Robert H. Thayer II, Tri-North Builders
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Robert H. Thayer II, vice president – marketing, Tri-North Builders; owner and pilot, RT Aerial Productions.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
I would say the changing of the times is the most challenging part of my job from a marketing standpoint. When I started my career, print advertising was king and company websites were an optional side thing. Now with SEO, social media, website design, video content, and many other facets of marketing, you have to stay on top of what’s latest and greatest. With the rapid speed of new technological innovation, you can’t miss a beat.
The most rewarding part of my job by far is Kids Building Wisconsin, a fun kids event run by a nonprofit organization that gets kids interested in the great job opportunities in the construction industry. I could not be prouder of what this event has become. It is a lot of work but the satisfaction of the kids’ smiles that day is incredibly rewarding.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
I have to say Tim Lopes, an engineer at Malibu Boats. When we worked together at Centurion Boats, he was the head of R&D and I was the marketing director. Tim taught me — a kid straight out of college — the business, the boat industry, and even how to design and build a boat. He took me under his wing and I could never forget that.
And also my father, Thomas Thayer, since he is the hardest working person I have ever known.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
I have two. The first is definitely the first Kids Building Wisconsin event five year ago. A small group of us started the event just as a dream, and what we pulled off that first year way was beyond our expectations. I would never have thought we would be sitting here five years later with 3,000 kids in attendance.
The second would be another event called Boardstock 10 (2005) that I helped plan with Tim Lopes and the late Rob Stimmel while I was at Centurion. It was a four-day watersports and music festival in California with about 10,000 people in attendance. We had wakeboarding, the world wake surfing championships, amazing music, and so much more.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
What they are going to teach you in school for marketing is almost nothing that you will use in the real world. I learned more in my first three weeks of my career than I did in school as far as day-to-day activities are concerned. Yes, many of the broader concepts of marketing taught in school are things that guide me still today, but the tools I use daily — like Adobe Creative Suite — were all self-taught, very quickly.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
After living away from Dane County for 12 years, I gained a particular appreciation for the summers here, as well as the small city feel of Madison. Summers in Alabama and Virginia could be brutally hot at times. I don’t know about you, but when I jump into the lake to swim or ski, I like the water to be refreshing, not like bath water! The winters on the other hand — why did I leave the South, again?
Also, after living in a small city like Auburn and a large area like Hampton Roads, having the ability to live outside the city, while still being able to get downtown in five to 10 minutes is so nice.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
Besides being a competition water skier, I have my pilot’s license and love my new endeavor into aviation. I became fascinated with drones a few years back, especially for construction. At that point, the FAA regulated that only licensed pilots could fly drones for commercial purposes. That’s what kicked off my path toward becoming a pilot and it’s now become my passion. I also recently took up curling.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I enjoy mowing the lawn. Yes, I know that sounds odd. Since the birth of my second child, I have sadly had to hire somebody to do it due to time restraints, but I really do enjoy doing it. I live in the country in Fitchburg and have a sizable farm lawn, so getting on the tractor with a cold drink and my headphones on for three hours is fun for me. Plus, I like to get the perfect lawn lines down and work on my singing. My wife sometimes comes out and thinks I am hurt because my singing is so bad.
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