Angelo Perryman of Perryman Construction

Inspiring the Next Generation: Angelo Perryman of Perryman Construction

The construction executive also talked to Built about what keeps him up at night and how he structures his time

Angelo Perryman, second generation CEO of Perryman Construction and Building Services in Philadelphia, made the Fortune magazine list of fastest-growing “Inner Cities 100 companies” in 2016. The following year, he was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. And in 2018, the Philadelphia Tribune recognized him as the SBA Eastern Pennsylvania “Small Business Person of the Year.”

Perryman credits his success largely to his drive and continual learning; when he was in his 30s, he took a break from the Alabama business his father started in 1954 and worked for three other construction companies, picking up new skills along the way. He’s also comfortable with first-of-a-kind projects. “We take on the responsibility for the total project. Some construction firms step away from the risk. They manage the project, but they don’t hold contracts with the trades. We do,” he said.          

Perryman’s daughter is vice president of administration, and his son is superintendent of construction. He’s mentoring his daughter to take over company leadership, but he plans to remain involved alongside the company’s current senior advisors and advisory boards.

Perryman talked to Built about what keeps him up at night and how he structures his time, among other things.

Built: How did you get into the construction industry?

Perryman: When I was 8, I was stocking for the tradespeople on my father’s projects, or bringing them material. As I got older, I saw that they were the ones people catered to because they did the work, and that probably spurred me on to learn as fast as I could. I’d watch the bricklayers, and when they left off, I picked up some bricks and kept going. They saw that I was doing it correctly and were surprised. I was always watching and learning. There were two things I wanted to know: The path I should take and that I understood everything from the best tradespeople.

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Built: Did someone besides your father inspire you?

Perryman: My father taught me customer relations, but I had two mentors as well. I once worked for Winton Blount, a former postmaster in the Nixon administration who owned a large construction company and also advised that administration on procurement policy.

He played a role in ensuring that opportunities for underrepresented businesses were created, which I found inspiring. Kemel Dawkins was another inspiration. He selected me over several others to head part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center renovation 30 years ago and convinced me to relocate the family business to Philadelphia.

Built: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about this industry?

Perryman: If you can’t visualize what’s on a drawing,there’s a right way to approach the problem. People will say “All you have to do is …” but it doesn’t always help. Draw it in actual form, real materials and real sizes, or actuals. Then you can see the architect’s vision, what the person was trying to create.

Built: What advice do you have for people looking to follow in your career footsteps?

Perryman: Be prepared to learn.This industry is going to test your preparation from your first day on the job to your last. You need to be excited about learning.

Built: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the construction industry?

Perryman: There are two. First, attracting the best and brightest talent from across the country, not just locally; and second, the cost of construction.

Built: What keeps you up at night as an executive?

Perryman: Confirming that our team is fulfilling the promises we make. Often, an architect can’t put everything on paper; a contractor takes the result and creates the vision. So when we make commitments, I want our people to be sharp enough and forward-thinking enough that we make promises we can execute and keep the client satisfied.

Built: How do you structure your time to fix the most important issues you face in your role?

Perryman: The key is experience. So many of our issues repeat themselves, and now that we know that, as a team we need to break the issues into pieces and make sure each team member is responsible for one. If we have a safety issue, we call on our safety officer; if it’s an administrative issue, we assign the administrative officer; and so forth. Each person takes the lead for their area so we make sure every promise gets fulfilled. My role is to understand what people have offered, suggest what is executable and then see that we do it in the amount of time we’ve promised.

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