Matt Crafton of Crafton Tull on Why Construction Clients Shouldn't 'Coast' Along

Matt Crafton of Crafton Tull on Why Construction Clients Shouldn't 'Coast' Along
Matt Crafton

Matt Crafton, 47, is the CEO of Crafton Tull, the civil engineering and landscape architecture firm that his father, Bob, co-founded with Lem Tull in 1963. Crafton Tull is the state’s fifth-largest engineering firm, with offices in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Crafton graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the Air Force Academy and has a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas. After eight years of active service, Crafton retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 2012.

Matt Crafton joined Crafton Tull in 1998 and became the COO a few years later. He was named CEO in 2009.

We often ask people how they got involved in their profession but, as Bob Crafton’s son, perhaps you were just born to be an engineer. Do you feel added responsibility (or pressure) running the company your father co-founded?

Jim Tull, the company’s CFO and Lem’s son, and I certainly take pride in the accomplishments of our fathers and all of those people who’ve worked at Crafton Tull through the years. They gave us a great legacy and company culture that we’re trying to keep. But to be honest, the greatest pressure I feel is to deliver for our current shareholders, employees and clients.

How have technological advances changed the way your industry — and Crafton Tull — does business?

Technology has dramatically transformed the design and construction industry, even in the last 10 years. All of our projects, whether architectural or civil engineering, are modeled in 3-D on a computer before lines are ever put on paper or construction started. This allows the designer and the owner to understand the project in a very real way before dollars are spent. Likewise, technology has also transformed our land surveying practice. Much of surveying is now done with GPS instruments and field computers.

Speaking of technology, what role can social media play in the architectural and engineering industry?

We think it can be a powerful way to quickly spread company news, trends in the industry and events. With a few retweets, your message can reach thousands of people. Social media has become so common that many clients use it as a way to get to know a company. It is also a useful tool to help recruit talented young professionals.

What did you learn during the Great Recession that has changed the way Crafton Tull does business in 2015?

The recession hit our industry hard, and no one who lived through that will forget it. For our company, it changed the way we think. We consider opportunities more closely before leaping, and any risks we take are hopefully based on sound metrics.

What are the biggest challenges facing Crafton Tull (and the industry)?

There has been a trend in some markets where clients think they have to go to the East Coast or West Coast to get professional expertise. Some municipalities, universities or private clients seem to believe the notion of “unless you’re from 500 miles away, you can’t be an expert.” Of course, we think that is ridiculous. There are many very talented architects, engineers and surveyors in our state who are more than capable of handling challenging projects of any size.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

“Never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.” My dad told me that many times when I was growing up. In other words, lead by example. I’ve tried hard to live by that philosophy.