In August, Nexstar Network announced Julian Scadden would replace Jack Tester as president and CEO, effective Nov. 1. Plumbing & Mechanical Chief Editor Nicole Krawcke recently chatted with Scadden about his background and leadership goals for the organization.
PM: Tell me a little about your background and how you got your start in the industry?
JS: I was homeless for a while in high school, and as a result, I dropped out, got my GED, and went to work as a sewer line ditch digger for a small mom and pop business. That business was soon acquired by a large national corporation. I learned a lot about business there — what numbers to watch and how to be profitable. I also learned some leadership lessons, many of which were what not to do.
PM: When and why did you join Nexstar Network?
JS: A little background: I was soured on the industry by the large corporation I just mentioned, but some guys I knew left and started their own business, and I went to work with them. They were Nexstar members. I watched how Nexstar impacted not only the business results, but also outlined how to honor the employees, as well as the customer. I learned a lot from that business about the type of leader I wanted to be. I left that company and worked at a few other jobs until I landed in a new state and accepted the opportunity to start a residential department for a new construction company. I was determined that we become Nexstar members, and Nexstar helped us grow a successful business. When I left that organization to find my next adventure, I worked in a few more jobs until I got the call to join Nexstar as a coach. That was in 2013. I give you all this detail to explain that for me, at that time, being a coach at Nexstar was the pinnacle of what I hoped to achieve. I never dreamed I would one day be leading the organization I love so dearly.
PM: Where do the greatest business opportunities lie for Nexstar members?
JS: The greatest opportunities are often the ones right in front of us. First, operationally, it’s about focusing on the fundamentals of business, and managing to those fundamentals. Many times, businesses are looking for a new trend, product or vertical, but the foundation of a business has to be strong and the fundamentals have to be there. In our industry, we’re fortunate to have unlimited growth opportunity in the services we provide. I know that emerging technology advancements in products and the delivery of services will change, so we need to be aware and educated on those fronts. Nexstar will be assisting our members by making our platforms more technologically advanced and creating the path of least resistance to the products and services we provide. Our members’ businesses have a variety of moving parts with new challenges every day, and that’s what keeps it interesting. We will continue to enhance our ability and technology to connect our members with what they need from us as quickly, correctly and efficiently as possible.
PM: What other areas of growth do you see for Nexstar member companies?
JS: For our members that have mastered the fundamentals of business operations, the areas of growth are truly in developing leaders and creating opportunities in communities. There is untapped talent in both the field and operations sides of our businesses. The businesses that grow are the ones where the leaders play to their strengths, empower others and create growth opportunities. I know this sounds basic, but this is what stands true over time. Once you have the systems and processes in place, investing in people and allowing them to work with their strengths helps compound growth. My advice is that chasing the next shiny new product is a distraction. If it’s a solid product, it will be adopted and applied. Focus on your fundamentals, then your people.
PM: What are the biggest challenges Nexstar members will face over the next year?
JS: After this year, I am hesitant to speculate a year out. However, focusing on basic economics can help us stay centered. I believe it will be wise to watch trends in consumer spending and discretionary income. Nexstar members will need to continue to differentiate themselves through the value they bring and the way they deliver their services with customers in one-to-one, personal interactions.
PM: What is the No. 1 thing you hope to accomplish as Nexstar’s president and CEO?
JS: I hope to move as many members as possible toward the realization of their goals and dreams for their business. Whether those goals are set for profitability growth or for succession, laying out the steps and empowering members along the way will be our success metric.
PM: What is one piece of advice you would like to pass along to the younger members of this industry?
JS: Gain experience, then reflect on that experience to connect trends. Watch the leaders of the businesses you work for early in your career more than you listen to them. What I mean by this is that you will see behaviors speak louder than words. Look for consistency from them in their disciplines, and watch to see if they have an open ear to respectfully learn from their teams, then blossom where you’re planted. Know when you’ve got a good thing, plant your roots and grow together. I have been reminded by my mother that I was born fast and have not stopped moving since, and as a result, I had times in my life where my ambitions for what was next took me out of a healthy and nourishing professional environment and into a toxic one. I learned my lesson after a few rounds of that, but I also wonder what position I’d be in if I had realized how good I had it at some of the early businesses I worked in. Ultimately, with hard work, focus, discipline and a ton of grace, I’ve been able to land on my feet.
PM: What would you say to students who are on the fence about college or entering a trade?
JS: Get your hands dirty in both ways. Were you inclined to perform well in a classroom setting? You may want to continue down that path. Intern as early and as frequently as possible while you’re still in school. Go into sales of some sort; try customer service, inventory, research or administrative tasks. Get on the field and see what it’s like to perform these types of jobs day in and day out. Work with your hands and see how that feels. Most importantly, know that a career in the trades does not always mean working with your hands. We have some extremely sophisticated businesses in our industry that rival any of the more glamorously perceived industries from a business acumen and execution perspective.
PM: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
JS: I am fortunate to have an incredible family, mother, father, sister, wife and children. Time with them is the best part of any waking day. Other than that, I love old-school cars, and circuit- or metabolic conditioning (MetCon)-based workouts. I enjoy hiking in the Rocky Mountains, listening to live music at outdoor venues (such as the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado), or spending a Sunday in front of the grill with music in the background, feeding my friends and family.
PM: What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?
JS: I welcome them to pick up their load and walk a mile with me to find out. I think we all could use a little more understanding and investigation into what makes each of us tick right now.