Empowering Employees The Right Way with Anup Tamrakar at Urban Infraconstruction

The opposite of micro-management is empowering employees. If you want to create a team of people that drives the company forward, you must understand empowering employees. Common leadership teachings sometimes get in the way of empowering employees, so this interview will help you be a stronger leader. Today’s guest is Anup Tamrakar, CEO at Urban Infraconstruction. Inc Magazine ranked his company #553 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Urban Infraconstruction provides civil construction services focusing on concrete structures, repair and restoration work, concrete flatwork, storm structures, and project management services. Anup shares why empowering employees is essential when you want your company to grow fast. We look at what gets in the way of empowerment.

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Anup Tamrakar: The Transcript

About: Anup Tamrakar is the CEO and President of URBAN Infraconstruction. Urban Infraconstruction is a certified DBE/MBE/SBE General Contracting Company specializing in civil construction, established in 2015. They are dedicated to providing intelligent solutions to the infrastructure needs of their clients and community, focusing on safety, quality, integrity, excellence, leadership, and innovation. Urban Infraconstruction consistently strives to exceed client’s expectations by providing superior services with the support of our extraordinary team.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Anup Tamrakar
It’s really trusting them that when the rubber meets the road, that the decisions that they’re going to make are going to be the right decisions, and not necessarily the right decisions all the time. And even when they don’t make the right decision, that you back them up, we give them that opportunity to know that they’re okay. Even when they miss, they make mistakes, and then we learn from their mistakes. And then we grow from what we don’t make mistake just to make a mistake and keep on making that mistake. That doesn’t mean environment. It comes with, I guess, accountability. And this safe environment that, hey, I can take chances I can take and I can be bold. And in the long run, that will be the difference.

Intro [0:54]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [1:11]
Empowering employees is part of the journey for you, your leadership, and the journey for the employee. If you think about your job as a leader is to develop those employees to have more confidence and courage in their own thinking, and to actually exercise that by making decisions by following through with any kind of challenges they overcome, and empowering them to move forward without your review. Now, I’m not saying that you’re completely stepping away from the review of this, but empowering employees is something very different than micromanagement. In fact, I think it’s the polar opposite. And no one wants to be a micromanager. I talk to a lot of leaders who think they aren’t micromanaging. But in fact, they are because they’re letting their employees know that they want to review everything before it goes out. When I’m looking at this with my team, I want to make sure that they feel empowered every step of the journey, talking about this journey of empowering employees.

Gene Hammett [2:04]
Today, we’re going to talk with the CEO of Urban Infraconstruction. And they are a company that grew 553 on the Inc list. And then last few years. But this is really a powerful conversation, that CEO is an up-tempo car. And it really is a great conversation to talk about some of the details behind this to get to the heart of it. He talked about it’s trust. And I agree, empowering employees is about how much you trust them, and how much they trust you. And trust themselves. It takes all three of those levels of trust in order to have this work together the way you want to. So in this conversation, we talk about those two key elements so that you can empower your employees the way you want to. If you think about your own leadership, and you think about where you’re going as a leader, and you’re getting challenged, you’re feeling frustrated, you’re feeling too busy to actually lead or there some specific challenges that you want to overcome. I want to make sure you know I’ve got free resources on my website, just go to genehammett.com/resources, you can find some free things that will help you grow as leader. If you wanna have a conversation with me just click on try coaching, you can actually connect right into my schedule. Now here’s the interview with Anup Tamrakar.

Gene Hammett [3:16]
Anup, How are you?

Anup Tamrakar [3:17]
It’s fantastic. How about yourself?

Gene Hammett [3:19]
I’m greatly excited to have in the podcast to talk about leadership growth, and the special conversation we have designed today. I’ve let our audience know a little bit about you on a personal level and what we talked about today but I want you to tell us about Urban Infraconstruction.

