In nearly three decades working in the highly competitive tenant improvement space, Patrick Christensen, president of Sturtevant-based Horizon Retail Construction, has tried to be direct.
“An effective leader doesn’t leave a lot to be determined. They provide clear information, and they do so by managing their people and treating their clients with the highest integrity,” Christensen said. “That’s what I have strived to do from day one in this business.”
That approach has led to one of the most successful contracting businesses in the region. Horizon has more than 90 office employees locally and handles more than 1,500 projects annually in all 50 states. Those projects are managed by a team of 150 field superintendents stationed throughout the country for instant mobilization — an entire organization tooled specifically for tenant improvement.
As Horizon’s business has evolved, so too has Christensen’s leadership.
“From our beginnings about 30 years ago, the way I lead and manage — I would say it’s mellowed considerably. But one thing that has remained consistent is that I try to be the same person in the office and outside of it,” he said.
Christensen said that even as the company has grown, he can’t help but be hands on — pointing out that for the first 15 years of the company’s existence, in addition to his duties as president, he was Horizon’s only salesperson.
“So much of what our company is today was built in its infancy,” he said. “When you look at how leadership grows a business, it all starts by building teams and building a training program that creates strong leaders. We’ve been successful doing that in many areas of this company.”
Among the processes he was instrumental in designing at Horizon:
- A project manager program that helps keep construction on time and on budget.
- Technology processes that have evolved as technology and the industry have rapidly changed.
- Sales and marketing programs that have grown a client base from local to national.
- An internship program that aims to develop future leaders in the company and industry.
- Keeping tabs on the company’s finances and overhead from the top down.
Continued growth as a leader
Christensen has never pursued leadership training — though he admits he is constantly reading literature on the topic. Instead, he views the process of growing as a leader as one of constant self-reflection and examination.
The best resource for understanding if you are an effective leader, he said, is your employees.
“I surround myself with smart people and ask lots of questions,” he said. “I pay attention to what the customers are saying. I pay attention to businesses. I pay attention to competitors. All those arenas offer a lot of insight.”