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Michele Evans

Staff Reports

Recently awarded Business of the Year by the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, Evans Chaffee Construction has built a number of buildings in the community, like Edwards Medical Center and St. Clare’s Elementary School.Michele Evans, president and one of three owners of Evans Chaffee, looks at her company with an interesting perspective. She’s done much to make her business work well.Her company’s organizational chart, for example, used to separate the office team from the field team. On paper, Evans Chaffee was two companies, and Michele found that, “They thought like two separate companies.”Another concern was that the three owners were spending more time managing than anything else, distancing themselves from their company and removing themselves from their own core strengths.”As we were growing, we were being pushed up the pyramid because we were owners, not because that was the best use of our skill set,” Michele admitted. The feeling of being squeezed into management and then the predicament of fostering two separate companies forced her to look critically at her company.Her solution? Entirely reconstruct the Evans Chaffee organizational chart and corporate pyramid. In fact, she wanted to turn the pyramid on its head. Instead of having the employees in the company work to make the person above them look good (which Michele believes the traditional corporate structure is designed to do), she wanted people to serve the employee below them.If you think this plan will end with everyone working for the laborers in the field, you’re right.”If our job is to build great buildings, then the field is our front line the people making it happen. Our sole purpose is to support them, make them as good as they can be,” Michele said.This restructuring of the company also allowed the owners to be positioned to best utilize their skill set as a superintendent (Greg Chaffee), a team leader (Chris Evans, married to Michele) and a president (Michele Evans).Managing this transition from the typical corporate structure to this upside-down pyramid was challenging.”It was actually really hard to sell the company initially on this concept,” Michele said, citing the company’s skepticism about both the idea itself and the owners’ ability to stick to it.Realizing that she needed a more user-friendly approach, Michele began using the metaphor of a football team. It took several drafts, but the new corporate pyramid began to take shape with notes about the field being the football players, the superintendent and project manager as the offensive and defensive coaches, and even the clients as the fans. Michele, as president, put herself in the role of owners’ rep a role she fulfills as being the only channel between her company and its owners.Michele is realistic about others’ perceptions of her plan. She wonders if similar companies in the valley who hear about her plan are the biggest cynics. Even if it is the case, she dismisses the concern: “The company buys into this idea because they are a part of itI think you have to be a part of it to realize it.”While the early skepticism has subsided, maintaining the success of this endeavor continues. “I have weekly meetings with team leaders, and one question that is asked in every single meeting is ‘what can I do to support you?'” Michele said.Since the start of the new corporate pyramid, the field has felt the biggest change. “The field is much more informed as to what is happening in the company; they’re not getting reactionary support, they’re getting proactive support,” Michele said.But it is more than her company that is now well positioned. Because they chose to locate themselves in the Vail Valley, “every single one of our project is that once-in-a-lifetime project.” The lodges, the dream homes and the buildings they construct are all incredible in location and design, and Michele is thankful for the opportunity.Turning the corporate pyramid on its head, restructuring the organizational chart, having two different-colored hard hats Evans Chaffee takes a decidedly different approach to management. Their success and company culture, however, indicate that this reversed game plan may be a winning strategy. VTBy Ursula Gross


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