I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Galvin,Chairman and CEO of SG Blocks, a leading innovator, designer and fabricator of container-based structures. SG Blocks, co-founded by Paul in 2007, supports developers, architects, builders and owners in achieving greener construction, faster execution, and stronger buildings of higher value. Paul brings over 25 years of experience in developing and managing real estate and has played a key role in SG Blocks’ growth and expansion since inception.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a CEO?
Throughout my career, I have always been in a senior leadership or executive position. I’ve been an executive, a board member or principal in almost all of my ventures in the past 30 years, and so being the CEO of SG Blocks is essentially an extension of that.
What is your definition of success?
Personally, I define success by loving relationships, strong faith and meaningful work. Professionally, I believe success is achieved by creating new solutions to old problems and having each endeavor be economically sustainable — meaning it has survive after it leaves your hands.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was recently asked to design and quote a structure to house two animals in a zoo. I then found out the residents would be snow leopards. You don’t get to build a house for snow leopards every day!
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
I have grown to think of failures as lessons. Each dead end that you hit in life can provide you with a lot of wisdom and humility if you’re willing to accept it. This mentality helps guide you to turn these hard learned lessons into the inspiration and motivation that you need to create something sustainable. More specifically, I have learned through failures that you should always try to maintain the alignment of your investors and stakeholders and never underestimate how much education it takes to bring a new product or technology to market.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We believe we are uniquely positioned to help address the housing crisis of America. We’re the global leaders and pioneers of container-based construction, which is highly sustainable using a recycled product that’s already had a valuable life in the economy. By using engineering and a minimum carbon footprint, we repurpose these containers into permanent structures.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We are currently working on a project offering underserved children exceptional programs in arts, academics and athletics in a nurturing environment. Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) currently serves more than 2,300 children and families. There are 300 families presently on the waiting list and they will be serviced once the container-based community center is open. The facility is expected to open in the fall of 2018.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become to be more sustainable? Can you give an example for each?
We are always interested and in search of other technologies that can complement our modules in the areas of energy and sustainable building operations. As of now, we are proud of our efforts and emphasize that container-based construction is of a higher quality, completed in approximately half of the amount of time and with substantial savings in most urban markets. Since our containers are recyclable, our structures can also help project teams achieve LEED certification. The container itself is the technology deployment structure. We are in the process of assessing technologies that are both green and compatible.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Never underestimate how much effort and energy any venture will take. Always be flexible, willing to adapt to market information. Lastly, try to match each employee skills with their duties, culture and environment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am eternally grateful for my father, who inspired me from a young age. My dad was a successful businessman, a beacon in the Catholic Church, and a very good blend of being a capitalist and a humanist. He was, undoubtedly, someone committed to service.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At SG Blocks, we aim to make housing affordable and safe for people. Housing is everyone’s largest expense, largely due to how expensive and long traditional construction is. SG Blocks can build very quickly, very safely, and financially affordably. We are looking to create access to safe and affordable housing to many who have been traditionally excluded.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
1. The work never ends
2. Startups are painful, very few people can really stand the pain
3. Your original idea will need to change
4. Always add good people over good resumes
5. Mainstream technology requires perpetual education to get there
You are a person of great 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?
Americans are the most generous people in the world and yet we live in a world of great need. We ought to create solutions that are easily and directly delivered to those in need — namely, linking donors, platforms and charities that are inclined to help those in need. What’s crucial is a platform that cuts out the middleman and directly bridges the generosity of businesses with pertinent charitable opportunities — classrooms, art, medical centers, etc. The goal is to efficiently and rapidly connect real donors with real people doing stuff on the ground to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. These platforms are starting to emerge, but there needs to be more — so much hope and so much global assistance are needed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” — Calvin Coolidge