Dan Chovanec, CG Schmidt Inc.
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Dan Chovanec, general manager, CG Schmidt Inc.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
Every construction project, from small-scale office renovations to the multimillion-dollar mega-projects has challenges. Honestly, construction is challenging from project kickoff to when the client moves into the building and beyond! There are so many moving pieces to manage including market fluctuations, tight labor conditions, and even just basic things like bad weather, that it’s almost a wonder at times how we get projects off of the ground and keep them on budget and on schedule. But in the end, I have an amazing team of very experienced men and women here in Madison and it’s incredibly rewarding to see what we can build and how it really changes the lives of our clients.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
John Burke, president of Trek Bicycles. What Trek as a company has become since its inception in the ’70s and how it’s contributed not just to the Madison region in job creation and philanthropy, but globally as well, is nothing short of amazing. As a manager, I’ve also been consistently inspired by how good of a job Trek has done at promoting wellness at work and a company culture that supports it. (The bikes are pretty great, too.)
What has been the high point of your career so far?
After relocating to the Madison area a little over three years ago to serve as CG Schmidt’s Madison office operations executive, I was recently promoted to managing the entire office and our Western operations. Our firm has been building projects in Dane County since the 1960s, and since we officially opened an office here in 2006, we’ve really grown into a force to be reckoned within the Madison market and that’s due to our very talented staff. It’s absolutely the highlight of my career to work alongside, and now lead, our Madison team.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Learn to let go and delegate! As an engineer and “hands-on” kind of guy, it took me a long time to be able to hand off direct control over projects to other people and focus on the overall operations and management — big picture things. I wish I would have learned earlier on how to let go of some things and trust them to other people, so I could keep focused on the overall project.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
Admittedly, I’m a fairly recent transplant to the Madison area from Milwaukee, but I’ve loved getting to know the people here. There’s a certain “Madison mentality” that’s a different approach to community than you find elsewhere in the state. Madisonians are committed to giving back to the community and serving in leadership capacities on community boards. I look forward to volunteering my time in the community through organizations we support like the American Heart Association, Children’s Theater of Madison, Clean Lakes Alliance, Henry Vilas Zoo, etc. I know my wife and kids have also really enjoyed the farmers markets and lakes here, as well.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
Not really much of an “ability” but I am a pretty decent runner; I ran track in high school and college. I started at Arkansas State University (don’t hold that against me), but I eventually transferred to the UW–Madison. Back then I ran as an extracurricular, but these days it’s more about exercise and catharsis when the work stress starts to build up. There’s nothing better for clearing your mind and retraining your focus than going for a nice, long run in the early morning.
What are your guilty pleasures?
This might not be very common knowledge outside of the office, but I am a mojito master. I’ve always had an affinity for this traditional Cuban highball, and for our office gatherings and parties you can almost be assured that I’ll be on hand, muddling fresh mint and shaking up a fresh batch of mojitos.
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