Welcome to Millionaire Monday! You read that right. In honor of ESOP Month, we wanted to up the ante this October to show you that our ESOP really means business. Meet our employee-owners who, based on their ESOP account balances, are members of the “Millionaires Club.”
Michael T. Crane
Years of Service: 27 years since 1994
Q: Can you walk us through your journey here at ESS?
I began my career with ESS in 1994. Man, I knew nothing about construction. I had graduated from Hickman High School, was 20 years old and needed a job. Pete Grathwohl helped me get a laborer position making $7.00 an hour. After 30 days of hard work, I earned a $1.00 raise and thought I was crushin’ it. Fast-forward four years later, and I became a trimming foreman. I held that role for quite a while. It was really where I cut my management teeth. It’s where I like to say I learned that managing people can be a whole lot tougher than simply overseeing construction projects. During my long stint as a foreman, I went on a rare vacation. I was minding my business on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean when I got a call from Justin Gay, former Vice President of our Columbia team. He offered me a role as a project superintendent. Serving in this role since, I’ve had the opportunity to build a wide variety of projects throughout the greater Columbia community: single-family developments, tough municipal street projects, to truck stops in the middle of winter, high-profile industrial projects, and mission critical airport projects. I’m proud to say my team’s have built it all – The ESS Way.
Q: As a veteran EO, what advice would you give to younger employee-owners?
Stick it out, work hard. There will be tough times, there will be gooood times.
This culture is built on speed. We’ve built a reputation on our ability to provide high-performance services. It’s hard work for sure, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Q: How would you hype up the ESOP?
I would tell them what the ESOP started as and I would share my experience with it. For the first few years, I didn’t see much but then the spikes started happening. It becomes real money. Retirement may not mean much when you’re young, but when you get to my age in your 40’s it matters. Our work is seasonal, but think about how you save, how you make your money work for you.
Q: How do you plan to spend your ESOP money?
My wife is a financial advisor. So my money is definitely going to fund a diversified portfolio. I hope to live off the dividends. Whatever gets me to the water. Once I’m gone you better come find me at the Lake of the Ozarks….I’ll be there. Hosting my family and drinking a bottle of bud light.
Can you share a favorite memory from your time with ESS?
Watching the people I helped mentor succeed. When someone you’ve coached becomes a foreman and begins to pass that knowledge along, it feels like we’ve created a legacy where the ESS culture is going to live one through the next generations.
Give a KUDOS to somebody that was influential in your career:
1. Pete Grathwohl, my uncle. He’s been an incredible part of my career. He’s been my champion. A very tough couch, but someone who pushed me to be better.
2. Larry Sapp (Brian Sapp’s Dad). He was a long-time employee at Sapp. A superintendent. I learned how to both manage people and projects from him. Tough but fair and honest to a fault. A great guy to learn the ropes from. His knowledge was never-ending.
3. Justin Gay. He drove me crazy a lot of days, but he really inspired me. Now that he’s gone, I realize just how much of an impact he had on me and the entire ESS family.
Q: Is there anything else that employee-owners should understand about the ESOP?
There’s a misconception that the ESOP isn’t real or that it won’t matter to you. Take it from me, a guy that started as a Laborer at $7/hour. It’s d*mn real. And it’s made all the difference for me and my family. Stick it out. It will do the same for you.