Advice for the Next Generation


By: Bill Courtney, CEO, ClarkDietrich Building Systems

The process of stepping down as CEO after 30 plus years has just begun for me, but I am already seeing the industry through a new lens these days. In attending a variety of industry functions lately, I see a lot less grey hair, and more dark hair for one. This is just one sign that the old guard is beginning to hand over the reins to the next generation.

The baby boomers, who were so vital to growing this industry, will become less visible and influential over the next five years. We baby boomers need to begin to let go. For those who follow us, get prepared. This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, is one of my favorites, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  For those of you who believe in luck, a change of the guard is coming, and along with it, a big opportunity for those ready for it.

It is incumbent on us in senior leadership positions to pass on to our successors the wisdom we earned and learned through our years in the industry.  With that, here a few nuggets from what I learned from the school of hard knocks:

1.  Never underestimate the power of technology to turn our world upside down. In the construction industry, we tend to be slow adopters but this is changing quickly. Embrace the paradigm shifts and you will thrive and prosper.

2.  Relationships still matter even if we have more diverse ways and means to communicate. In fact, I would argue that in this era of social media, we are more connected today than we were 20 years ago, just in a different way.

3.  In our industry, the most import brand is your personal one. Your reputation for integrity in your personal and business dealings follows and precedes you wherever you go. Being a good person matters and your word should always be your bond.

4.  If you are not failing some of the time, you are playing it too safe. Truly important accomplishments are reached through a path paved with setbacks and difficult learning experiences. Embrace the opportunities to take risks and learn things the hard way. It will pay big dividends for you in the end, as long as you survive. 

One last word of advice- having a good “experienced” mentor can help you with support and/or counsel when facing new challenges. So, don’t hesitate to ask us for guidance, we are glad to help. 


Working for ClarkDietrich was the best working years of my life both times. ClarkDietrich was founded on morals and values. Bill Courtney is a one of a kind CEO. He led by example. He is humble and down to earth which is sometimes rarely seen in a CEO. I'm glad I got to finish out my working life working for ClarkDietrich. Bill, I wish you nothing but happiness and an abundance of blessings when you step down. You will be hard to replace but I know you will turn over the reign to someone with your values. ClarkDietrich was always good to me. Nothing but good people. I wish you all the best.