As President of Barnes & Dodge, Roger Phelps is in charge of overseeing manpower and fabrication, as well as keeping tabs on project management.
Although his father, Skip, was one of the earliest leaders within the company, Roger didn’t get any free passes. Instead, he spent his college summers sweeping floors and driving a truck. That’s all it took to get him hooked on the business.
In college, Roger pursued a degree in construction science from Kansas State University, a sought-after degree that led to offers from several companies — most of them offering much more than what his father would. Regardless, Roger chose to continue working at Barnes & Dodge, further developing his own career alongside the company he grew up with.
Continuing the traditions of integrity and hands-on involvement set forth by his father, Roger continues the family legacy within the company; his sons, Jeff and Andy, also started their careers by helping during the summer, and they now follow in their father’s footsteps as Barnes & Dodge members themselves, something that has in turn energized Roger.
The construction industry delivers the perfect combination of challenges and variety for Roger, from projects dealing with pollution and environmental controls to clean rooms for use in microchips, pharmaceuticals and operating rooms. While outsiders might describe the typical projects at Barnes & Dodge as “high risk,” Roger says that no one within the company thinks of them that way: “High risk projects seem normal to me.”
The financial crisis of 2008 had an impact on Barnes & Dodge, but Roger decided to take advantage of the challenge to develop new opportunities. As a result, the shop relocated and was able to nearly double its square footage, while improving the supply pipeline and quality control. Despite the industry-wide slowdown in construction, Barnes & Dodge went on to enjoy its biggest year in 2012.
With more than 90 percent of its business coming from repeat customers or referrals, Roger has led Barnes & Dodge into a solid niche market. Rather than focusing on simply being the biggest contractor, his goal is to be the best.