Q&A with Tracy Nichols of PM/PC Direct
Photo by Wes Battoclette
PM/PC Direct provides project management and project controls support for mid- to large-sized engineering, procurement and construction projects. Tracy Nichols founded the rapidly growing business. Now she’s leveraging her understanding of business process to drive it into the future.
LEAD Cincinnati: How did you get your start in the industry?
Tracy Nichols: I started out going to school at Miami for English, and I thought I knew it all so I left school and got a job at an engineering firm and did secretary work. They introduced me to the cost management system and I really liked it. I feel like I am really right-brained creatively and left-brained in getting to a solution, so if I see a problem I enjoy building the data to get to the solution. Sometimes it is frustrating, but what drove me is I didn't like seeing the same things over and over again, so this is perfect for me. What we do is projects, whether consumer products or manufacturing projects, that build to an end result. On my off time I am a free spirit but here I analyze things and try to get to the best decision.
LC: How did leaving college early impact you?
TN: It encouraged me to build my credentials and now I encourage others to build their credentials. Whatever is good for their career, they have to continue to build that. They have to continue training, reading, learning. I call it building credentials. I say listen to other leaders, learn from them, apply what you learn and rely on others to be coaches as well. I think as a leader I try to lead by example and show people that the knowledge is out there and how they are going to use it is only going to better their careers.
LC: What is most important to you as a leader?
TN: Opening doors for others is important to me because in my career many people have done so for me. I feel like people deserve an opportunity. I believe in a hand up, not a hand out, in all aspects in your career or personal life. I am about opening the door for people to walk through. I have been fooled a coupled of times and it has been hurtful, but it is alright because I have more stories about people I have opened the door for and they have done magnificent things for their lives.
LC: Talk more about building your credentials. What does that mean?
TN: You have to prepare yourself, learn all you can, build the boundaries of who you are as a person. Come up with five core things that are your personal boundaries, that no one can penetrate, and live by those boundaries. I have had many young people get comfortable and they don't prepare themselves and then something comes along and they aren't ready for it. I encourage everyone to cross train so you are prepared when things do come along.
LC: How would you describe your personality? What drives you?
TN: Part of my makeup is a combination of nature and nurture. Part of my natural drive is I have to complete things. I am stubborn but flexible, so I will listen and I try to gather data and come up with a result. It's just the need to have things full circle and settled. If you have a problem, address it, change it, make it better and provide a solution. I was raised by my grandparents and they instilled in me a fabulous work ethic. I am not entitled to anything. You work hard and rewards come in many different fashions - money, success - but you have to work hard.
So I am strong willed and I have a desire to solve problems, to take opportunities and make things better. Because life is too hard as it is, it is extremely hard dealing with family, friends, the government. Everything needs to be better, more efficient, and it does take a lot of work because you have to maintain it, but it is rewarding. This is not this humdrum job. I am here every day working hard. Go big or go home. Some people do eight hours and go home, and we need those people but I am not one of them.
LC: What is the importance of giving back to the community?
TN: I didn't set out to create a huge business. I set out to make things better. Even if that meant sitting at my kitchen table, I was fine with that. Then, I feel like the business went in a direction and grew in a way where others saw the advantage of my vision. So it is not mine to keep. I don't think people understand that. I am a petty simple person and somehow some energy that is beyond me put me here for a reason that is bigger than me. It is not mine to keep.
I said that to my brother one day and he said to me, “you can't hug the world,” and I said, "yes I can." That's where Hug the World started. It is not designed for one charity but for multiple causes where people need an advocate for them. We are cheerleaders. We do what the charities need to us do. Typically, we do fundraising events where we join with other organizations to create something great. With Hug the World we can participate in whatever we want to participate in. It's flexible.
LC: You talked about developing four or five core values. What are yours?
TN: Be honest, not brutally honest but be honest and clear. Make choices for the right reasons. Personal accountability is a big one, as is fiscal responsibility - don't live out of your means because that only adds complication to your life. Live within your means, be responsible for who you are and what is around you. If you want more go out and work for it. Truly listen and see things through other peoples' eyes. And don't just listen but hear, hear what people are really saying. Don't participate in drama, don't talk behind someone's back.
The core values are really about creating boundaries and coming up with what is important for you. It is important not to step away from them because once you do you can't return so easily. If you waver it modifies who you are, and you have to deal with that and it can be detrimental.
For more information, call 513.492.9250 or visit www.pmpcdirect.com.