Chief People Officer, Terracon
If you’re disappointed by the state of America’s political climate today—well, Stephanie Price is way ahead of you. Once upon a career, she envisioned working in the political realm after securing a degree in public communications. It took exactly one election to disabuse her of that notion.
And for that, more than 5,000 employee-owners of multidisciplined engineering powerhouse Terracon can be grateful, since she’s running point on their workplace HR as Chief People Officer for the Overland Park firm.
“I thought this was going to be my career, and I loved some aspects of it, I loved the policy piece, the legislative aspects. I worked through one election cycle, and realized this was not the career for me.”
So … change of plans. Her new husband had an opportunity in Las Vegas, and the Kansas City native soon found herself working as account manager for a temp-hiring agency. “I discovered that I really liked the people aspect of it,” Price recalls. “I did some recruiting and thought ‘this is really challenging.’ When you’re recruiting, what a way to make an impact: Helping people find jobs is pretty impactful in itself, but for the company, you’re helping solve real challenges.”
That feeling was amplified by seeing those new hires thrive in those positions. “I was fortunate to have a boss in that job who was able and willing to continue to invest in me and help me see other sides of HR and what we do, where we have an impact. From there, I never looked back,” Price says.
The values she has applied on her rise up the ladder can be traced to her childhood, to “my parents, how they lived their lives and raised their kids,” she says. “Dad, in particular, was a huge, huge fan of JFK. One of his favorite quotes is about how to whom much is given, much is expected, and that’s how he lived his life.”
That view was not limited to material things. “We were blessed with love, support, a strong community and a strong state, so we had something to appreciate but not take for granted,” Price says. “That led to this idea of servant leadership and why that’s important.”
At a company which now eclipsed $1 billion in annual revenues and more than 150 office locations across the nation, and with a robust history of acquisitions requiring on-boarding to the Terracon Way, she’s challenged to keep a lot of plates spinning at once.
“The ability to bring care and concern, genuine care and concern, to the people you work with is absolutely important,” Price says. “And being able to help others understand that is not mutually exclusive from success in business—that care and that business success can go together, and here, that’s part of our DNA and how we view success through people, not in spite of them.”
Hers is an example of how great work will take you where you want to go—even if you’re not entirely sure where that end point will be. “Honestly, I don’t know it was necessarily about me setting my sights on executive leadership,” Price says. “It was more the result of other things that were important to me: First, continuing to grow, develop and be challenged; second, it was always important to work with organizations that aligned with my values and where I felt like I could make an impact.”
As an HR executive in one of the most challenging hiring environments the nation has seen in decades, Price is at the tip of the spear with Terracon’s efforts to acquire, on-board and retain talent.
“It is noisy out there right now,” she says. “You’ve got every company out there actively looking to recruit and retain talent with ‘hey, we can give you this.’ That, to me, is the biggest challenge: How we cut through that noise and get heard. I don’t know that there is a silver bullet to that, a really sophisticated solution to that. We have got to continue to consistently tell the Terracon story and talk about who we are, why we are who we are, and what care looks like at Terracon.”