Matt Wellenkotter stepped into a highly challenging role requiring industry relations, technical knowledge, process change management, diplomacy, and psychology— and expertly executed it all on the fly! His work was so exceptional that it attracted media attention. Jess Stephen a writer for The Daily Reporter wrote this piece:
Iconica’s Wellenkotter goes from playing in the dirt to managing it
Matt Wellenkotter can’t really remember a time when he wasn’t in the industry.
“I have been in construction, basically, since I was old enough to hold a hammer. My parents laugh that to keep me busy they’d go buy me a pound of nails, so we had a tree house that was remodeled once a week,” said Wellenkotter, director of field operations at Iconica in Madison.
His love of carpentry led him to the business.
And while his heart and soul is still in it, “I didn’t want to completely work with my hands my whole life. So I jumped into the office.”
It’s a move he began laying a foundation for years earlier, earning a degree in construction management and civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He joined Iconica 15 years ago as an assistant project manager. Nineteen months ago, he became field operations director, overseeing nine superintendents and eight carpenters and laborers.
“It’s a lot of problem-solving, which I like,” he said. “It gives me a chance to get in on a lot of different construction activities. And, with us being design-build trying to integrate construction up front, I spend a lot of my days with architects.”
Wellenkotter is so entrenched in the industry that when he’s not working on projects like the Steinhafels corporate headquarters in Pewaukee, which is adding 140,000 square feet of warehouse space, or on Class A office space for The Gialamas Co., he can usually be found pursuing side projects, like his log house or his wife’s farmette.
“Most of my life is consumed with construction,” Wellenkotter said. “We built a wood-fired brick pizza oven at the log house last year. We built a pretty elaborate greenhouse — that was kind of my wife’s dream. I do a lot of furniture and woodworking. Most of our furniture is built by me and finished by her.”
It’s a welcome respite from his fast-paced work life and yet still an opportunity to stay in touch with one of the things he loves most about his job.
“I really enjoy seeing things come to fruition, seeing it from a set of plans to a completed building and watching the owners take over that building once they’re done, seeing the satisfaction and happiness and knowing you built something they’re going to use for a long time,” Wellenkotter said.
The Daily Reporter: What surprises you most about your work?
Matt Wellenkotter: I think what surprises me most is what we can get done — and what we can get done in sometimes an unrealistic timeframe. That’s what always amazed me about the construction industry. How we can take a blank piece of dirt and in four, six, eight, 12 months you have a beautiful building.
TDR: What would you change about the construction industry?
Wellenkotter: There’s the simple things of unlimited time, unlimited budgets. But I would really like to see a shift, go back to — maybe this is the woodworker and fine craftsman in me — a focus on quality, finding that balance between time and quality, knowing that it might take another month but it’s so worth it.
TDR: What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
Wellenkotter: I would say mine is becoming general superintendent or director of field operations. At first, it was to be a superintendent and run projects, because I thought it was such an amazing feat to be the guy in charge of this one giant thing. Then I needed to be the guy who was in charge of all these superintendents. I’m proud of that.
TDR: What’s your biggest extravagance?
Wellenkotter: Generally, it’s home projects.
TDR: What device could you not live without?
Wellenkotter: Probably have to be the iPhone, just because it does everything.
TDR: What song is in heavy rotation for you right now?
Wellenkotter: I generally listen to a pretty good mix of stuff. It almost depends on the mood. Lately, it’s been more country. I don’t think I have a song that’s in heavy rotation. I just had a daughter in June, so there’ve been a lot of lullabies. Our house has had a lot of lullaby channel on Pandora.
TDR: What object in your office means the most to you?
Wellenkotter: There’s the picture of my wife and my daughter — that’s probably the top of the list. But the construction calculator that I’ve had for 20 years is the other coveted item. That would be tough to lose.
TDR: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Wellenkotter: I think one thing that I do say is: ‘Anything you need.’