Community//

Paul Robinson of ConstructReach: “Change your company culture”

When you have diverse decision makers, it speaks to what’s attainable within that company. If a young person entering into that company with a diverse background doesn’t see any representation at a decision-making level, then they will subconsciously draw a ceiling as to what they can accomplish within the company. A lot of times, this […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

When you have diverse decision makers, it speaks to what’s attainable within that company. If a young person entering into that company with a diverse background doesn’t see any representation at a decision-making level, then they will subconsciously draw a ceiling as to what they can accomplish within the company. A lot of times, this can be off-putting, as they may have these big ambitions and want to bring value to the company but if they don’t see themselves represented, then they don’t see that as a possibility for them.

It’s also well-documented that the more diverse representation you have, the more innovative the company is, which in turn fosters success. Not only is it the right thing to do but it makes sense from a business perspective. It allows for people to come to that table from different vantage points and see problems through different lenses. That leads to more fruitful discussions and healthy conversations that help to move the company forward.


I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Paul Robinson of ConstructReach.

In 2006, after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in Construction Management, Paul Robinson joined the Target Corporation and quickly rose to become a Construction Project Manager. In 2015, construction leadership at Target reached out to Paul with a proposition: assistance in ensuring the construction pipeline stays filled with competent employees and increasing the diversity of those employees. Paul founded ConstructReach in May 2018.

ConstructReach is a construction industry workforce development initiative and consultancy that seeks to increase the visibility of the construction industry by educating students about career opportunities within construction, connecting general contractors to interns, employees, and internship curriculum, and creating content, experiences, and a social network to expose a diverse population to sustainable construction careers. Over half of the skilled construction labor force is nearing retirement age and fewer students, especially from diverse backgrounds, are pursuing a construction career. ConstructReach works with students, educators, high school counselors, large brands, and general contractors throughout the country to ensure they have the information and connections they need to facilitate the long-term longevity of a new, more diverse construction industry.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s kind of rare to end up in the same profession you went to school for, but that is my story. I majored in Construction Science Management — it was a dual program with Architectural Engineering but veered more on the Construction Project Management side. I started out as more of a Field Manager and began to move up the ladder from there to Property Development Manager for a major retailer and I did that for about six years. I’ve always leaned into the construction industry, whether it be from a design or management standpoint.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I first started, I was fresh out of college and entered into a position where you are directly responsible for the success of the project. I had to get used to people twice my age asking me for permission to do things and what should be done next. A lot of times when they were asking me if something was “okay,” all I wanted to say was, “I don’t know, is it?” So that was definitely a new and interesting experience for me — transitioning from simply being a student to being a professional in the workforce with peers relying on me for guidance.

More recently, I would say my transition into developing ConstructReach. I was working for Target Corporation as the Property Development Manager and I decided to start my company. To now be partnering with Target and serving as a thought leader for workforce development along with creating more opportunities and diversity within the construction industry is mind-blowing. This transition has given me the opportunity to focus on community development and creating career opportunities that have the potential to change the trajectory for so many people.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was first starting out in the construction industry, before I owned my own business, I didn’t really grasp where my authority began and ended. I thought that if you caught someone doing something wrong on a construction site, you could fire them. One day on the job, I saw another person doing something that they weren’t supposed to be doing. I was just a kid in my early 20’s, really feeling myself in the moment, and I decided to call him out on it. I started to tell him that he could no longer work and this and that and he immediately put me in my place. It’s funny now, but it was super embarrassing at the time, especially since the only response I could come up with was, “So, who do I talk to?” Looking back on it now, I can only imagine what that guy was thinking. Lesson learned — be careful with assumptions and make sure you understand where your roles and responsibilities start and stop. If you’re unsure, ask first.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

When you have diverse decision makers, it speaks to what’s attainable within that company. If a young person entering into that company with a diverse background doesn’t see any representation at a decision-making level, then they will subconsciously draw a ceiling as to what they can accomplish within the company. A lot of times, this can be off-putting, as they may have these big ambitions and want to bring value to the company but if they don’t see themselves represented, then they don’t see that as a possibility for them.