Anup Tamrakar [3:36]
Absolutely. Yes so Urban Infraconstruction is the name of the company and the funny backstory on the company is I used to believe it or not, I used to own a clothing company of store back in that wasn’t first business and in the mall small one. And we didn’t really do well and the name of this store was urban. And you know, and sad a very emotional attachment to that with that name and it went very well. But, you know, we tried to get when we were registering for the company for the construction company they were you know, we’ve tried a lot of different variation with urban infill construction, Urban Infraconstruction, and we couldn’t get anything and but a week passed and it was to the point where you know, there’s more important things to do than feeling confident and even in for construction. My wife came over there for construction and you know, we went through and we are Infraconstruction.

Gene Hammett [4:36]
So what is it you guys do?

Anup Tamrakar [4:39]
So we are primarily a civil construction company, based out of Dallas Fort Worth. We do. We have mainly three different markets that we serve in different capacities, one of them being a heavy highway, we build roads and bridges, mainly bridges and walls that we partnered with Larger mega-companies and, and then build the roads on major highways. And the other side is on the municipal side, which is cities and counties. And we, we, we improve their deteriorating infrastructure, which is mainly roads. So we go in and you know, go out old roads that are cracking and all those and building a road that will last longer. And recently we’re getting we’re getting more concentrated into water, wastewater infrastructure where we’re building new equipment, facilities and things like that. So it’s mostly I would say, 90% of the work that we do is with government entities.

Gene Hammett [5:50]
I know that you told me that you have about 160 employees? that right?

Anup Tamrakar [5:54]
Yes, sir. So depending on what time of the week it’s going up.

Gene Hammett [5:59]
What percentage of your employees are really hired for their brains versus their strength and just hard work? Meaning actual construction work versus like leadership? And those people doing the thinking?

Anup Tamrakar [6:15]
Well, it’s, uh, well, at every level, we will have to have a lot of common sense, especially in our industry than anywhere else. Of course, you know, there’s still challenges being in the construction field being in civil construction, where you’re out in the road traffic dealing with traffic public, for the public, guys, you know, safety, and all those things come big with the skills, you know, the very specific skills that you need, but a lot of common sense, you know, regardless, if you’re working in the office, or you’re working in the field, you know, we look for people that have a lot of common sense.

Gene Hammett [6:50]
So I can just kind of get an idea because, you know, being in construction, you probably have some people that just have to get the work done. But you have superintendents and your leadership staff, is it 20-30% kind of leadership or management?

Anup Tamrakar [7:06]
I would say each group, so it’s, especially in the field, it’s broken down by groups. So each group would be depending on type of trade or type of activities will have five or six people to eight or nine people. So we have 19 groups, at least, I’ll say 20 to 25% of this new ship in innovative leadership for this?

Gene Hammett [7:27]
Well, I asked that because I wanted to dive into this, a lot of our clients listening in here have a lot of employees are expected to truly think for a living, be creative, be innovative, much like your engineers and leadership that you probably have on staff. So I kind of want to focus our conversation on how do you engage those people. I know that you made 553 on the ink list this past year, and it takes more than just your own intellect to make this happen. It’s really, of course, you would share with me that empowering your people is one of the core factors that has made you guys successful and grow the way you have, what is empowerment to you.

Anup Tamrakar [8:07]
It’s really, it’s really trusting, trusting them that when the rubber meets the road, that the decisions that they’re going to make are going to be the right decisions, and not necessarily the right decisions all the time. And even when they don’t make the right decision that you back them up, we you give them that opportunity to know that they’re okay, even when they miss, they make mistakes, and then we learn from that mistake, and then we grow from it, what we don’t make mistakes, just to make mistake and keep on making that mistake. That doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean environment for us. It comes with it comes with, I guess accountability. And, and, and this that safe environment that, hey, I can take chances I can take a risk and I can be bold. And in the long run, that will be the difference in in in you know, getting the job done. Right.

Anup Tamrakar [9:00]
You know, because they’re the ones living it day in and day out, to be honest, you know, like supernet and performance, they know more about how to list a, you know, Port bridge deck than I do. And I know and I’m honest about that, when I don’t know, I’m honestly, you know, I’m hanging my hat on you. But let’s you know, we just don’t go out swinging guns, you know, we we plan the work, you know, there are certain parameters that we work under and you know, within that framework within that parameters, how you get it done, you know, it’s we let them have you know, that freedom to make those decisions.

