Tom Sorley has come a long way since college, when he led the University of Nebraska to the Orange Bowl as starting quarterback. Since then, he rose to chairman/CEO of Rosendin, one of the country’s largest electrical contractors, and was selected the 2019 president of the National Academy of Construction.
“My parents were school teachers and my dad was a coach,” he says. “I grew up very competitive.”
That sparring spirit may be one of the reasons why Rosendin’s revenue has grown to more than $2 billion from $82 million since Sorley took over in 1992. But Sorley, newly retired, asserts that Rosendin’s success lies in its dedication to doing the right thing.
“We’re about doing work with collaboration, inclusion and exchange of ideas,” he says. “We want to find the best solution, not my solution.”
The company reports it has increased diversification in the past five years to 46% females and minorities from 20% females and minorities, out of about 7,000 employees. The Rosendin Internship Program had 43% women this year, an increase from 17% last year.
Stephanie Roldan, Rosendin’s corporate lean manager, rose through the ranks through apprenticeship, in-house training, tuition reimbursement and a project manager boot camp, she says. “If there is a single person whose fingerprints are on what leadership is about here and how we build people, it’s absolutely Tom,” she says. It’s “inspiring to see the effort” he put into it.
Matthew Hisaka, company controller, also notes Sorley’s personal dedication to teaching leadership academy sessions. “It was interesting to see how deeply he cares,” Hisaka says. “He’s there the whole time. He wants us to learn from him.”
Hisaka also attributes the company’s close-knit culture largely to Sorley. “He will remember your name and ask about your family. That translates to the company culture,” Hisaka says. “He’s always pushed to put people in positions to succeed, no matter their color or creed.”
As current president of the NAC, Sorley is helping to lead the academy, founded in 1999, into the future. NAC assembles and recognizes industry leaders across the entire spectrum of construction to serve the nation.
“Under Tom’s leadership, the academy has focused on safety, transferring knowledge to the next generation and workforce development,” says Wayne Crew, NAC general secretary. “NAC is a fairly young organization, and Tom has positioned it to be more financially stable and to communicate more widely both among members and with the industry and nation as a whole.”
Rosendin is also active with the Associated Schools of Construction. Sorley says Rosendin recruits extensively from ASC schools. “To attract the best and brightest to our company, we must first attract them to our industry,” he says. “Our teams are engaged to demonstrate how a career in our industry can be challenging, fulfilling, exciting and fun.”