It’s also well-documented that the more diverse representation you have, the more innovative the company is, which in turn fosters success. Not only is it the right thing to do but it makes sense from a business perspective. It allows for people to come to that table from different vantage points and see problems through different lenses. That leads to more fruitful discussions and healthy conversations that help to move the company forward.

More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?

What we are witnessing right now in society is an upheaval in regard to equity. We can no longer compartmentalize the workplace versus society. They are intertwined and it’s important that corporate America begins to see the relationship between the two. It’s an issue from a business standpoint to compartmentalize the workplace and think all will be well. What has to be considered is that work plays a direct role in people’s quality of life. Corporations are in a position to create real change within business and society and it’s essential that they don’t squander that opportunity.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?

I feel as though community and society go hand in hand. It’s easy to talk about how industries can drive change within executive leadership because they are the ones that say “yes.” But talking about how the everyday person can help to drive that change is another story.

For Society/Community:

  1. One way people can work towards driving that change is by developing partnerships with companies and organizations that help to amplify the opportunities that exist and allow for a sense of visibility to those that may not have been aware previously. These relationships can also lead to the creation of some sort of “table” or initiative to spotlight diverse executives. People should continue to explore ways of partnering with organizations to develop strategic relationships. Not all, but some companies are beginning to listen; which begins to put pressure in the marketplace on those who are not.
  2. Another way society can help address the issue is by beginning to provide a pathway that shows what it takes to get to that executive position. We need successful people from all areas of society to mentor young people and there are lots of ways to do that. Look for those local organizations and sign up to help change a young person’s outlook and therefore their life. Many people are unaware of the steps necessary to reach that next level of success because they haven’t seen it firsthand, so bringing those to the forefront and providing that insight can be wildly beneficial to people of all backgrounds.
  3. Finally, hold companies accountable if there’s no direct representation. Again, speak up. And vote with your pocketbook by supporting companies that are doing it right. Ask for companies to make their internal make-up public or to provide “responsibility reports.” If people hold more companies’ feet to the fire to make known their internal make-up, more companies will see the connectivity between society and the workplace.

For Industries:

  1. Rethink what community engagement looks like. It’s not enough to put out a statement or write a policy. Create relationships with organizations and people that help to make opportunities known and available to a wider set of eyes. That means reaching out in the community and partnering with groups that bring resources and a range of voices. Look towards more diverse places when searching for talent. There is no shortcut to building an equitable culture. You have to build those relationships and programs from the ground up.
  2. Change your company culture. Sounds easy, right? It takes time, but with focus, even the largest organizations can foster change throughout their organization. Is your company culture one that communicates and allows for the upward movement for those who have the requisite skill set to do so? It’s easy to bring in more diverse faces but when it comes to culture, that’s where the real change happens. Your diversity can easily fall onto one figure head but if the culture doesn’t speak to reaffirm that person’s position, then you do your culture and your company a disservice.
  3. Commit to the career development of all the individuals who want upward movement. Career development has to be available to people at all levels of your organization. Give everyone opportunities to learn, to try new skills and to volunteer for new assignments. If you hire diversity and develop that workforce, your organic growth as an organization will be diverse in nature, and thus stronger, more successful and a force for the good of our society as a whole. It really is that important. If you focus on your culture and your employees by helping them grow within the company, diversity will be the result and people’s lives will improve

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is a responsibility. When we fail to see it as such, we fail those who we are fortunate enough to be leading. It is your responsibility as a leader to steward the position properly and elevate those you’re leading to a better place. By making sure others can thrive, you are creating a framework for advancement in society which is both the burden and privilege of every leader. As such, leadership is also fundamentally an act of service. You approach each day looking for ways to serve others at all levels, from the new intern that is just starting out, to the CEO with 20 years of experience. The better you serve, the more successful and impactful you can be.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

It’s hard to think back on the things I wish people had told me because sometimes people did tell me, and I just didn’t listen. Sometimes I wished I would have listened and other times I was extremely grateful I didn’t. For instance, I started a business with my wife. People will warn against it all the time, saying that it can be a serious stressor on your relationship, but I am so grateful I never listened to them. Being able to own a company and work with my wife has been one of the absolute biggest blessings of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, there are a few things I can think of that I wish I had understood when I was younger and first starting out with ConstructReach.