Commentary [9:34]
Hold on for a second Anup just talked about employees making mistakes. Well, of course, you don’t want your employees to make mistakes on purpose, but you want them to be okay with making mistake making decisions and learning to pick up the pieces for themselves. I had a huge error in my own journey of leadership early in my company where I felt like I solved the problems for my employees. I’m just being honest with you because I was doing this every day and I was feeling burned out and one of my coaches Just actually asked me that, you know, why do you feel like you need to fix their problems. And I said, I wanted to make it easier for them to do their work, I said, Well, isn’t there work to fix their own problems. And when I realized that, and I realized the mistake I had been making, that I really took my leadership to the next level, I let them figure out how to do it, I empowered them to a new level. And I was smiling when I say this, because my life got a lot easier as a leader. So I’m just reminding you that sometimes it’s okay for them to make mistakes, they may not do it exactly the way you want them to do it. But the key is that they are learning to take ownership themselves, they’re doing it and if they come up with challenges, they face those challenges to the back to the interview with Anup.

Gene Hammett [10:41]
We can appreciate that all of those of us that drive on the roads and drive on your bridges and whatnot. I know you’re mostly in Texas are probably around that, but we want our crews to be safe.

Anup Tamrakar [10:53]
And the public.

Gene Hammett [10:56]
Absolutely, you would talk about parameters. And the word I typically use with my clients would be around guardrails, when you’re empowering someone It doesn’t mean you just let them go off, got to do whatever you want to do.

Anup Tamrakar [11:10]

Gene Hammett [11:11]
Which in parameters, how do you kind of document those parameters so that they know kind of how to stay safe and instill operate within those boundaries?

Anup Tamrakar [11:19]
Sure, So we have, so we do several things, for example, we have over the years from the very beginning, we’ve developed kind of like our own system to do like daily reporting, and that has, and every everything that we do are, you know, from man-hours, for example, I’m getting a little bit technical here, but we have budgets for exams to do everything. And then, you know, we communicate very well, like, you know, this is what we have, this is how, you know, the project, this is our scope, this is what we’re gonna do, and this is what we have on the, on the budget to do certain work. And, you know, and we communicate that, and, you know, they, you know, when they do the work, at the end of the day, you know, they go in and say this person, this, this, and this is what we got done, and we have the information, like, almost like real-time, and, you know, we share that information, if you’re doing good for not doing good.

Anup Tamrakar [12:15]
You know, over the years we’ve been, we have been improving the system. And, you know, it’s not fancy, but it’s basic, but it works. And we we stay true to it. And it’s one of the things that, you know, we really think help helps us understand where we are on a daily basis, and we communicate and sometimes over-communicate what that’s what what the numbers that we’re looking at means and when…

Gene Hammett [12:42]
Sorry your question there, and I’m sorry to cut you off. But though the visibility that you have across this, obviously, you and your executive team are looking at these across every team. Do you open that up to other teams to see their daily numbers?

Anup Tamrakar [12:57]
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. One of the things so that, you know, we want everyone to learn a little first, first and foremost, we want to learn from each other. This, if one of us is outstanding, at what to do, I want the others within the group to leverage that. And if somebody is doing it, especially one of your peers is doing very well, then you are then you know, that gives you a sense of, you know, maybe I need to talk to this guy, again, Help Help me out. So, one of the Thursday meetings where we have all our superintendency in is we review all the numbers together, and we start that meeting with good news, obviously, you know, our human nature is over, I would say, you know, if throughout the week, you had 10 things happen to happen to you and nine of them were good. And one was not so good in our human nature, is we focused on that not a good thing.

