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Thursday, July 25, 2024
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A Creative & Analytical Mind | Carolyn Shames

Carolyn Shames

President and CEO

As a woman CEO in a male-dominated industry for 40 years now, I have learned a myriad of lessons on how to be an effective leader. I have built my Shames Construction team from the ground up. I work with many men inside and outside of Shames Construction, and I give many of them eminence credit for my success, as they gave me many chances when a woman was a novelty in construction. I have a creative and analytical mind and have worked for years to quickly pivot my thoughts and plans for the company’s direction whenever the industry and world around us change. My background as an architect gives me a complete picture of the construction process from design through the implementation of design concepts.

This requires creative strategies and future thinking to be sure the company implements the newest materials and project management processes. I have been a member of Vistage/TEC for 26 years, which has opened my eyes to many concepts of business management and people development that is key to the company’s success.


I work very hard to give my employees autonomy to make decisions they feel are right for the team while continually encouraging them to collaborate and work together to achieve their and the company’s collective goals.

I spend a lot of time working to inspire young leaders by providing opportunities that may seem above their experience and encouraging them to work from all angles. But I also look for experienced construction professionals that may not have gotten the type of training that I feel is important. Lessons from a female perspective are valuable no matter what gender you are. Learning and studying best practices and always being open to new ideas and problem-solving methods. Construction is a special business whereby a person willing to work hard can learn the business from many angles and grow into higher levels within a company because of hard work and rigorous process following. Everyone at Shames Construction is charged with setting this out for the entire team.

The most beautiful thing about construction is you continuously see the fruits of your labor. The project starts with drawings that used to be on paper, and now it is mostly on computer screens. Then we work to put together the best team possible: project Managers, office and field, and a subcontractor team of tradesmen. Then we break ground, moving dirt to build the foundation and install the underground utility. As it comes out of the ground, it comes into shape, and the planning is exciting. As the framing and rough in mechanical systems get integrated, it becomes more exciting. Then the finishes start, and you can see the finish line. The finishes are the only thing the outside world sees when the project is done, so everything to this point was important for the project to function but the finishes are very important. The entire team needs to stay engaged while sometimes they are tired for all the steps they went through to get there. The project team gets to have the process all to themselves and seeing completed projects that go through so many phases that only the team can see and be proud of is very motivating! It makes it easier to go on to the hard work necessary for the next one and beyond. I try to teach this excitement to the entire team to build interest, excitement and a positive sense of accomplishment. They must care to be successful. Everyone needs that!

My inspiration comes from my mother and father. Mom was born in 1929. She was a stay-at-home woman, mother, wife and friend while raising 5 kids through higher education. She taught us the most important life lessons are found in living the 10 commandments. My father born in 1927 was a hard-working physician who provided for his family and taught us how important dedication to hard work, and family, that is meaningful, is the key to long term happiness in life. Both my parents loved life and the blessings we have had and brought us all together to have fun together as a family which has led us to have a strong connection to this day.

The lessons learned through my lifetime come down to always doing the right and moral thing no matter what, and never give up. This has been a lifelong lesson and gave me the confidence and life I have now. I owe everything I have to my parents. I bring these lessons to Shames Construction as my employees and long-term clients for all these years are an extension of my family and life.

I am still regularly working towards keeping up with the innovation and creativity needed to be successful in the fast past world we live in. Working to provide long-term security for key employees and their families. Many of them and their families have been with me for as many as thirty years. I honestly owe everything to their loyalty and willingness to do whatever it takes on individual projects and company success. We continue to grow and learn and always provide the creative project management needed to be successful while loving and respecting each other through the process.

I am the luckiest person in the world. I have both my parents at 92 and 96. I have two beautiful, accomplished children and 5 grandchildren that I get to see often. I balance work and home life by always being happy no matter what is put in front of me and counting my blessings every single day. I can do anything I want to do, and I love my work and most of the people I work with, so for the next 8 to 10 years I plan on staying on the same path. I am ready for whatever my future holds for and am working to allow the team to take it from there however they see fit.

Life is a beautiful thing, and I will never take it for granted.

" I work very hard to give my employees autonomy to make decisions they feel are right for the team while continually encouraging them to collaborate and work together to achieve their and the company’s collective goals. "

Carolyn Shames

President and CEO

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