4.8 minute read
April 12, 2022
Harris & Associates welcomed Steve Winchester as the firm’s new CEO last fall following the retirement of former CEO Lisa Larrabee. Since joining the firm in 2016, Steve has been an instrumental member of the Harris leadership team, successfully serving as both COO and CFO. He continues in his role as CFO.
Steve brings drive and passion to his work at Harris and a desire for the firm to reach new heights. We sat down with Steve to learn more about his vision, his leadership approach, and his goals for our clients:
1. Give us a snapshot of your career path. Where did you start and how did you get to this point?
I began my career in the aerospace industry in my hometown of St. Louis. I then moved to Kansas City and joined Black & Veatch, a large engineering and construction firm. I spent 20 years there, which included doing a number of acquisitions, one of which required me to live in London for four years and allowed me to travel all over Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.
Then in 2004, I joined a regional firm called Psomas. I built and led their water business, also relying on a series of acquisitions. In 2011, I started my own business providing water management consulting services to engineering firms, early-stage technology companies, and private equity/venture capital firms. In January 2016, I joined Harris. I saw a tremendous opportunity I couldn’t pass up to work alongside a team of extremely talented people.
2. How would you describe your leadership style?
This is a great question and an opportunity for me to give my views on “leadership” more generally. My view is that leadership and management are inextricably linked; two sides of the same coin, if you will. It’s hard to be an effective leader without strong management skills and it’s hard to be an effective manager without leadership skills. The position we hold and specific circumstances will determine the specific skills we bring to bear, be they management or leadership, most commonly deployed together.
As the CEO, I will use my leadership skillset to help us chart our direction, which is now documented in our 2025 Strategic Plan. I will also rely heavily on my management skills to help us achieve my commitments to our employee-owners and Board of Directors.
I would describe my overall leadership style as focused, planful, and disciplined with a high level of accountability around achieving goals both short- and long-term.
3. What excites you most about Harris today?
For me, it’s the combination of our history and potential. We have built up an impressive record of accomplishment, especially with our engineering, construction management, municipal finance, and environmental offerings over the past nearly five decades. Building on this track record by increasing our expertise in our existing offerings and adding additional planning and consulting services is our destiny. This will allow us to meet the new and daunting challenges facing our clients, such as affordable housing. I am excited about the opportunity we have to make an impact for our communities, clients, and for our employee-owners.
4. What changes do you see ahead for Harris in the next few years?
I once had a business leader tell me “Nothing will change, (pause for dramatic effect), change will continue as usual!” Change is both necessary and at the same time can be challenging.
Our change will be to continue to evolve toward our vision of being a Trusted Advisor to community leaders. I think the biggest opportunity from this standpoint is continually expanding our expertise and becoming more attuned to our clients’ needs.
5. What are the greatest challenges Harris’ clients will face over the next decade? How will Harris help address them?
Our clients face issues their predecessors never dealt with. They’re dealing with a tidal wave of retirements, meaning a significant loss of institutional knowledge, as well as a shortage of resources for vital infrastructure. There has also been a chronic underinvestment in infrastructure for decades and the bill is now coming due. This is not to mention other challenges such as affordable housing and climate change our clients are grappling with.
Harris will help by offering solutions that touch on all these issues and more. We will build our expertise in our existing offerings and develop expertise in areas our clients need so together we can face these challenges.
6. What are your top three goals for yourself as CEO?
- To weave a culture of high performance and impact into the wonderful culture we have built, exemplified by our Shared Values.
- To move Harris further toward being our clients’ most Trusted Advisor and growing and shaping our expertise in response to their changing needs. This will require adding higher level planning and consulting services.
- To prepare Harris for the next CEO transition.
7. What’s a surprising, fun fact about you—something people wouldn’t expect?
There are several: I am the first generation to go off the farm and attend college. Both of my parents are from rural southeast Missouri. And each year, I go on a motorcycle trip with my former college roommates. This year’s trip will take us from Seattle to the Maine, leaving in late July. We have ridden in all 48 contiguous states and a number of provinces in Canada.