Northern Nevada Business Weekly: How did you get started in your business?
BJ Sullivan: When I graduated from college I went into the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer, a second lieutenant. I was sent overseas to Japan and had a construction platoon. After that I went to work for a company in Sacramento for five years then transferred to Reno. I went to work for Dave Clark and Gene Samproni, who owned CHS, in 1979, and in 1980 Dave Clark and I bought out Gene Samproni and started Clark and Sullivan.
NNBW: What natural talents did you bring to the business? What did you have to learn?
Sullivan: I think I had the ability to envision and put things together and build them. I had to learn soft skills dealing with people and developing people skills.
NNBW: How has the construction industry changed since you started?
Sullivan: The biggest thing is computers and everything associated with them, such as instant information. I look back at when I first started in this business and the amount of reporting it now can be sorted 50 different ways. Owners want that information. We have a service business and have to supply that demand and give them the information they want so that they can manage their dollars more effectively.
NNBW: When we come back to visit with you in five years, what changes will we see in the company?
Sullivan: I probably will have transitioned day-to-day duties to my senior management group.
NNBW: What projects that your company has built are you most proud of?
Sullivan: The Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City that was a wonderful job. The Nevada Museum of Art was a smaller project but a wonderful and fun process. And the Renown Regional Medical Center tower we just completed it is just a wonderful part of our community.
NNBW: What are the challenges you'll need to overcome to reach your goals?
Sullivan: The economy is the biggest challenge facing my company.
NNBW: What kind of manager are you?
Sullivan: I am a person that needs to be in the know. I let people do their jobs, but I want to be informed if something comes up that I should be aware of.
NNBW: If you could have a "do-over" in your career, what would you do differently?
Sullivan: I think I wouldn't change career paths. It has been enjoyable, but I would have made some different job pursuits. There are certain jobs that if I could have made a different choice, I would have passed on them.
NNBW: What do you find most satisfying in your professional life? Your personal life?
Sullivan: The thing I love about my job is that I have a tangible product at the end of the day and can say, 'My company built that.' It is fun to point to something you were physically involved in. Personally I enjoy my family and my children and spending time with them. I have four kids ages 12 to 38.
NNBW: How do you spend time away from the office? Why is this important to you?
Sullivan: I like to ski and I like to travel. You get to see different parts of the world and how other people live. When you get away from town you aren't worrying about what happens in town. It is just a good release.
NNBW: What's best advice anyone gave you?
Sullivan: Don't try to control things that are beyond your control.
NNBW: Any final thoughts?
Sullivan: The next year or two will be tough for my business, but we all will be better because of it.