Name/Title/Company: Matt Clafton, vice president/general manager for the Nevada Division of Alston Construction
Number of years with company: 14 years
Number of years in the profession: 23 years.
Education: Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno
Last book read: “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek
Favorite movie: Step Brothers, Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers miniseries
Favorite musical group or genre: I like ‘70s-era rock music, Frank Sinatra, country music, whatever the mood
Spouse, kids or pets: Married to wife Kathleen for 23 years, 21-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and the duties of your position.
Matt Clafton: There were actually four construction companies started in 1996, in 1999, they merged all four into Panattoni Construction. We had a sister company called Panattoni Development and were aiming to open up our client list to do the work we were very good at for some of their competitors. It didn’t lend itself very well for that because people associated Panattoni Construction with Panattoni Development, even though they were two stand-alone companies. So we went through a rebranding in 2014 if I remember correctly to change the company name to Alston Construction. We do a lot of third-party work.
My role here is vice president/general manager. I’m in charge of the business unit in Nevada. I try to look for new business and new clients, as well as serve in mentorship capacity to our project managers and people in the field. What is neat about Alston is there’s a very entrepreneurial spirit to it, in the sense that I don’t have ownership in the company but I have authority of this business unit. It’s the best of both worlds where I can sort of have my own company, but my personal assets aren’t on the line if something goes awry.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Clafton: Both my grandfather and my dad were in construction, so I was around the industry as far back as when I was big enough to hold a hammer in my hands. It taught hard work, I knew the physical toll it took on a person’s body, so I focused more on getting an engineering degree while attending the University of Nevada, Reno. I learned I was less introverted than a lot of engineers, and interested more in the business side of engineering than the design and calculation side of things.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Clafton: The cool thing about this job is we do the same thing every day, but the location changes. We built something say across the street from our office for six months, and when that job is over, we may move to a job in Fernley. It keeps it fresh, because you’re not doing the same thing all the time. While the construction aspects are much the same, the location changes, or the duration of the project changes and projects are different. You could build a warehouse one time, or you build a manufacturing facility the next time, or an office or retail project the next time.
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Clafton: I think the most challenging part of my job is also the most rewarding; and that is dealing with people. It’s sometimes difficult to make everybody happy, especially people you know very well. I get to know the people on your team and empathize with them. I’m a people person, so interaction is not difficult, but there are tough situations you are put in at times. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was lay people off. That sometimes feels like it is a failure on my part because I’ve haven’t sold enough work to keep these people employed.
NNBW: You played football at UNR and elected the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Is there any aspect of your playing career that has helped you in your profession?
Clafton: When you play football, you have to have all eleven guys doing their job the right way to have success. Here it’s the same way, you have to have all the guys doing it the right way. You have to have a lot of trust and belief that you’ve installed your team with the skills to make the right decision at the right time.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Clafton: Enjoy what you do and be passionate about it. There was also a bunch of quotes from Vince Lombardi that I love that a dumb football player like me could understand. (Chuckles).
NNBW: Has there been someone who was especially influential in helping you establish your career or in reaching your higher goals personally? If so, who and how?
Clafton: (UNR head football coach) Chris Ault was such a great motivator and unique individual that he literally got every ounce of talent that you had.
NNBW: Is there any educational advancement or skill that is essential for someone in your career field?
Clafton: I think it is essential to have good communication skills, either written or oral. It’s important to be able to speak in front of a large crowd or a bunch of people you don’t know.
NNBW: Is there a nonprofit or charitable organization that you like to donate your time or money to?
Clafton: The things I’m passionate about from a community development standpoint are youth sports. Obviously sports were a huge part of my life. Another aspect is the University of Nevada, not only in athletics, but in other areas, such as serving as president of the alumni council, or speaking to the construction and engineering program up there. I’m also involved in the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation. Our goal is give support for children and their families during some challenging times. We also do research for pediatric oncology.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Clafton: I had a paper route. That probably was my first official formal job. I’d mow lawns occasionally, stuff like that as well.
NNBW: What are your hobbies? How do you spend your time away from work?
Clafton: I like to go fishing, or I like to ski, or take my boat out to Lake Tahoe.
NNBW: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Clafton: I’m probably a horrible vacation taker because I like to be active. It has to be some activity going on. I’ve been to Europe a couple of times, and they’ve been great trips.
NNBW: Is there a place around the world you have never been to that you’d like to visit?
Clafton: I really enjoyed the Band of Brothers miniseries, I’ve always wanted to go and follow their migration from D-Day and make the same pilgrimages that they did. To me that’s hollowed ground.
NNBW: If you had the chance to have dinner with someone, dead or alive, who would that be and why?
Clafton: I think first would be Jesus Christ. There isn’t any one person more influential in the gamut of human history.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Clafton: I came here from the Bay Area to go to school at UNR, and had every intention of going back to the Bay Area once my football eligibility was up. My junior/senior year at UNR, I realized I wasn’t going to have the same quality of life in the Bay Area that I could have here in northern Nevada. There’s a plethora of reasons why northern Nevada is the right choice.
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