Eric Ritchie - Sargent

Eric Ritchie

Vice President-Operations, New England

Q: What is your job title with Sargent, and what are your core responsibilities?
A: I’m the vice president of operations for Maine and New Hampshire, and my typical responsibilities include overseeing things like safety, profits, and losses — all of those good things. Building and maintaining a quality workforce is also a big part of what I do.

Q: What are the main challenges of your job?
A: The biggest challenge I face is keeping our workforce appropriately staffed and keeping the appropriate amount of work in front of our people. That balance isn’t easy to achieve.

Q: What were you doing in your career before joining Sargent?
A: I came on board in 2018 as the general manager of Sargent Materials. Prior to that, I worked for another construction company for about 16 years. At the tail end of my career there, I was overseeing their operations all throughout Maine. As for my educational background, I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maine.

Q: What do you enjoy about your job?
A: I enjoy the people I work with and the people we work for. Ultimately, my job is to serve the people that work here and make sure they’re taken care of. I also enjoy the challenges. This is a tough business, but if you enjoy being challenged, it’s a really fun industry to work in because there are new challenges every day.

Q: Why do you think Sargent is such a great company to work for?
A: For me, it’s the size of the company, the quality of the people, the employee-ownership aspect, and it’s a company that has a genuine family feel to it. There’s a lot of long-term people here. When I first started here, everyone welcomed me with open arms and they’ve been nothing but gracious the entire time. I can’t say enough about the folks I get to work with every day, and the fact that we’re in control of the ship as the company’s owners makes this a pretty unique place to be.

Q: Are there any accomplishments in your career that you’re particularly proud of?
A: I’ve never been one to toot my own horn, but there are many projects throughout my career that I’m proud of. More than that though, the biggest joy I take in my job today is providing people with opportunities and watching them succeed. Seeing folks go from being a laborer to a foreman is always rewarding, for example.

2020 was the first year I’ve been fully in this role and my predecessor retired. We’ve had a big workload, COVID-19 hit, and we’ve had a bunch of other challenges, but this entire company has united through all of that. Being there to help foster some of that along with the rest of the leadership team has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve managed to have a good year against some long odds, and I’m extremely proud of that.

Q: How do you think this industry could do a better job of recruiting young talent?
A: For a number of years, people have told high school kids that they need to go to college if they want to be successful, and the trades went by the wayside. Today, we’re starting to see some of that interest in the trades return. From an industry standpoint, it’s important that we continue to evolve and not be stuck in such old-school ways.

First and foremost, we need to hire skilled, competent people, no matter how old they are. But the other part of connecting with younger people is bridging skill gaps using technology. We need to educate our aging workforce to be mentors for the younger generation, and I think technology is a great way for those two groups to connect and really learn from each other.

Q: Has there been anyone throughout your life that you’ve viewed as a mentor?
A: I have been blessed to have a handful of great mentors over the years, starting in childhood. Both my father and his father were definitely mentors of mine. My father and grandfather were always two hard-working and very clever gentlemen. They also taught me that you need to be willing to ask questions and admit that you don’t know things.

I also had a couple of bosses at my prior employer that were great mentors: Joel Wardwell and Ken Anderson. They really taught me how to be a better manager, how to treat people as a manager, how to coordinate my workload, and many other aspects.

I also had a year to learn from Tim Folster, my predecessor at Sargent, and he was also a great man to learn from. That year was invaluable, and I know that 20 years from now, I’ll look back and realize what a gift it was to be given a year with somebody who has that level of experience and knowledge.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I have two children, so I obviously spend a lot of time with them. We like to camp, hike, ride four-wheelers, and fish — all of those fun activities that get us outdoors. I also have a dog by the name of Chloe who is always by my side. Other than that, I just like to relax and enjoy my life.