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Luncheon Bites: Chairman Talks ‘Glamorous’ Role of Painter’s Helper

By Arnesa A. Howell

For 2017, Meet the Future Luncheon Chairman Justin Sullivan served up a valuable lesson from his youth, telling students of the Academy of Construction and Design at IDEA that great accomplishment can emerge from a modest beginning. He cited himself as an example, having risen from tradesman to entrepreneur.

The owner of Impact Construction and Consulting praised the graduates after a year of hard work and sacrifice in school, and urged them to make the most of the opportunities in the room – meeting the leaders and decision-makers in the local construction industry who can help them find jobs and internships. “Today’s lunch is quite special because it affords the power and opportunity of introduction,” he told the crowd.

While Washington, D.C. is a city of large buildings dotting the skyline, Sullivan said his company is smaller. He explained that Impact focuses on remodeling projects in the District that help to grow families and local communities. Starting small is where he began, and “that’s going to be your start – it has to be.”

“Many of us started right where you are right now,” said Sullivan, who at 13 started in the “glamorous” role of a painter’s helper for his father, 10-hours a day, a couple of days a week during a summer in Boston. “Every time you are … taking your nail gun and blasting 50 holes into a five-foot piece of casing, there’s a poor guy who has to fill those nail holes, and that was me – and probably many of these guys as well.”

The story drew laughter from the crowd.

“That was my start,” he continued, “and for many of the leaders here today, that was their start as well.”

“The schooling that you’re going through, the critical internships and work experiences that are afforded to you by this Academy will help you to learn and grow in important ways that many of your peers will never have the opportunity to [do],” he told students.

Among the tangible benefits of this work for professionals – and students in internships – is creating something that can be touched and seen. Sullivan spoke candidly to students, encouraging them to think strategically about their next career steps after wrapping up that internship where they will be filling holes and putting together wires. “Whether it’s going from a helper to a foreman to a manager to an entrepreneur – or, through your learning experience you decide maybe construction is not the right fit for you … you still take that same work ethic with you to your college or university,” he said.

Even in college, he continued, channeling your “inner electrician” can help you get a 7 a.m. start while peers are getting up midday. “ That’s your future,” Sullivan asserted, “and that’s what our companies need from you, that’s what our city needs and that’s what our country needs.”