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HEI Civil partners with Daniels Executive Education on finance program tailored to construction industry

Cranes working a construction siteHEI Civil’s employees dig it.

In fact, as one of Colorado’s premier heavy civil construction contractors, HEI Civil’s employees dig all over Colorado’s Front Range, helping their customers build everything from roads, bridges and airfields, to dams and reservoirs, to infrastructure for residential communities and office developments.

But now, HEI’s employees dig accounting, too. In partnership with the Executive Education division of the Daniels College of Business, HEI introduced a customized version of Daniels’ “Finance for Non-Financial Managers” workshop, focused specifically on the construction industry, which has a unique set of generally accepted accounting principles.

The class is built around a widely used industry reporting tool called the work in progress report (WIP), which provides a financial picture of a construction project in progress. The report provides critical information such as billings to date and whether the billings are in line with the percentage of work completed to determine if the project is over or under billed. It also identifies estimated funds required to complete the project, impact of change orders and estimated profits based on the project’s trajectory, among other information.

The idea for the class came from Laurie Morgan, HEI’s executive vice president of human resources, as part of her own need and desire to better understand the industry’s financial mechanics.

Laurie Morgan

“As I’ve grown in my position, the ability to read and understand financial statements has become important,” Morgan said. “I was actually discussing leadership courses with Camila Angelim (assistant director of business development with Daniels Executive Education) when I saw that her email signature line included a link to Daniels’ “Finance for Non-Financial Managers” workshop. The name and description of the course just spoke to me.

“Daniels allowed me to audit the course and my reaction was, ‘HEI needs this,’ and we discussed the possibility of customizing it to our environment,” Morgan continued. “More of our employees need to have these skills, especially our project managers who track and project job costs. Several of our executive team members felt they also needed a better grounding in the financial aspect of the industry.”

Building skills for advancement

HEI was founded in 1973 by Bill and Dan Hudick, the latter of whom remains CEO. The company employs 520 people in Colorado and has been on an expansion track—acquiring Austin, Texas-based Peabody General Contractors in 2018 and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Horsepower Site Services in 2019, adding a total of 270 employees.

HEI has a dynamic corporate culture based on a well-articulated vision that, according to the company’s website, “creates a pathway for its employees to advance as far within the organization as their efforts and abilities allow them.”

“The finance program is part of our commitment to do that while at the same time meeting a need within the company,” Morgan said. “HEI is unique in that we do not regularly see many of our employees. Our people are literally and figuratively out in the field working on customer projects. But we have a heritage of promoting from within and helping our people obtain the skills they need to succeed in their jobs and advance. We have people who started at the end of a shovel or laying pipe and ended up as safety manager and senior project manager.”

The ‘big benefit’ of partnership

HEI launched the general “Finance for Non-Financial Managers” program in the fall of 2021 with one class dedicated to construction industry accounting and WIP report customization. Twenty-five participants from all three companies attended four live weekly sessions via videoconference. Keely Gohl and Dessa Bokides, both faculty of the Executive Education program at the Daniels College of Business, led the sessions.

Participants included leadership team members, general managers, project managers and assistant project managers. Members of HEI’s finance and accounting team also participated but served in a co-teaching role, responding to participant questions specific to construction industry accounting.

A second session fully customized to HEI’s needs and focused on the WIP report will be rolled out in November.

Meanwhile, employees say the program has been a positive experience so far. They’re digging accounting.

“It was helpful to see how our banks look at our financials, which is different than how we look at them internally,” said Dale Lancaster, senior project manager and 15-year employee who oversees five project managers. “We also discussed how to calculate EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and what requirements we have to meet for bank loans.

“On a practical level for me, we also discussed the WIP report and how it fits into the context of HEI Civil’s finance structure. It was helpful that there was good interaction, too, not just between the students and professors but between students. Being able to discuss and ask questions about construction industry banking and finance was a big benefit.”

Lancaster anticipates that the project managers under his leadership will also have the opportunity to take the course. Then, he and his team will have a deeper understanding of how their work drives the continuing growth of successful and expanding enterprise.

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