Gene Hammett [13:49]

Anup Tamrakar [13:50]
So we started that meeting with Okay, something good about the, you know, something good, that happened to us together with the personal bit, you know, our work-related, and then we kind of settle in and, you know, go through our, you know, planning and whatnot. And then one segment is we review the numbers. And when we’re doing good, we, you know, we talk about No, we congratulate and then you know, motivate and when we’re not doing so good, then we, you know, as a team, we go through and see why it’s not good. nnc Okay, the same thing that somebody else is doing, how are they doing differently than how this group is doing? And we, and, you know, a lot of our listeners, like, even like the project managers, and in myself, our role really is to facilitate the conversation. And so the, you know, the leaders, I would say, the superintendent, or, you know, it’s not just looking at the numbers, but what does it mean? How does it compare to, you know, where it needs to be, and how can we improve that?

Gene Hammett [14:50]
I want to stop you right there, this numbering system that you have, and I don’t know if you have a name for it, but the division I’m having in my mind, is that it’s a scorecard. for you guys to be able to communicate with each other around the progress that we’re making on projects and, and the performance of each team compared to other teams, would you say it’s kind of like a scorecard?

Anup Tamrakar [15:10]
It’s kind of like scorecard. But I would say it’s more geared towards of currently, and we’re looking at ever-expanding that. But it’s mainly, you know, the two or three different things that we feel are important, which is obvious. Because we still perform, when you say cell phone, we do the work ourselves. So it’s man-hours, you know, the labor hours, versus quantity. So we we track that, that is, you know, one of the things that is very, I would say, correlated, let our team have control on like, how many hours you spend to do a certain quantity of work. And it’s basically your arithmetic. And, and then we look at a couple different other like materials concrete, for example, which is the highest measure materials we track, you know, the waste on concrete tracking, for example, you know, the amount of tracking you spent. So we have metrics located for certain square yards, certain hours of track should have been, you know, in the budget, and then we see like, Okay, now we’re how we were tracking that over the week. So what I’m hearing behind this every industry and every kind of business and has its own numbers to track, but you feel a great tool inside empowerment, is to be able to track this kind of daily numbers, of course.

Gene Hammett [16:27]
And for those that have discussions and move forward, and that really does help you guys grow. So thank you for that piece.

Anup Tamrakar [16:35]
And then, you know, and one of our core I’m sorry, one of our core values is know your numbers. And it’s in the manual, and you know, for every different No, no, it means different at every different level. For a foreman, you know, it’s different for a superintendent is different for a project manager that’s different even for HR for accounting, that’s different numbers, like for HR, for example, maybe how many, how many employees you onboard? How how much time it takes on board. And those are some of the things that we are, as we grow as we improve our system, try to standardize those processes before we will say let’s say, if you’re hiring people randomly throughout the day, throughout the week, now we’re not doing our systems, okay, well, we’ll do the know certain times of the week, and then we’ll do have a formal onboarding. And this is what we’ll do and because those are, you know, for, as you grow, you know, you’re you’re spending a lot of energy on bringing new people on board. And it takes a lot of effort.

Gene Hammett [17:35]
Yeah, well, I want to go a little bit beyond this, we’re coming here to talk about empowerment. So knowing your numbers, and in the kind of system behind that is important. What else do you do from empowerment, I know, one of the skills that are necessary to truly empower people is not to tell them what to do but to coach them through these things. What would you say some of the bigger skills and leadership are to empower others?

Anup Tamrakar [18:03]
You know, we live here, and I think a lot of us share that same kind of, I guess, the outlook, as far as, you know, living by doing, for example, you know, where we’re from all the way from top to, I would say to the bottom where, you know, we’re we’re doers, we’re, we’re in the frontlines, regardless of, you know, what your primary role is, and, and I think that that sends a good message, one being very lean on how we operate. It’s not a cumulative, and, you know, lessons, you know, we’re all together in it. So that’s, I would say, that’s one of them, that’s one of the key key things that we that we make sure is, we are, you know, in the front line with, with with the guys know, we may not be doing the same thing, but you know, we’re not, you know, we’re not afraid to put in the put in our so we’re not afraid to, you know, roll up our sleeves and, you know, put our hard hats and boots.

Gene Hammett [19:11]
I want to ask you to go back into your journey as a leader and kind of maybe pull out a mistake or two that you made when you were trying to empower people that maybe it just didn’t work out or you found a better way. Does anything stand out for you?

