Pat Rodgers' tenure at Charlotte-based Rodgers Builders was supposed to last only two days—a temporary assignment as a receptionist to help the newly transplanted Midwesterner get her feet on the ground.
Fortunately for the company and the Southeast's construction industry, she never left. She stayed on to eventually lead the contracting company while also making her mark as an industry activist, visionary and mentor.
That temporary job turned into a full-time position, enabling Rodgers to immerse herself in a business that truly fascinated her. Rodgers' responsibilities grew in step with the company's emergence as one of North Carolina's premier contractors, culminating in her becoming president and CEO in 1988, when founder B.D. Rodgers moved into the role of chairman. Since then, the firm has prospered under her leadership, most recently ranking 13th on ENR Southeast's Top Contractors list, with nearly $400 million in regional revenue.
"This was the kind of organization that B.D. wanted to create—where an entry-level person can see a path to advance and become an integral member of a good, supportive team," says Pat Rodgers, who was married to B.D. from 1991 until his death in early 2014. "And if you fall in love with this business as I did, you should have every opportunity to make the most of it."
Even as a senior executive, Rodgers' drive to learn remains strong, whether it's sharing best practices with fellow members of the Construction Industry Roundtable, which she currently chairs, or exploring methods related to improving the quality and safety of the building process. After watching a presentation on building information modeling in 2007, for example, Rodgers became determined that her firm would become a leader in applying the technology.
"It's one thing to have vision, and another to have the wherewithal to follow through and give employees tools and resources to put it in place," says Eric Reichard, chief operating officer at Rodgers Builders. "That, to me, is one of the things that truly defines Pat as a leader."
Rodgers recognizes, however, that technology can only go so far in sustaining the construction industry's long-term health. A trained work force is a long-standing priority, she says, but also an area in which great strides have been made through efforts such as the Charlotte-area ACE Mentor Program. Rodgers is particularly pleased that so many of these rising professionals are women, recalling how she was something of a rarity during her early days in the business.
"People have changed over the past 25 years," she says. "They have daughters who are interested in math and science, and who are working in the design and construction fields. Once you have a family member in a nontraditional role, you come to find that it's really not that unusual at all."
Rodgers also takes pride in her company's commitment to community service. She's chaired the Carolinas AGC as well as the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and has served as a director for numerous community groups, such as the Foundation for the Carolinas and the Foundation for the Mint Museums.
"Because of my dad's government job, our family was often on the move," Rodgers explains. "If not for the kindness of strangers, living in those remote places would've been quite different. It's essential to give back to communities and work to make them better."
That's one reason, Reichard adds, why Rodgers Builders can compete successfully with the largest construction companies yet retain its family business feel.
"Pat and B.D. set the example," he says, "and it's the only way we know how to do things."
Rodgers was on hand in Orlando on Nov. 11, when ENR Southeast presented her with an inaugural Legacy Awards for her outstanding—and ongoing—career achievements.