be a part of the community,” Ace said.
Free of the demanding field management, he threw himself into learning all he could in preparation to build his business, hiring a business coach and taking advantage of business resources.
“All the sudden, the business started to take traction. It was really tough, but it really started to work out as we started putting people into the right roles,” Ace said.
He began to create a unified team, one that no longer needed to lean on the management company for work, but that could instead become a leader in the region, with a culture founded on core values Ace believes in.
“In 2009, we (weren’t really running as a business),” he said. “We were just a whole bunch of guys putting product on walls; we were getting paid by the management company. All the guys were subcontractors. There were no employees. I didn’t like that. I wanted to see a company full of employees.”
One requirement he has of those employees? They have to see the company’s vision.
“(Potential employees who) see the vision, those are the people we want to hire,” Ace said.
That vision revolves around the motto of “Build, Lead, Serve” and it’s a theme seen throughout every aspect of the company, particularly Nexen’s new #Serve2024 initiative. In 2024, Nexen will forgo all paid projects to donate its services to the community, with each employee splitting their time between volunteering, team-building exercises and personal pursuits, such as spending time with their family and traveling.
“I always saw passages in the Bible where the companies back in the day would take a year off as a company to really serve the community and have time of reflection, refocus and re-energize. I thought that would be really cool. I was always fascinated by that,” Ace said. “We’re going to take 2024 and we’re going to refresh, refocus, re-energize — take time to get together to workshop, team build and help out communities that are less fortunate around us.”
Preparing for #Serve2024
While Ace says he’s been warned he may lose some business and contractors due to what some people would call a rash decision, he said, regardless, he’ll gain a community, and community is a big part of his business goals.
“My vision has always been working in the community and building a business around the community,” he said.
Until 2024, Nexen plans to put the right precautions in place to ensure #Serve2024’s success; this includes building the company and leading the industry to then turn around and serve the Centre County area.
“Our company is in the building stage of the business. We’re building it up until 2020, and then from 2021 to 2023, we want to be leading our industry,” he said. “We want to get traction, a lot of profits. We want to go into execute mode. We want to get a lot of profit, a lot of savings, a lot of capital. The year before 2024, we want to make sure we have a lot of capital saved up, so that our employees are on a salary basis for the entire year.”
He also notes that Nexen is building up its core group of employees now, to get the right people in the right roles, just as Ace found his right role as the CEO of his company. When hiring, Nexen keeps its Build, Lead, Serve motto front and center.
“We’re building up a generation of leaders to serve their community with their God-given talents,” Ace said.
What happens for the company after 2024? Ace says he plans to have projects lined up for the start of 2025 and then the cycle of building, leading and serving will begin again. His goal is to conduct an initiative similar to #Serve2024 every seven years.