Anup Tamrakar [19:25]
Well, over the years, we’ve hired a lot of people and we failed miserably on on some of the hires. And, but we’re still we’ve made some great hires. And the approach has always been, you know, you need to and this is something that we believe they truly within our core is, you know, everybody, everybody does it with a good intention in your heart. And you know, in the hanger hat, you need to have that trust you There’s no trust both ways, then it is not going to work out.

Anup Tamrakar [20:04]
So that’s the first thing that we try to establish is, is this somebody that we could trust to put in this particular position that we want to put in, which opens up to a lot of vulnerability like you mentioned earlier. And, you know, and some, some positions, it hasn’t worked out. Some very, you know, for our side of the company, you know, recently, we had the almost like, Operations Manager type of position that we tried to bring someone in, and it didn’t work out. And you know, it was a tough conversation.

Commentary [20:36]
Now, one more thing here, Anup just talked about culture fit. Well, this is actually one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of founders make, when they’re trying to grow a business fast. They bring people in that have a skill fit, and they may have the talent or experience, but they may not be a cultural fit. And they kind of overlook that. Well, as they grow as leaders, they realize that culture fit is more important than those specific skills, the many times the skills can be developed, if you have the right mindset, the right culture fit for the organization, these lessons are something I wanted to share with you. But today, because I get to interview a lot of these founders that you don’t talk to as many as I do. Now want to share that with you. Because you’re not alone if you realize that, and one of the things you can do to actually improve that is figuring out what your culture is define it, and ask questions in the interview process and look for people that have a better culture fit. And the more questions are that allow you to come up with that, the easier it’ll be for you to hire the right people. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [21:36]
Let me ask you around that, do you know why it didn’t work out? I know what I hear mostly, and you can just kind of agree with me, or maybe it was something a little different. But what we typically do as leaders is hire based on skills, and maybe even talent, knowledge, and experience, sometimes we forget about the need for cultural fit. And I think a lot of leaders, like yourself, have realized that culture fit is sometimes even more important, that specific experience and skills, is it that kind of part of it?

Anup Tamrakar [22:08]
I agree. And, and somewhat, some of it now I see was culture. And some of it I see also was, you know, from my, from my side, because I’m probably most critical of myself than anybody else. And, you know, over the times add some, you know, some some time to think about, okay, what what went wrong, and I find more reasons to point fingers at myself than the other person. In the end truthfully, because, you know, the vision that I had, yes, we had a lot of conversations about, okay, where we want to go and how he fits in on all those. But, you know, it’s a, it’s the fact that you know, not having concrete, you know, how you they’re measuring, you know, these codes, this vision that you have, and not having it written down? And then Okay, you know, benchmark, for example, how are we going to know, these outcomes, when, you know, we’re tracking towards that outcomes, and, and maybe also devote an incentive towards those. So that I think was also a big part of it. And that has happened, because I didn’t have that in place.

Gene Hammett [23:17]
And I really appreciate that. I’m glad you made that point about, you have to blame yourself, you can’t really blame others, especially when you’re doing the hiring. Like you just have to really look at your own processes and trusting your gut in different ways. And how do you actually do that? So thank you so much for being on the podcast to talk about empowering employees. You know, having a fast-growth company, I don’t think you can do it without empowering them and truly trust them. So thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Anup Tamrakar [23:45]
Yes, sir. Absolutely. Pleasure.

Gene Hammett [23:48]
Well, that wraps up another great episode here at Grow Think Tank. One of the things that Anup said that I really love is the fact that he said I can’t blame others, I have to take ownership of that myself. And that really is a common thread across many leaders that are playing at a higher level, you can’t blame others. And the more you blame others, the less control you actually do have. When you accept that responsibility, and take ownership for it, you can actually solve those problems. So in this case, I really appreciate you listening in to this podcast. If you’re a leader that wants to evolve beyond where you are today. Keep your company growing. Keep your team aligned together. Make sure reach out to me at genehammett.com you can find some free resources, and you can check out other details on the podcast. As always lead the courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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