  1. Hiring is hard. If you take your position and the challenge to be the best leader you can be seriously, you want to make sure you’re making the right decisions. It’s very important to look at the process holistically but with that, there is an intense emotional weight, and I didn’t realize how intense it was initially.
  2. You have to recast vision. Every. Single. Day. When you begin a new business, you are always talking to new people. Educating them and trying to get them to see what you see. This leads to a cycle of saying the same things everyday but trying to figure out different ways to effectively convey your vision. It’s a grueling process but is beneficial in the long run in truly understanding what it is you want and hope to accomplish.
  3. People can’t truly prepare you for the mental and emotional toll starting a business can take. When you’re young, you’re idealistic, and it’s easier for you to work twice as hard, but that can easily and very quickly take a toll. This unending work cycle has more of an impact on the totality of a person then you initially realize; until you go through it yourself. The stress of this new beginning can easily cause negative internalization. That’s where it’s even more important to be strong and grounded in who you are and having that level of self-worth and confidence that drives you through it.
  4. You’re always working. When you start your own company, you’re never really off. Your brain is constantly thinking about ways to grow and improve and it’s hard to shut it off or take any down time. This uses up a lot of energy. Fortunately, if you’re operating on what you’re passionate about, it doesn’t necessarily have the same weight and can lead to some fantastic revelations.
  5. Swiss Army Knife. In the foundational stages, you have to wear all of the hats; it all depends on you. Sometimes, you’re not ready for that responsibility, especially if you don’t have a mentor telling you what to expect. When I first started ConstructReach, I hosted a large introductory meeting to kick it off. I had to be everything. I had to be the administrative staff, scheduling and communicating. I had to be the marketing department, getting the name and purpose of ConstructReach out there. I had to be the face of the company and the spokesperson. I also had to be the “employee” and the backbone of the company, doing the work I said ConstructReach would do. At every level I had to do the work. I am so grateful we’ve grown to a place now where I was able to hire people in order to fill those roles but in the beginning, I was it.

never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We see ConstructReach as a movement that drives the change we need with a particular uniqueness in how we go about doing that. Our goal is in revamping the entire construction industry pipeline and getting people to understand how to leverage their positions of influence in

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Youorder to develop a longstanding relationship with a more diverse talent pool. It’s rethinking what things look like from a company to a community standpoint and developing continuity within the industry. We partner with educators to provide more opportunities and exposure to a wider variety of people in order to help backfill an entire industry, working on a generational scale for change. By doing this, we hope other industries will see the hard work and the progress we have achieved and want to reflect that in their own fields.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote ties directly into my core beliefs and my foundation in faith.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

There are times in our lives where we have to put hope in something beyond ourselves. This quote acknowledges that reality — that life isn’t always easy, and you are going to find yourself in moments where it’s difficult to continue on. It gives that reassurance that even though you may find yourself in that position, you know someone has everything taken care of and you’ll be ok, and that knowledge gives you what you need in the moment to get through. It helps you to realize there’s always the opportunity for a brighter tomorrow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to be able to sit and talk with A.R. Bernard out of Brooklyn, NY or Dr. Tony Evans out of Dallas, TX. It’s hard to find people who have a similar story, but I feel like we would connect in that way; being an entrepreneur and leader while also being in ministry as a Pastor. And of course, any basketball player who’d be willing. It can’t hurt to throw Lebron James’ name in here.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: https://constructreach.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/constructreach/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/constructreach

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ConstructReach

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

How Tech Companies Can Create a Better Experience for Women of Color

by Twanya Hood Hill
Community//

Why It Matters to Have Diversity in Positions of Influence

by Kate Eberle Walker
Community//

How Businesses Can Step Up To Tackle Racial Inequality In The Workplace

by Nicola Cronin
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.