September 10, 2014

Amanda Ventura

Kortman Electric Takes ABA Leadership Into Boardroom

From left to right: Fran Martin, Ken Kortman, Kerwin Kortman and Karl Kortman. Photo by Shavon Rose.
From left to right: Fran Martin, Ken Kortman, Kerwin Kortman and
Karl Kortman. Photo by Shavon Rose.

The Arizona Builders’ Alliance represents the collective knowledge of more than 350 contractors, suppliers and professional service firms who work in the commercial construction industry. Membership means the ability to tap into and grow with fellow leaders in the industry. For one Arizona company, ABA’s leadership classes are a family affair.

The four owners of Kortman Electric (KEI) are three brothers — Ken, Kerwin and Karl Kortman — and their brother-in-law Fran Martin. They have worked in the industry between 19 and 32 years each and have been members of the ABA since October 1995. The co-owners have made an example of enrolling in ABA’s educational opportunities to the benefit of their company as well as their leadership roles in the ABA.

KEI’s owners and several employees have been through ABA’s management education classes — the year-long Leadership Development Forum (LDF) and quarterly Senior Executive Program (SEP) and attended numerous seminars and webinars. Several of KEI’s field employees have also participated in ABA’s electrical apprenticeship training program.

ABA membership, the Kortman brothers say, has contributed to the success of the company due to employee involvement in leadership and apprenticeship programs. The networking events and the association’s commitment to advocating for members through legislation are additional benefits, they say.

“I had heard about the LDF program for many years, but when I attended the first graduation luncheon back in 2007 and saw how many alumni there were, and the impact it was having on their companies, I knew we needed to get involved in the program,” says President and CEO Ken Kortman.

The LDF is a 12-week course that meets on the first Friday of every month. Enrollment is limited to 30 registrants and only one person per firm may be enrolled per year. The class is designed to prepare industry professionals for future leadership roles within their companies and the ABA. It addresses topics such as public speaking, construction finance, dealing with difficult people and legislative and political process. Karl Kortman, CFO of KEI, is currently enrolled in LDF and the only one in the family who hasn’t completed the program.

Ken has worked in commercial construction for 32 years. As the most-experienced brother, he has completed the LDF and SEP programs and is a current ABA board member. “The 2013 SEP class provided some great insight into visionary thinking, communication, delegation, leadership and succession planning,” he says. Familial competition “never” comes up. “Except bragging rights for winners of the LDF presentation!” says Ken. Kerwin Kortman, vice president and director of business development, is quick to add that he and Martin were on the winning team.

“I suppose that there may be a little unspoken competition,” Karl says. “I know that both Kerwin and Fran were in the winning groups for the LDF case project. Ken’s group didn’t win, so I know win or lose, I won’t be alone.”

Kerwin, who has 29 years of experience in commercial construction, completed the LDF classes in 2011 and has plans to attend the SEP program. He also served on the ABA Legislative Committee and Community Services Board. Similar to Ken, Kerwin found the LDF class most useful. “The subject matter that was presented throughout the year-long class was presented in such a way that you could apply it to your own career regardless of the size or your position within your company,” he says.

Martin, director of safety for KEI and member of ABA’s Safety Committee, has been in commercial construction for 19 years. He completed his LDF class in 2013 and plans to attend and SEP session. “So far, the LDF class has been the most useful,” Martin says. “It helped me understand how different personalities can shape and mold a business in their own unique way.” “KEI is much more involved in the ABA after going through the leadership class,” Kerwin says. “We recognize the more you participate serving on different boards and committees, the more you gain. Being involved in the ABA has been a great way to build long-lasting, valuable relationships with other members and we continue to benefit each year.”