Ben Pechan, JP Cullen & Sons

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Ben Pechan, controller for JP Cullen & Sons.

1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?

Our company has continued to grow from a revenue and employee standpoint each year since I joined the team in 2012. This controlled growth has brought many challenges surrounding resources, staffing, infrastructure, etc. Our company has taken on complex jobs in new geographical regions in order to continue this growth.

In addition, when you work for a family-owned general contractor, you are expected to wear a lot of different hats. The variety I get to experience in my current role has me negotiating contracts in the morning, interviewing potential new hires in the afternoon, and working on the financial statements at night. Although this variety is challenging, it has also allowed me to become a more well-rounded professional and experience as many aspects of the construction industry as possible.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business?

Warren Buffet has always been someone I’ve admired. I don’t admire him as much for how he’s made his money, which is astounding in itself, but more for what he does with his money. His generosity became public with the release of his “giving pledge,” in which he pledged to give away 99% of his accumulated wealth to philanthropic organizations before he dies. In his pledge, he also encourages hundreds of other Americans to pledge at least half of their accumulated wealth to charities to better the lives of the less fortunate. Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report is always a good read, and I encourage anyone to read it who hasn’t had the chance.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

I’ve been very fortunate that my position at JP Cullen has also afforded me the opportunity to give back to the community through not-for-profit board involvement in Dane and Rock counties. I was honored to be asked to join the American Red Cross-Badger Chapter Board of Directors in 2013. Participating in events such as the Real Heroes breakfast, where local heroes are honored for their acts of courage and bravery, has proven to be a very rewarding experience and helped put things into perspective.

In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to become involved with my alma mater, recently joining the UW-Whitewater Accounting Advisory Board. My employer has been flexible and accommodating in allowing me to lend my time to these worthy causes.

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4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Volunteer more and do it for the right reasons. When you’re in college, they promote volunteerism as a means to build a résumé and separate yourself from your peers. While this may be important, especially in the current job market climate, volunteering provides many eye-opening experiences that you may not otherwise encounter. My advice would be to find a worthwhile cause that you are truly passionate about and invest your time and resources to promote and further that cause. Most people don’t look back on their lives and say, “I wish I would have volunteered less.”

5. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

About 10 years ago, I really got into curling. A friend of mine from high school curls competitively out of Madison and asked me to come along to a tournament, and I was immediately hooked. People usually think about curling as “throwing a rock down the ice,” when in reality it’s much more complicated than that. There is a mental aspect of the game that intrigued me almost like a game of chess, where you have to think three shots ahead to decide your strategy.

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